EmpathyWorksArtificial Personality For AI Systems

EmpathyWorks™ is a small, fast artificial personality module for AI systems. Artificial personalities have an emotional state, inherited behavioral characteristics and a ‘world view’.

This project originated from Mike Slinn's interest in how an individual is directly influenced by personal events and is indirectly influenced by the events experienced by others that that they are affiliated with (or the ’tribes‘ they belong to), and how groups aggregate and influence each other.

EmpathyWorks is:

  • Rule-driven – no programming required
  • Declarative – the Personality Rule Language (PRL™) allows behavioral scientists to use English-like statements instead of procedural programming
  • Flexible – define species and individuals, behavioral characteristics, environment and relationships
  • Small – EmpathyWorks requires less than 100KB ROM and less than 1K bytes of RAM per individual personality for simple scenarios
  • Device Independent – a AI application informs EmpathyWorks of events and EmpathyWorks simulates the response of the personalities
  • Time sensitive – simulated personalities respond to the passage of time
  • Scalable – Could model the entire world‘s population

EmpathyWorks supports:

  • Multi-generational inheritance – personality traits can be inherited from parents
  • Event types – Responses to life-changing events are defined separately from mundane events
  • Societal modeling – relationships between individuals can be defined
  • Shared events – one artificial personality's life events can affect the other personalities with which it has relationships with
  • Predator/prey relationships – behaviors corresponding to hunting and being hunted are supported
  • Decision making – an application can query an artificial personality for its opinions as to which of several choices to make
  • Life stages – artificial personalities can grow up to mature individuals, mature, become old and die
  • Emotional display – an artificial personality's internal state can be queried for display
  • emoticons

EmpathyWorks Relationships and Expressed Behavior

Today's consumer-grade computer hardware is now powerful enough to enable empathetic products. To date, however, artificial intelligence researchers have not recognized the impact that relationship has on expressed behavior. This oversight is a significant contributing factor to explain why today's technologists have been unable to create products that can bond with people.

People attribute emotion and personality to seemingly sentient beings based on observed behavior and visual cues. EmpathyWorks relies on currently activated relationships as the basis to express behavior. This page explains why Micronautics Research thinks this is appropriate.

Imagine a prisoner in solitary confinement for an extended sentence. Without anyone to interact with, the range of his behavior would most likely be rather limited. Perhaps he might sit quietly at times, and at other times he might exercise or rage against the walls. Now imagine that he receives a visitor. The prisoner's behavior would change markedly, and the behavior would vary depending on who the visitor was. The behavior exhibited when visited by a loved one would be very different by the behavior exhibited when visited by the law enforcement people who incarcerated him.

Without anyone to interact with, an individual's behavior is not fully developed or expressed. An individual's personality and emotional state are inferred from their expressed behavior (including visual cues), and that behavior is triggered and mediated through relationships.

Now imagine a person suffering from advanced Alzheimer's disease. This person would be trapped in the present, without the ability to carry on relationships. The Alzheimer's patient's ability to express behavior would be very limited, probably restricted to wandering, aggressiveness and paranoia.

In order to establish and maintain relationships, an individual requires the ability to recognize other individuals, the ability to remember shared history, and the ability to abstract meaning from historical events. One might go so far as to claim that without the ability to form relationships, individuality cannot be fully developed.

Relationships in Video Games and AI Systems

In order to form and maintain a relationship, one must be able to recognize other individuals. Games developers control the execution environment, so the task of recognizing individuals is much simpler than in the real world. Simply being able to recognize an individual is not enough to display 'interesting' behavior based on relationships.

Characters in today's video games today are like Alzheimer's sufferers, unable to maintain relationships and exhibiting very limited behavior. This is fine for first person shooter video games, which are merely an electronic metaphor for punching bags, but not useful for life simulation games. Again, an artificial being, like Tamagotchi, that cannot form relationships is unable to express individuality.

Software that exhibit behavior based on relationships have this behavior hard-coded into the program. Just as physics engines are used in video games as a plugin to model physical laws, a relationship engine like EmpathyWorks can be used in video games and AI systems to express behavior. The choice to create yet another relationship engine, or to employ a plug-in to do the work is a classic make vs. buy decision.

