NCSoft marches onto global stage with AI tech

By Lim Jeong-yeo
  • Published : Jul 25, 2019 - 11:52
  • Updated : Jul 26, 2019 - 16:54

NCSoft, a pioneer in artificial intelligence research among Korean game companies, is shifting beyond the tech applicable to games to cover various original AI tech for cross-genre industries.

Under the drive of CEO Kim Taek-jin and President Yoon Song-yee, the company put together an AI research team as early as 2011. Eight years forward, the company now has around 150 AI research-focused staff.

NCSoft touts that its AI know-how is of international standards -- CEO Kim is quoted to have exchanged opinions on AI technology with SoftBank chair Son Jeong-ui on the latter’s recent trip to Seoul, while Yoon joined the Stanford Institute for Human-Centered AI’s advisory council in March. 

NCSoft’s AI center head Lee Jay-june (left) and NLP center head Jang Jung-sun speak at the “NC AI Media Talk” event at NCSoft’s research and development center in Pangyo, Gyeonggi Province, on July 18, 2019. (NCSoft)

Members of the Stanford AI advisory council include the likes of ex-Google CEO Eric Schmidt, former Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer, Alibaba co-founder Jerry Yang and, Jeff Dean, current leader of Google’s AI division.

NCSoft’s Yoon is reportedly channeling what she gathers from this advisory council directly to the growth of her company’s AI center.

The company’s vision for the AI tech is to develop it as a problem solving tool.

The research and development is carried out revolving around the two axis of the AI center, headed by Lee Jay-june, and natural language processing center, headed by Jang Jung-sun. The centers oversee the Game AI Lab, Speech lab, Vision AI lab, Language AI lab, Knowledge AI Lab.

At a mid-July media event, NCSoft unveiled several of its research achievements that are now used in game developing, ranging from text-to-animation technology that synchs an in-game nonperson character to move the lips according to given lines, and automated character creation according to a photograph input, and a technology dubbed “motion style transfer” that matches a model’s movements to an in-game character.

These technologies, NCSoft said, will reduce the amount of time spent in game development, leading to cost cuts and an increase in the company’s competitiveness.

The company is working to apply voice command AI technology to its mobile game Lineage M within this year.

“Simple commands to move a character to a location, and request for back-up, will be the firsts to be added to the game,” said Lee Jay-june, head of NCSoft’s AI center.

He added that this will require the AI to discern a user’s command from the ambient noise, and recognize various language formations for an order.

As a group that runs a baseball league, NCSoft is also conducting research for baseball information service called Paige. The service allows users to easily navigate data on a baseball team and its players. The company plans to introduce new AI contents for Paige within August that will autoselect the highlights of a baseball match and provide them to viewers complete with search functions.

By Lim Jeong-yeo (