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Machine Intelligence Garage provided valuable networking opportunities, resulting in a strategic investment for Charisma and its interactive narrative platform.

Charisma is an AI-driven toolkit for creating interactive stories with believable virtual characters that users can interact with to change the narrative.

The company co-founders combine decades of interactive storytelling experience, including books, television and film, web projects and games.

In a career spanning 25 years in the creative industry, Charisma CEO Guy Gadney worked for publishing and media giants including Penguin Books, the Guardian and the BBC. It was through his work in television that Guy noticed a change in audience behaviour.

“We found that people were not necessarily watching linear TV,” explained Guy Gadney, co-founder and CEO of Charisma.

“They were spending more time on social media or away from the core story or TV series that the broadcasters wanted them to watch.

“So, we started to build up ideas around a TV show in digital media and experimented with games, such as mobile games for Sherlock or social media applications for Downton Abbey.

“Around the same time, we were also doing work in the virtual world Second Life, where we started to see people spending a lot of time chatting with the 3D chatbots we were creating. This came as a surprise – we didn’t really script that. So, what would happen if we did?”

Charisma is an easy, no-code way to create interactive stories with believable virtual characters.

At the time the company started, a simple technology to write interactive storylines didn’t exist, making the development of virtual projects and characters complex and expensive.

Charisma enables writers and creators to produce interactive, branching narratives that can work across all platforms, from television, games, virtual reality, music videos and immersive theatre to the creation of digital humans or robots.

Charisma can transform television or film cast members into interactive characters and fill the gap between episodes or series to extend audience engagement.

Machine Intelligence Garage provided valuable networking opportunities that would positively impact the future for Charisma.

In 2020, Charisma joined Machine Intelligence Garage, Digital Catapult’s flagship AI accelerator programme, designed to help startups access the computation power and expertise they need to develop and build machine learning and artificial intelligence solutions.

The programme runs regular themed cohorts, which in 2020 featured artificial intelligence and machine learning in the creative industries.

Although Charisma had previous experience with Digital Catapult, testing its platform with one of the 5G testbeds, Machine Intelligence Garage opened new networking opportunities and collaborative benefits that would significantly impact the future of the company.

Due to Covid-19, Digital Catapult ran the programme virtually, but according to Guy Gadney, that did not affect the group’s engagement.

“Machine Intelligence Garage was like a community. We had a WhatsApp group; we talked to each other and knew each other well,” he explained. “Plus, a couple of companies I’m working with now came to us through that programme.

“It was also a lesson in how to do these things virtually. The virtual events were very inclusive. We all had our videos on and could talk to each other. It was very collaborative.”

Our vision is for every TV series to have a Charisma interactive version.

Charisma has an impressive portfolio of work, including five interactive stories with the BBC, the Bulletproof interactive television experience for Sky TV, and the MetaHuman project for Epic Games.

The company has also launched an interactive comic app, featuring the successful graphic novels Sherlock and the Vampires of London, Akademy, Centaurus and Shadows of the Strix. Charisma has also acquired the rights to adapt John Wyndham’s sci-fi novel The Kraken Wakes as a game for release in 2022.

In October 2021, Charisma announced that the company had received investment from Wise Partners, a growth stage venture capital fund focused on the metaverse.

As Guy explained, the introduction occurred as a result of the Machine Intelligence Garage creative cohort demo day, where an audience member impressed with Charisma recommended the company.

“We’ve just announced a strategic investment into Charisma, appointing a new director and chairman; this came as a direct link from someone in the audience on the demo day.”

As the first movers in this market, Guy Gadney wants Charisma to become the de facto platform for all interactive television and is excited to see the results: “We want to partner with great creators,” Guy said.

“I’m hoping that over the next few months, we’ll start to see people using it in really imaginative ways that we haven’t even thought of.”

Charisma was one of 6 winners at the 2021 Digital Catapult Awards, showcasing the best UK technology startups and scaleups that have grown and developed through Digital Catapult’s programmes and innovation activities.

When Machine Intelligence Garage hosted its creative cohort demo day, an audience member impressed with Charisma recommended its interactive storytelling platform – sparking new connections that led to a strategic investment from a growth stage venture capital fund focused on the metaverse.