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Microsoft Using Open Source Minecraft To Develop Artificial Intelligence

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Andrew Follett Energy and Science Reporter
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Microsoft is using the video game Minecraft to help develop artificial intelligence (AI) which can complete complex tasks, and is opening up the research to the general computing public, according to a Monday announcement.

Minecraft has been used by the tech company and several academic computer scientists to help develop sophisticated general artificial intelligence, or AI, which can do things like learn, hold conversations, make decisions and complete complex tasks. Microsoft has opened up the project to the general computing public via an open-source license.

“Minecraft is very close to the real world in many ways,” Jose Hernandez-Orallo, who is a professor at the Technical University of Valencia and has used the system to work on AI, wrote in a press statement. “There are so many possibilities.”

Microsoft and the computer scientists have been trying to train an artificial intelligence agent to learn how to do simple things in the game, like climb to the highest point in the virtual world, using the same types of resources a human has when she learns a new task.

The game is a perfect platform for this kind of research due to its complexity and the variety of tasks which can occur in it, according to researchers. The researchers are “trying to program it to learn, as opposed to programming it to accomplish specific tasks,” Fernando Diaz, a senior scientists working on the project, said on Microsoft’s blog. The company hopes that the world of Minecraft a will be an effective testing ground for conducting research designed to improve artificial intelligence.

Artificial intelligence researchers have recently taught computers to understand and translate human speech as well as recognize images and write captions about them. These are enormous advances, but computers still aren’t very good at what researchers call general intelligence, the complex way humans learn and make decisions.

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Andrew Follett