Inworld Raises $50M to Create AI-Powered Virtual Characters

Virtual character developer platform Inworld AI has raised $50 million in a Series A funding round led by Section 32 and Intel Capital. The Mountain View-based startup — one of six companies chosen to participate in the 2022 Disney Accelerator — will create virtual characters for games, the metaverse and other entertainment and marketing applications. Because it is focused on providing an interior life, or “mind,” Inworld AI is platform agnostic, with APIs that work across Unity, Unreal Engine, Omniverse and others. Another convenient feature: it lets developers build characters by describing them in natural language.

“Characters have distinctive personalities,” and to the extent those characters are generated using artificial intelligence “we’re focused on making those personalities more lifelike and expressive,” Inworld co-founder and CEO Ilya Gelfenbeyn told TechCrunch, positing that “AI-driven characters are the next generation of storytelling.”

Most AI characters in games and virtual worlds are scripted and not very engaging. Inworld, TechCrunch writes, “promises customers that they can create non-playable characters (NPCs) and digital representatives with the appearance of memories, personalities and human-like behaviors.”

To pursue its goal, Inworld has raised roughly $70 million since its founding in July 2021, including nearly $20 million in two early rounds. The latest group of financiers includes Microsoft’s M12 fund, Kleiner Perkins, Peter Thiel’s Founders Fund, NTT Docomo Ventures and SK Telecom Ventures.

“The demand for immersive content and experiences is rising, ushering in a thriving creator economy and unlocking opportunities for individual developers,” Intel Capital managing director Srini Ananth said in the Series A announcement. “Inworld has quickly become a trusted resource for developers, who are flocking to the platform to create AI-powered virtual characters with human-like speech, facial gestures and body language for immersive realities including the metaverse, VR/AR, games, and virtual worlds.”

This summer, the company was announced as part of the 2022 Disney Accelerator and released the Inworld Studio platform, which uses OpenAI’s Moderation endpoint feature to filter for hate speech, explicit language and other objectionable communications.

“Inworld has broad applications outside of gaming and metaverse, and can also be used for entertainment, sales and marketing, and training and education,” Gelfenbeyn told TechCrunch, adding “we’re looking for partners who want to build the future of immersive reality.”

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