How Minecraft is helping to shape the future of AI

Believe it or not, video games have long since been a hotbed for scientific development. And now technical engineers have decided to use Minecraft to further the capabilities of AI (or ‘artificial intelligence’, to you and me).

If the thought of a real life HAL 9000 suddenly appearing on your screen during a game of Fifa 16 and obliterating your players keeps you up at night, we’re sorry to tell you this. But it’s closer to reality than you could have ever imagined.

“Pause the game HAL.”

“I’m sorry Dave, I can’t do that.”

What exactly is going on?

Minecraft city

Don’t worry, you can stay calm,. There’s absolutely no chance of you matching up with Sunny from I, Robot in a game of Call of Duty, although we imagine the trash talk would be amazing.

The basic deal is that Minecraft’s versatile open landscapes are ideal for testing the capabilities of an artificial intelligence, so scientists are planning to plonk one of these robot brains into the game, and basically see what they do.

The creepers won’t know what hit them.

Apparently, the open ended nature of the game makes for an ideal testing ground for the ground-breaking technology, and the endless variations in situations make for a perfect life-simulator (although the AI might be a little confused if it graduated from its little Minecraft university, only to realise that zombies don’t come out at night in the real world).

Professor Jose Hernandez-Orallo from the university of Valencia claims that this method of testing AI is: “state of the art”, so all you haters that said that Minecraft had terrible graphics will have to eat your words.

The possibilities are endless

Veterans of the sandbox block-builder will know all too well that, although simplistic looking, the capabilities of the Minecraft engine are extraordinary. If human beings can make working electronic devices in the game, what could an AI do?

We dread to think. You could join an open server for a fun time stacking mud blocks together, only to realise that this AI player has built a working civilization, conquered the world, and enslaved other players and forced them to build it a pyramid.

The end is well and truly nigh, so get used to this screen:

minecraft death

Scientifically though, experts are looking to see if an artificial intelligence could navigate and develop in a Minecraft world, as it’s simply the easiest way of testing basic human functions.

In one of the most honest statements of the century, Microsoft explained that this method of testing was picked because it was cheaper than building a robot, and more sophisticated than current AI research.

So after billions and billions of pounds of research, the absolute best thing leading engineers and scientist could come up with, was to play Minecraft.

Now that’s the kind of complicated, jargon-filled scientiffery (1000% correct phrasing) that we can get on board with.

You can play with it, too

Minecaft multiplayer

Players will absolutely be able to play with the AI gamer using the open software AIX, which connects directly with Minecraft and allows the virtual builder to receive reports and feedback on its actions.

All you’ll need to do, other than download the AIX software, is have a standard licence for the game, and with testing beginning in July, if you haven’t bought the game, you’ve got plenty of time to save up the £18 you’d need to fork out.

So basically, if you’ve purchased Minecraft, you could start claiming that you were at the forefront of revolutionary scientific development. Congratulations, you’re all testing engineers now. Who ever said going to university was important?


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