Microsoft has a new use for the endless blocky wilds of Minecraft: letting AI programs wander around and learn stuff.
A Microsoft UK team from Cambridge is developing a new artificial intelligence platform, called AIX, that basically lets programmers run AI experiments in the big giant open world that players seem to enjoy so well. Since Minecraft’s worlds are enormous, potentially going on forever, they make good places to let AIs run around and learn stuff. The platform will be available later this year.
As Gizmodo reports, one group of researchers, for example, is building an AI that will explore Minecraft more or less like a human would, with the goal of reaching the highest point it can. To do that, it’ll have to learn stuff—stuff like how uphill is different from downhill, or the fact that falling into a river and drowning is bad, and that trying to walk through lava is similarly not good. Over time, the AI will gain more and more understanding about the world of Minecraft, and start to do things like avoiding burning to death and getting trapped in caves and so on.
The hope is that researchers will be able to test and combine programs in Minecraft so they can eventually make more sophisticated, smarter AIs. And ideally, even if those AIs become smart enough to take over the world, they’ll be stuck in Minecraft and will only be able to lord over groups of square sheep or zombies.