AI service gives 'Overwatch' players in-game coaching

Visor examines more than 150,000 data points to provide instant advice.

A typical Overwatch match is hectic and fast-paced. You can't exactly consult strategy guides in the middle of a manic team fight to figure out the best course of action, so you've probably had to rely on your own experience and knowledge of the game. Your Overwatch decision making might be about to get a boost though, as an AI analytics service called Visor could help you improve at the team-based shooter by analyzing what's happening in real time and providing in-game contextual tips.

The service is now in open beta and Visor just raised $4.7 million in a Series A round to spur its growth -- there will be support for more games down the line, for instance. The app isn't really geared towards helping Overwatch League pros sharpen their skills. Instead, its creators told VentureBeat they hope players at all skill levels can use it to improve, one game at a time.

Visor examines every frame of your Overwatch gameplay, looking at more than 150,000 data points to figure out what's happening. It considers factors like the kill feed, ultimate charge, health, ability meters and cooldowns, audio cues and even text chat to gain an understanding of the environment.

Visor will then offer some guidance, such as noting how often your healers die at the start of team fights, prompting you to urge your team's tanks to give them more protection. It reminds you to use your Dragonblade or Self-Destruct if you've held on to your ultimate for too long. Visor looks at player positions and nudges you to attack if the other team is scattered or group up if your own team is spread too thin.

You can also see in real time just how much damage and how many eliminations you're causing per minute, as well as how quickly your own hero is dying. The app can even predict when an enemy player's ultimate is ready -- information that's not typically obvious in competitive or quick play games.

Visor, which trained its AI using half a billion frames of gameplay, starts personalizing data for you after just one game. Once your matches are complete, you can see how the stats compare with your earlier performances and find out you how much you're improving.

The service is PC-only for now, but during alpha testing, console players were able to upload videos of their matches and get feedback on how well they played. The Visor team says the service isn't considered cheating by Overwatch developer Blizzard, because it doesn't affect the game's code -- it acts like screen recording tools players typically use to share their gameplay on Twitch.

A brief test of Visor proved fruitless for me, unfortunately. The in-game tips did not show up while I played, though I suspect that's the fault of my Internet connection or my decidedly non-gaming laptop. I can only run Overwatch on low graphics settings, and to work optimally Visor needs at least 720p resolution.

Still, it's a service that holds a lot of promise for millions of players who want to get better at their favorite games. It's unclear when Visor will be available for other titles, though the creators say the platform is game-agnostic, which "allows us to quickly extend Visor to any game." So you might expect to use it to improve at Fortnite in the not-too-distant future.