"Morph Tales" - a new ETH game invites you to get to know AI research

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Morphs are small, bright and eager-to-learn creatures. In the ’Morph Tales
Morphs are small, bright and eager-to-learn creatures. In the ’Morph Tales’ game, they embody artificial intelligences. (Image: ETH Game Technology Center)
The Morphs are here! The smart, eager-to-learn creatures are now waiting in the ETH main building for players to train them. "Morph Tales - Exploring Artificial Intelligence" is a new game from ETH Zurich that is fun to play and shows how humans and AI master tasks together.

by Gertrud Lindner, Florian Meyer Morphs are bright and friendly. As little helpers, they are extremely eager to learn and very cooperative. They are happy to take on people’s routine tasks, speed up tasks people find tedious or help them find new insights. They are named after their ability to alter flexibly their appearance based on the task at hand.

For their part, morphs also need human guidance, because only humans can train them in what behaviour leads to a goal and what skills they need to learn to reliably complete their task. After all, well-trained morphs work in a transparent, cooperative, and trustworthy way - and only those morphs who fulfil this requirement are allowed to go to Morphtopia, the campus where they are trained for the most amazing jobs. Getting there is the dream of every morph - but the morphs can’t achieve it alone, but only with a human.

Icon for trustworthy, adaptive algorithms

Morphs are the main characters of the new game "Morph Tales - Exploring Artificial Intelligence" developed by ETH Zurich. The aim of Morph Tales is for the players to each support a Morph in a four-task course so well that his/her dream comes true - and Morph is accepted into Morphtopia at the end. In the game, the Morphs embody young, untrained artificial intelligences (AIs). Their character traits reflect the basic properties and principles of the intelligent adaptive algorithms (i.e., calculation instructions) used by computers to autonomously complete everyday tasks.

At the same time, the morphs reflect the values of AI research at ETH Zurich and specifically those of the ETH AI Center: the latter focuses on trustworthy, accessible and inclusive AI approaches and applications. "People should be able to trust AI technology to help them with their tasks," says Andreas Krause, Professor of Machine Learning and Chairman of the ETH AI Center, "’Morph Tales’ show in a playful way how AI can support people and advance science."

In fact, the four tasks in the game are inspired by real research projects that apply AI, or machine learning: Four projects from different areas served as inspiration for the four mini-challenges in the Morph Tales game. These areas are: agricultural sciences (smart farming), pharmaceutical sciences (computer-assisted drug design), information technology and electrical engineering (autonomous sailing) and geobiology (origins of life).

To develop exciting and intuitively playable games, the research content was simplified and adapted to the narrative and technical requirements of a game. The games illustrate machine learning, and AI is used itself in the autonomous sailing game.

"’Morph Tales’ are entertaining and fun and appeal to both teenagers and families. They don’t require any knowledge of artificial intelligence or augmented reality," says Rainer Borer, head of ETH Zurich Corporate Communications, "we want to use this game to break the ice for AI research topics and make them vividly tangible."

A game course with augmented reality

Based on the idea born in the Corporate Communications department and the values of the ETH AI Center, the game, its story, and the characters were developed by a team from ETH’s own Game Technology Center (GTC) together with story architect Patrick Kappeler. To provide the players with an entertaining experience, the game designers for Morph Tales went down a path rarely trodden: "The game combines a digitally augmented gaming experience with a real campus experience in a modern way," says Fabio Zünd, GTC managing director.

Morph Tales consists of four mini-games and is played with borrowable tablets at real game stations (cf. video) and lasts around 20 to 30 minutes. At the end of the game, the players experience their individually designed Morph being beamed from the tablet to Morphtopia. It is playable in German and in English.

"Morph Tales - Exploring Artificial Intelligence" is a joint development by the ETH Zurich Corporate Communications, the Game Technology Center and the ETH AI Center - in collaboration with Patrick Kappeler, Aroma, as well as Campus Services and Facility Services.

How to play "Morph Tales"

The Morph Tales game course is located in the ETH main building at the Polyterrasse entrance. Playing is possible both with prior online registration (from 12 June 2023) and spontaneously on site ( from 6 June 2023 ).
  • Without registration: You are welcome to play "Morph Tales" spontaneously and without registration at ETH Zurich from 6 June 2023. The tablets you need for the game can be borrowed from the ETH main building at the Campus Info (on weekdays from 09.00 to 16.00). To borrow a tablet, you must provide official identification (e.g. ID, passport, driver’s license).
  • With registration: You have the option of booking the tablets online for specific dates and times as an individual or in groups (up to eight people) from 12 June 2023. When you pick up the tablets, you must deposit the QR code of the booking and an official ID per tablet (e.g. ID, passport, driver’s licence).
  • The game can be combined with visits by school classes.

Further information and registration ( from 12 June 202 3)