Microsoft computer scientists have developed a new artificial intelligence platform on top of the hugely popular video game Minecraft. Dubbed AIX, the platform hooks in Minecraft and allows the AI to take control of a character and learn from their actions. It’s early days for the project; so far, the scientists have been working hard to teach the AI to climb a hill.
It’s a simple enough task to program directly, but for an AI that doesn’t know anything about its environment or what it’s supposed to do to begin with, that’s a big ask. The AI must not only understand its environment, but also discover the difference between day and night, why walking on lava is probably a bad idea, and when exactly it reached its goal through a system of rewards.
Microsoft’s AI isn’t quite there yet, but those who want to program their own AI can do so this summer when the AIX software is released as free and open-source code. Beginning programmers and researchers only need to purchase a license for the Java version of the game, which currently costs £17.95 ($26.95/€19.95). AIX runs on Windows, Linux or Mac OS and researchers can program their AI in any programming language. The only stipulation is that AI experiments cannot interact with other players online – at least not yet.
“People build great structures that do great things Minecraft, and this will allow experimenters to introduce tasks that will push AI technology beyond its current capacity,” project leader Katja Hofmann told the BBC. agents can learn to collaborate with people and support them in a creative way. This provides a way to take AI from where it is today to human-level intelligence, which is where we want to be in decades.”
While Microsoft says it’s entirely possible to program an AI, put it in a robot, and have it climb an actual hill, it’s an extremely costly experiment, especially if (when) the AI fails and the robot loses the rolls down hill. . Minecraft also offers a number of different AI learning capabilities that aren’t always easy to try out in the real world, including fighting and building. Of course, the strange physics of the Minecraft world may not reflect the real world, but the complex decisions and consequences inherent in play Minecraft can make it easier for AI to learn similar concepts.
AI research has boomed in recent years, but it usually focuses on teaching a computer to do a specific task, whether that be beating humans in Danger, or, uhh, beating people at the game of Go. Microsoft says that by using Minecraft researchers will be able to create AI more adept at “general intelligence,” learning in a similar way to humans by parsing information from light, smell, sound, and touch.
“[Minecraft] allows you to have ’embodied AI’,” AIX software engineer Matthew Johnson told the BBC. lives in the world. We think this is an essential part of building this kind of general intelligence.”