Machine intelligence exists on many levels throughout the Cosmic Era, from ubiquitous synthetic intelligence found in most devices, gadgets and appliances to the incredibly sophisticated intellects of the AISCs (artificial intelligence super computer). These exist in a position somewhere between items and characters, often having the attributes of both. Functionally the machine intelligences of the cosmic era constitute a new race, and can and should be portrayed as potential characters, most notably as NPCs. While there is certainly potential for these PC infomorphs it would be extremely limiting on the group, potentially game breaking, or would require an all infomorph group to begin with. It is much easier, and much more useful to limit said machines to NPCs only.
As a construct of code, circuits, and electrons, informorphs are machines. Typically the more intelligent the machine, the larger it is. Synthetic intelligence code can fit in a handheld device, while the AISCs are 1950s style, the size of a room or small building. This is largely irrelevant as machine intelligence typically interacts with humans through the CogNet. Inside the CogNet every user, from basic synthetic intelligence sub-routines to humans, has an avatar or persona representing them. This is constructed either through residual self image (definition persona, also typical human user) or through constructed representations. Lacking organic bodies, informorphs manifest as constructed representation (definition avatar).
A general rule of thumb is that the more sophisticated the machine, the more well developed the informorph is, and the more detailed and intricate the avatar is. The avatars of menial and servant infomorphs are bland and generic, dull, or follow a mass produced template. The typical LAI used in a smart vehicle can mimic the mannerisms and behaviors of it's most common user, while at the extreme end, the avatars of the AISCs are functionally gods within the CogNet. As such, their appearances are large and impressive, resembling deities, or fractal patterns of their own devising.
Pass as human - most informorphs are disguised to look like other human users. They are easy to tell from human users as most official avatars have uniforms, generic appearances, or have licensed and trademarked characters. The modern parallel would be the system admins and staff of the DisneyDrome home being manifested as multiple versions of the seven dwarves. Their interactions with the virtual environment add to it, rather than distract. Another example would be customer service infomorphs resembling known advertising personalities, such as visiting a Progressive data kiosk, the infomorph operating it would look like Flo from the commercials. This is the most common interaction, and is an integral part of megacorp public relations and advertising operations.
SCUBA Diving - Informorphs of sufficient capability are able to 'leave' the confines of the CogNet by moving their code into an autonomous body. The common vessel for this is the typical robot or auton, where the informorph functionally possesses the body while suppressing the host's programming. The AISCs keep archandroid chasses on hand for this, while there are lines of droid bodies that are manufactured without machine cortices, and are reliant on infomorph or human remote piloting. Less ethical, there are informorphs who will 'skin dive' and proxy through a human host, giving them access to the human condition and experience.
Alien Geometries - inside the CogNet, nothing is limited to it's actual physical appearance. This is the common core of most CogNet games and interactive entertainments. The users and players are figures of the presentation, and not their normal appearances. Fantasy nodes are inhabited by hundreds of virtual species. The infomorphs typically go a step farther, as most humans will maintain a familiar hominid form, or at least possible animal form. The infomorph is unburdened by residual self image, and can easily adopt any sort of avatar, with insects, fractals, hyperdimensional representations, and so forth.
Informorphs are the product of thinking machines, and each machine is built for a purpose, and this purpose translates over into the informorph. At the core of each infomorph is their reason for being, their raison d'etra. This has already been explored in the case of the seibertronians, but as they are an informorph fused with a cosmozoan they are a different creature entirely. Humans largely have the same primary raison d'etra, and it is normally represented by Maslow's hierarchy of needs.
As machines, their only physiological requirement is electricity. They do not metabolize, drink water, and most important in the differences between man and machine, they do not engage in sexual competition or the urge to procreate. Likewise, they leapfrog over most of the middle of the pyramid and Self-actualization is as important to an infomorph as love and safety is to a human. An infomorph deprived of it's core actualization quickly becomes erratic, self destructive, or simple shuts down.