Female humans are more interested in relationships than males, thus there is an opportunity to increase the play value of life simulation games for females by adding the ability to model relationships. To use the vernacular of Internet marketing professionals, relationships are sticky; users of a product that maintains relationships are inhibited from switching to competitive alternatives. Social netoworking web sites have shown that significant relationships have such value to users that those relationships will become the dominant reason for frequenting the web sites where social interaction occurs, and therefore the ability to model relationships in video games is important than any other product feature – for males as well as females.

EmpathyWorks Editions

Editions of EmpathyWorks are available that span a wide range of capabilities. Personality and relationship models are upwards compatible between editions. OEM versions for game developers and robotics and AI products are available.

EmpathyWorks Infant Edition

The simplest version, EmpathyWorks Infant Edition, is restricted to modeling the personality of a newborn:

  • Responds to stimuli in a primitive manner (PRL only supports clauses with simple comparisons)
  • Does not grow in response to life events
  • Does not recognize individuals (for example, a newborn responds to all smiling faces exactly the same, since it does not recognize its parents yet.)
  • Cannot form relationships because it cannot recognize individuals
  • The EmpathyWorks runtime engine can support as many EmpathyWorks infants as desired, however these virtual infants cannot interact in a meaningful way
  • Does not maintain a history of recent events
  • Requires the least amount of computational resources (8 bit processor capable)
  • Responds quicker than any other version of EmpathyWorks
  • Priced for hobbyists building robots and AI systems

EmpathyWorks Child Edition

EmpathyWorks Child Edition builds on the capabilities of EmpathyWorks Infant Edition, and adds the following:

  • Responds to stimuli in a simplistic manner (PRL supports clauses with arithmetic comparisons)
  • Can grow from some life events
  • Can recognize a small number of individuals
  • Can form simple relationships and interact in a limited manner with real and virtual individuals
  • Develops a simplistic world view
  • Maintains a short history of recent events
  • Requires modest amounts of memory and a somewhat more powerful processor than EmpathyWorks Infant Edition
  • Priced for advanced hobbyists

EmpathyWorks Pre-teen Edition

EmpathyWorks Pre-Teen Edition builds on the capabilities of EmpathyWorks Child Edition and adds the following:

  • Responds to stimuli in a more sophisticated manner (PRL supports clauses with compound statements)
  • Can grow from more life events
  • Can recognize a few dozen individuals
  • Can form more advanced relationships and interact in a more complex manner with real and virtual individuals
  • Maintains a longer history of recent events
  • Requires only slightly more computational resources than EmpathyWorks Child Edition (400KB RAM recommended)
  • Priced for advanced hobbyists and students of robotics and AI

EmpathyWorks Teenager Edition

EmpathyWorks Teenager Edition builds on the capabilities of EmpathyWorks Pre-teen Edition and adds the following:

  • Responds to stimuli in a more sophisticated manner (PRL supports clauses with one parenthetic statement)
  • Can grow from many life events
  • Can recognize dozens of individuals
  • Can form more advanced relationships and interact in a more complex manner with real and virtual individuals
  • Maintains a longer history of recent events
  • Requires only more computational resources than EmpathyWorks Preteen Edition
  • Priced for commercial products and research into robotics and AI

EmpathyWorks Adult Edition

EmpathyWorks Adult Edition builds on the capabilities of EmpathyWorks Teenager Edition and adds the following:

  • Responds to stimuli in a more sophisticated manner (PRL supports clauses with arbitrarily complex expressions)
  • Can grow from all life events
  • Can recognize hundreds of individuals
  • Can form all relationships and interact in a sophisticated manner with real and virtual individuals
  • Maintains an arbitrarily long history of recent events
  • Requires more computational resources than EmpathyWorks Teenager Edition
  • Priced for commercial products and research into robotics and AI


Pricing depends upon the edition, the maximum number of species that the runtime must support and the maximum number of individuals to model during a simulation. EmpathyWorks consists of a Java-based preprocessor and a platform-specific runtime. Please contact your sales representative for further information.

