Minecraft will be taking part in an artificial intelligence experiment using AIX's open-source AI software.
Minecraft is a hugely successful game of exploration and crafting, one that's attracted players for the better part of a decade. Yet Minecraft may have even more to offer the world in terms of AI research. Microsoft recently announced that computer scientists will be using Minecraft as a robust environment in July for developing new artificial intelligences. What's more, Microsoft eventually plans to make this AI code available to players.
That's right - not only could Minecraft become the cutting edge of AI, these programs might join you as you craft entire castles and cities.
Microsoft's experiment is based on AIX, a software platform which connects to Minecraft and lets AI code control the character. Researchers can then watch the AIs progress in real-time, making adjustments and improvements to the code as necessary. While granting AI control of our video games is nothing new, Minecraft is a unique case - its environment is so open-ended that the range of simulated possibilities is enormous.
The most interesting factor, however, is that Minecraft's AI is purposely designed to function from a first-person perspective. "It allows you to have 'embodied AI'," AIX principal software engineer Matthew Johnson explained. "So, rather than have a situation where the AI sees an avatar of itself, it can actually be inside, looking out through the eyes of something that is living in the world. We think this is an essential part of building this kind of general intelligence."
What's more, Microsoft believes this research might further human-AI collaboration. Once AIX has allowed the AI to master crafting abilities, they'll be placed in multiplayer worlds to interact with human players.
"People build amazing structures that do amazing things in Minecraft, and this allows experimenters to put in tasks that will stretch AI technology beyond its current capacity," Katja Hofmann of Microsoft Research's Cambridge lab said. "But eventually, we will be able to scale this up further to include tasks that allow AI agents to learn to collaborate with humans and support them in a creative manner. This provides a way to take AI from where it is today up to human-level intelligence, which is where we want to be, in several decades time."
Perhaps the next great leap in intelligent robots won't come from Skynet or some military research lab after all. Maybe it will all start with a humble Minecraft AI tracking supplies for a diamond pickaxe.