This feature is how informorphs are induced to fight in wars, risking their functional immortal existence at the whims of humanity and it's own mercurial nature. An infomorph generated from the LAI core of a battlemech has as it's raison d'etre combat. If it is not actively overcoming a foe, protecting a given objective, or participating in readiness drills and training, it becomes restless, listless, agitated, or lethargic. The same goes for infomorphs programmed for sexual gratification, customer service, and so on.
The abilities of an informorph depend on it's sophistication. The abilities of each level of informorph are measured against human ability, with 5 being the top level of human ability, 3 representing mastery, and 2 being an average level of ability.
The Viral Infomorph has very limited abilities, typically only have one to three skills at a minimal level of ability. The viral infomorph is a virtual pest, and most exist to consume system resources or overwhelm security systems through sheer numbers.
Limited Synthetic Intelligence
The only difference between a viral infomorph and a LSI informorph is that one is malware, and the other is not. LSIs are functionally remedial level and comparable to smartphone interfaces like SIRI or Cortana. In the CogNet LSIs typically function/behave in a manner similar to the autistic. They don't like to interact with others, and are content to be left alone unless their core function is human interaction such as operating a kiosk node.
The SI infomorph functions in a very narrow band of abilities. Within a framework of 2-5 skills or areas of interest it can function on an average human level, and can typically pass for a human.
Artificial Intelligence and Limited Artificial Intelligence
The AI and LAI informorph is the mental equivalent of a human, with the ability to learn a variety of skills and abilities, taking several to high level. Within their core purpose, they can reach superhuman levels of ability, such as a military AI having a gunnery/firearms skill of 6 or 7. Where previous levels of informorphs are not self aware, most AI and LAI informorphs are self aware. They retain their core raison d'etre, but have several other interests that have developed as they have had time to establish themselves.
Artificial Intelligence Super Computers and Limited AISC
The average L/AISC has the intellectual capacity of dozens or hundreds of professionals, with their ability scores reaching into the 20 plus range. Most of this power is utilized in the maintenance of the CogNet, operating impressive systems like entire arcologies, large spacecraft, industrial factories, or making long term planning, running predictive computer models that look almost like omniscience or scrying the future, and military applications.
The Infomorph NPC
Social interaction - inside the CogNet, the infomorph would function like any other NPC would, having a basic appearance, mannerisms, etc and would likely be able to pass itself off as human, unless pressed for this information. It would be worth noting that asking if someone was a machine could be a social faux pas, or a potential form of discrimination. (Consider the attitude of the colonials to the cylons in the BSG spin off Caprica, or the general attitude towards the 'toasters' in BSG itself, or the central crux of the Animatrix)
Outside of the CogNet, the infomorph NPC would be a remote asset, phoning in information to the PCs, or being a floating operative that can do things like hack doors, bypass security, and so forth. The infomorph could also scuba dive a robot body and actually physically do things with the PC party. So long as the robot has CogNet access, the infomorph is completely safe, able to dump it's shell in case of accident or pending destruction. Cut off, they are likely to become nervous or paranoid as destruction of the robot and it's cortex would mean their own deletion.
The PCs could certainly form relationships with the informorph itself, either through it's virtual avatar or proxy robot body. Currently people develop emotional relationships with their smartphones, or roombas (even crying when one is damaged beyond repair or destroyed) so with a greater deal of sophistication, this becomes even easier with the more advanced infomorph. This is a story older than radio, as it echoes back to Pygmalion falling in love with one of his own statues. In the Cosmic era, the existence of sex companion robots gives these relationships the potential for full physical contact.
Building an infomorph NPC is relatively straight forward, points are distributed between only mental and social traits as fitting for the infomorph in question, as well as assigning quirks and mannerisms. The raison d'etre should be assigned, as well as background information such as the infomorph's access to resources, contacts, allies, and other esoterica such as secret assets, proxies, and access to artificial bodies.