Researchers at Microsoft have originated a brand-new artificial intelligence platform atop the hugely famous video game Minecraft.
The platform, known as Dubbed AIX, hooks into Minecraft and allows the AI to take control of a character and study its actions. It’s early days for the project; so far, the scientists have been hard at work getting the AI to learn to climb a hill.
It is a difficult task to program an AI that starts out knowing nothing at all about its environment or what it’s supposed to be doing. The AI needs to understand its surroundings and figure out when exactly it has achieved its goal via a system of rewards.
Microsoft’s AI isn’t quite there yet, but those wanting to program their own can do so this summer when the AIX software will be released for free and as open-source code.
Budding programmers and researchers need only to purchase a license for the Java version of the game, which currently goes for £17.95. AIX will run on Windows, Linux, or Mac OS, and researchers can program their AI in any programming language they like. The only drawback is that AI experiments won’t be able to interact with other players online.
While Microsoft says it’s entirely feasible to program an AI, stick it inside a robot, and have that try to climb a real-world hill, it’s an extremely costly experiment—particularly if the AI fails and the robot falls down the hill. Minecraft also offers several different AI learning opportunities that aren’t always easy to try in the real world, including combat and building.
Sure, the odd physics of the Minecraft world might not be reflective of the real world, but the complex decisions and consequences essential to playing Minecraft may make it easier for AI to learn similar concepts.