Microsoft has announced the open-world gaming phenomenon Minecraft is to be used as a testing ground for AI research.
The software giant, which purchased Minecraft developer Mojang in 2014, will allow computer science researchers to hop into the game to test their own advancements.
Researchers will be able to give AI control of a character within the game, with the aim of helping it learn within the environment.
“Minecraft is the perfect platform for this kind of research because it’s this very open world,” said Microsoft’s Katja Hofmann, who developed the AIX platform.
“You can do survival mode, you can do ‘build battles’ with your friends, you can do courses, you can implement our own games. This is really exciting for artificial intelligence because it allows us to create games that stretch beyond current abilities.”
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To take part in the research, users will need to sign up for Microsoft’s AIX program when it becomes available via an open-source license in July.
Microsoft reasons the world of Minecraft will be attractive to researchers as it is more sophisticated and cheaper than building a robot.
Hofmann, who heads up the project at Microsoft’s Research Lab in Cambridge added: “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," explained Katja Hofmann, who leads the project at Microsoft Research's Cambridge lab in the UK.
"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."
The experiments will not impede with the online activities of regular Minecraft players, although interactions between the two might have been interesting.
Previously, Microsoft has announced it'll be using Minecraft to teach coding to children in schools, while the building game is also set to pioneer augmented reality gaming through Microsoft's HoloLens platform.