The type of user personalization usually found on social media websites could soon become common in video games thanks to the efforts of a Halifax-based artificial intelligence founder.

Rima Al Shikh is the entrepreneur behind Begin.AI, which has created a user-friendly platform for game developers to incorporate machine learning into their work, allowing games to learn what players enjoy and how to keep them engaged, in the same way as websites like Facebook and TikTok.

She founded the company in 2020 after holding senior roles at a series of technology companies, most recently Toronto’s BDO Lixar, which is an information technology service company with a focus on data and AI. In an interview, she said much of the technology behind her new business already exists in the marketplace, but has not been consolidated in a way that makes it commercially viable at scale.

In January, the company raised US$1 million from a group of investors that included Sandpiper Ventures, which specializes in backing female CEOs.

“There are pieces of the technical solutions present,” said Al Shikh. “There are pieces of the business solutions present, but nobody has merged and stitched all of these bits and pieces together to provide a fully personalized experience to everybody.

“We’re helping product managers and game designers to build experiences that are fully adaptive to their players at an individual level.”

Begin.AI sells its technology with a dashboard meant to be accessible to relatively less technical users like product managers at game studios. The types of personalization video games can serve up with its help include, for example, determining what types of content a player responds best to, but also how much of that content they can be served without boring them. The technology also has applications beyond just mainstream gaming, Al Shikh added, such as virtual reality.

The company was piloting its tech with one of the world's largest gaming businesses three weeks after its launch and demand has been strong since. Developers pay based on daily active users, but not active users of the Begin.AI dashboard — rather, active users of the video games made with Al Shikh's technology.

“One of the biggest challenges is typically scale — so how do you build something that scales efficiently, and effectively and maintains quality service?” she said, describing the obstacles that have historically kept game developers from implementing AI solutions. “So that was the first thing that we tackled, and we have unique technology around that process that’s patented.”

Begin.AI’s four-person team is spread around the world, mirroring the global nature of the video game industry, and Al Shikh said the company is not focusing its business development efforts on specific geographies for the same reason. Taking Hogwarts Legacy, the bestselling video game of this year, as an example, the developer is in Utah, the publisher is Californian, the game itself is based on intellectual property owned by a British woman and the game is playable on a range of devices that includes two consoles made by Japanese companies.

“There are very strong global ties when it comes to gaming,” said Al Shikh. “We do try to tap into our existing networks, but at the end of the day, we have to operate in a global marketplace."