Robot News | Software | Minecraft AI
"Build, Play, Explore!" is the (unofficial) slogan of Minecraft, an independent video game that went from cult favorite to international sensation. A sandbox virtual world known for its minimalist block-style graphics, Minecraft had already become a household name by the time it was formally released in 2011. It has since spawned a massive commercial empire, which produces clothing, toys, card games and other merchandise. (Minecraft Legos are among my son's favorites.) MineCon, the official yearly convention, sells out several thousand tickets in mere seconds. A major documentary was released in 2012, and a feature film is underway by Warner Brothers.
The next step for Minecraft? A training ground for Artificial Intelligence.
A Microsoft research team is teaching an AI agent to complete basic functions using the same kind of resources humans have when learning a new task. The agent starts with no knowledge of its surroundings. It needs to think for itself to understand the environment. Like a baby taking its first steps, the Minecraft character will endure a lot of trial and error, and, as if training a puppy to fetch, the researchers provide their AI with incremental rewards when it achieves its goals.
"It's a digital playpen for artificial intelligence," said senior researcher Fernando Diaz. "It's an environment in which we can develop an algorithm for teaching a young artificial intelligence to learn different concepts in the world."
The project, named AIX by Microsoft developers, will be available this summer via open-source licensing. ◼
2001: Space Odyssey - Minecraft by Jonathan Lins Nugem