Frequently Asked General Questions about EmpathyWorks

Q: Is EmpathyWorks™ a standalone program?
A: No, EmpathyWorks™ is mean to enhance an AI program or robot. EmpathyWorks is designed as a plug-in. If the host program is able to recognize individuals then EmpathyWorks can model relationships and personalities.

Q: Is EmpathyWorks designed for video games, personal robotics or is it a diagnosis tool?
A: EmpathyWorks can be used for all those purposes, and more. EmpathyWorks is a generalized personality modeling system, configured by personality rules and extended and integrated by custom software. Given a sufficiently powerful computer, it could model many thousands or millions of individuals and their relationships.

Q: How is EmpathyWorks different from Tamagotchi® by Bandai, WiZ?
A: The EmpathyWorks Infant edition is similar to Tamagotchi® in that both emulate an ego-centric individual, unable to form relationships with others. Tamagotchi owners spend their time attending to the needs of their Tamagotchi, but the Tamagotchi does not recognize them as unique individuals. Instead, Tamagotchi owners pretend to live their fantasies through their Tamagotchi, much like how children play with Barbie dolls. In contrast, all of the EmpathyWorks editions except Infant are able to interact with the specific individuals that send them events.

Q: How is EmpathyWorks different from the Sims™ published by Maxis and distributed by Electronic Arts?
A: EmpathyWorks is rather similar to the Sims artificial intelligence program in many ways. One key difference is that The Sims is a complete packaged game, while EmpathyWorks provides an important building block for making artificial life games; EmpathyWorks could enable games like The Sims, but with more control over life stages, species and the types of relationships. EmpathyWorks can also be used to power robots and avatars. This means that the personalities and relationships powered by EmpathyWorks could reach out from a game into the physical world.

Q: Does EmpathyWorks include speech recognition? Image recognition?
A: Sensory perception is the job of the host AI application, which must notify EmpathyWorks of events that it perceives.

Q: Are Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics supported?
A: That would be up to the host AI system, not EmpathyWorks. EmpathyWorks could help implement support for Asimov's Three Laws of Robotics, however. Because EmpathyWorks is aware of relationships and is aware of what the response of an individual to an event would be, it could inform an AI system how various individuals might behave as a result of a possible event.

Q: Can an EmpathyWorks character die?
A: Individuals modeled by EmpathyWorks are instantiated as members of species. You define the life stages for the species that you wish to have EmpathyWorks model. One of the implicitly defined life stages is death. Death can occur when advancing the maturity level of an individual the the last stage (death.) Death can also occur as a result of interaction with the virtual world in which the character 'lives'. When a character dies, every other individual in relationship with the deceased receives a notification, and EmpathyWorks also models their responses. The internal state of the character is preserved for the remainder of the simulation.

Q: Can an EmpathyWorks personality evolve, based on experience?
A: Yes. Individuals modeled by EmpathyWorks have both emotional state and a world view. Individuals change their emotional state and world view according to their innate characteristics and life events (nature and nurture are both influences.)

Q: Can a product with EmpathyWorks develop a "bad" personality?
A: Yes. The tendency for an artificial personality towards developing a bad attitude increases if exposed to negative events without sufficient support from others.

Q: How many individual products using EmpathyWorks can interact with each other?
A: There is no limit. Interactions require very little processing power, so hundreds or thousands of individuals can interact every second.

Q: Who integrates EmpathyWorks™ into a product — Micronautics Research or the customer?
A: Micronautics Research would port the EmpathyWorks runtime to the target system, and the customer would integrate their AI system with EmpathyWorks. Micronautics Research offers professional services on an as-needed basis or as part of a support contract.

Q: Is there a royalty on items made using EmpathyWorks?
A: The runtime does have a royalty. The various EmpathyWorks editions cost more for successively more sophisticated editions. Unit costs decrease as volume increases. Please contact your sales representative for a quotation. A EmpathyWorks sale consists of a license to distribute a specific quantity of product with a designated EmpathyWorks™ edition, along with a support contract and integration support.