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Why is Skynet Trying to Build a House?

Written by Adam Savage in category 
March 15, 2016

This blog has written about artificial intelligence, AI (whats the A stand for?), quite a bit. From Google’s self driving car to Googles dreaming AI (is Google a subsidiary of Cyberdyne Systems or something?) to the fears of an AI takeover shared by Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking. Today’s AI story has a bit of a Matthew Broderick flavor to it because the AI wants to play a game.

Microsoft, a small Redman, Washington based software company, is teaching AI using it’s game Minecraft. Minecraft an immensely popular game from Mojang Studios is set in a block world where the user controls a character to explore the world. Monsters come out at night so one of the first priorities for a player in new game is usually to build a house. Some players have built elaborate structures within the world, including sub-games within the game. Minecraft rose to popularity on the PC before an incredibly popular port (a version of a game that takes it from it’s original operating system to a new system) brought the game to Microsoft’s home gaming system the X-Box 360 and then it’s successor the X-Box One. Microsoft acquired Mojang in 2014.

Now Microsoft Research has developed a program using an AIX platform that will allow people to create AI agents “to sense and act within Minecraft environment”. AIX is an open source AI platform developed by Katja Hoffman, a member of the Microsoft Cambridge Research team that unveiled the research.

The team believes that since Minecraft is a pre-existing world, that is incredibly open and has set rules, it is the perfect environment for AI testing and learning. In Minecraft can experiment and face challenges with consequences, but not catastrophic ones. It can also allow the AI to learn and discard extraneous information.

But perhaps the biggest part of the announcement is that Microsoft is releasing this tool to the public over the summer allowing amateur and professional AI programers from around the world to use the platform. This summer the AI will rise…to build a house and hide from monsters.

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