Minecraft Becomes Artificial Intelligence Testbed


Microsoft is to let researchers use Minecraft to test artificial intelligence technologies. It believes using the game offers a useful mix of realism and affordability.

The open source program will initially involve researchers operating their software only on their own machines and in what’s effectively a walled garden within Minecraft. In the long run Microsoft aims to have the experiments interact directly with the wider Minecraft world.

Microsoft’s reasoning for using Minecraft┬áis that creating a virtual world for a specific artificial intelligence test is not only expensive and time-consuming, but often serves only one specific purpose and can’t easily be adapted for other tests. It argues that Minecraft already lends itself to multiple virtual activities as well as interactions and cooperations between different characters, which could even represent different AI tools. It’s also relatively simple to add in more complex elements.

The main use of the Minecraft testbed will be not so much achieving a particular task as refining the automated learning process. Microsoft gives the example of an AI tool being challenged to first identify the highest point in the game world and then find the most efficient route there. This could then be repeated with changing obstacles (such as lava suddenly blocking a path,) allowing the AI to develop rules for maximizing the efficiency of a route.

The testing works through a platform developed by Microsoft called AIX. It’s being made available to academic researchers in a private beta and will go open source this summer.

Let’s hope the idea catches on as I can’t wait to see Google’s driverless cars tested in the online incarnation of Los Santos.

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