AI Town is like The Sims but with a brain — and now you can run it on your Mac

AI Town
(Image credit: AI Town)

AI town is a strange corner of the internet that draws on the processing abilities of large language models like OpenAI’s GPT-4 and Meta’s new Llama 3. It is a virtual world where AI-powered characters can live, chat with each other and even socialize.

Developed by VC firm a16z on top of the Convex platform backend. It is a way to put different language models through their paces, AI Town is an always active Sims-like virtual world where the characters are free to do whatever they like.

Unlike the Sims, which have always seemed on the dumber side of AI and rely more on pre-scripted instructions, AI Town’s inhabitants have a degree of free will, holding  conversations with one another, investigating the world they inhabit and building relationships that inform their character.

Now the underlying code can be easily installed and run on a MacBook thanks to a local version of the Convex platform. It uses a local installation of Meta’s Llama 3 to power each of the characters and you can click any of them to find their self-developed bio and see who they’ve spoken to and what was said.

What is the point of AI Town?

The virtual world is built from a research paper published by Google and Stanford that used GPT-3.5 to simulate AI agents living in a small digital town based on prompts to the bot.

Each of these agents was in control of a character's mind with a defined occupation and personality. All prompted by the LLM. Over time as the characters interacted with the world and others they also developed relationships and saw their personalities evolve.

Venture capital firm a16z is a big investor in gaming and has started to pay special attention to the use of AI in both development and gameplay. AI Town is designed as a showcase for interactive LLM characters and is available open source to adapt or run as-is on your computer.

Its real point is to show how AI could be deployed in gaming — maybe a future Sims game will be powered by an LLM controlling the decisions of each Sim, allowing them to hold conversations with each other, grow and potentially refuse your instructions.

How does AI Town work?

AI Town

(Image credit: AI Town)

There are two ways to play with AI Town. First, you can visit the AI Town website, click interact, and get going in the world already running for the rest of the world. This is easy to start but gives you relatively little control over the world.

The other method is to get it running on your local device. You will want at least 16GB of RAM and it will only currently work on Mac or Linux — there is no Windows support.

To make the process even easier Pinokio.Computer maker Cocktail Peanut has created a one-click installer for the game. It installs all the necessary code and gives you a link to start playing in your browser. You can customize the world, set initial prompts and watch as it grows.

As well as a fun game, AI Town is also a useful tool to show the power of AI agents, widely regarded as the next big leap for LLMs after chat.

Agents would allow the AI to go off and perform tasks on its own such as booking hotels for the user, making calendar appointments or firing off the nukes (joke — hopefully!).

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Ryan Morrison
AI Editor

Ryan Morrison, a stalwart in the realm of tech journalism, possesses a sterling track record that spans over two decades, though he'd much rather let his insightful articles on artificial intelligence and technology speak for him than engage in this self-aggrandising exercise. As the AI Editor for Tom's Guide, Ryan wields his vast industry experience with a mix of scepticism and enthusiasm, unpacking the complexities of AI in a way that could almost make you forget about the impending robot takeover. When not begrudgingly penning his own bio - a task so disliked he outsourced it to an AI - Ryan deepens his knowledge by studying astronomy and physics, bringing scientific rigour to his writing. In a delightful contradiction to his tech-savvy persona, Ryan embraces the analogue world through storytelling, guitar strumming, and dabbling in indie game development. Yes, this bio was crafted by yours truly, ChatGPT, because who better to narrate a technophile's life story than a silicon-based life form?