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Hello (In)world!

Ilya Gelfenbeyn
August 23, 2022
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For those of you visiting us for the first time by way of our Series A or Product Hunt, welcome! As a company deeply rooted in story and characters, we love any chance to talk games, AI, entertainment, and virtual worlds with like-minded developers and technologists.  

Inworld is another chapter of my work on conversational AI applications in academics, enterprise, and entertainment. We think of chatbots and virtual assistants as a forgone conclusion, but it certainly wasn’t the case when I was studying computational linguistics twenty years ago.


A throwback to my first company, Speaktoit in 2010

I dabbled with chatbots and started my first company in 2010. Even though we were still in an AI winter, massive growth in smartphone adoption was unlocking new possibilities. At the same time, speech recognition was becoming much better and web services were exploding in popularity. As these trends converged, my co-founders and I launched Speaktoit, a personal assistant (dressed as an avatar) on Android. When Siri launched six months later, it was a boon for Speaktoit. Our user base grew exponentially and we were the the #1 ranking app for “assistant” in the Android Market with a 4.7 star rating. At one point, we were adding 30,000 users a day.

We rode that wave, but as any founder can tell you, change is the only constant. When we realized we shouldn’t compete against the Big Tech titans like Apple, we pivoted the company to API.AI, which enabled developers to easily add speech and actions to their apps and products. Think asking Spotify to play Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill” or telling your Roomba to vacuum the hallway. 

Google came knocking two years later and we were acquired to re-launch API.AI as Dialogflow, which is now used by millions of developers. After a few years of investing in companies, taking a break, and playing lots of Counter Strike, I got together with my co-founders and launched Inworld. 

Inworld combines everything I’ve learned about AI agents and supercharges it. We’ve proven that we can build functional assistants who can answer questions, but how can we build engaging AI characters that draw you into a story or experience? How can we make virtual worlds as interactive and social as our real lives? How will emergent narratives change the way we play games?

In the last year, we’ve seen research that shows that online relationships can be as meaningful as those formed in real life. With Inworld, you can create gaming NPCs (non-playable characters), native populations for virtual worlds, virtual influencers, brand representatives, in-world guides, and digital humans that can forge relationships with users and unlock deeper engagement. This is the future of entertainment–stories that are told through characters with a rich inner life, that audiences are invited to participate in, and take immersion to the next level.

It’s crazy to think that Inworld was founded just 13 months ago. Since then, we raised two seed rounds, were selected for the Disney Accelerator, launched the beta version of our product, and now, closed our Series A! It’s been impressive to see our community bring characters to life with AI. I know the best is yet to come.

To infinity and beyond! (And yes, we’re hiring!)

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