While Minecraft [official site] is no stranger to the classroom, computer scientists are now using Mojang and Microsoft's famous build 'em up to improve artificial intelligence. For now, it's in the hands of a small group of researchers/super smart boffin types by way of a private beta, however it's going open-source come July. Find out more after the drop.
Reliant on a platform called AIX - that lets AI control the onscreen character while providing a loop of continuous feedback - computer scientists are using Minecraft to train an artificial intelligence agent on the workings and dynamics of the block-built world's procedural nature, as they aim to send the AI up the highest in-game hill.
Ultimately, the researchers aim to instill a degree of "general intelligence" in the AI, where it understands the consequences of its actions - similar to the nuanced ways humans decide to execute tasks on a daily basis.
Speaking to the BBC, Katja Hofmann, the project lead at Microsoft Research's Cambridge lab, said this of the initiative:
"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. 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."
After just five years, it's already quite difficult to imagine a world without Minecraft, given the affect it's had on the landscape of video games to this point. Brendan's most recent Ridealong entry proves there's still an abundance of stories oozing from its procedural landscapes worth telling, and I really can't wait to see what modders and tinkerers come up with once AIX goes open source in July.