Microsoft Project Malmo is Now Available on GitHub

by July 12, 2016 0 comments

Microsoft has made Project Malmo, a platform that uses the world of Minecraft as a testing ground for advanced artificial intelligence research, available for novice to experienced programmers on GitHub via an open-source license.

The system, which had until now only been open to a small group of computer scientists in private preview, is primarily designed to help researchers develop sophisticated, more general artificial intelligence, or AI, that can do things like learn, hold conversations, make decisions and complete complex tasks.

That’s key to creating systems that can augment human intelligence — and eventually help us with everything from cooking and doing laundry to driving and performing lifesaving tasks in an operating room.

Katja Hofmann, a researcher in Microsoft’s Cambridge, UK, research lab, who leads the development of Project Malmo, said the system will help researchers develop new techniques and approaches to reinforcement learning. That’s an area of AI in which agents learn how to complete a task by being given a lot of room for trial and error and then being rewarded when they make the right decision.

“We’re trying to put out the tools that will allow people to make progress on those really, really hard research questions,” Hofmann said.

For example, computer scientists have gotten exceptionally good at creating tools that can understand the words we say, whether we’re asking a gadget for directions or navigating an automated customer service line.

But when it comes to actually comprehending the meaning of those audio waves – well, in most cases a baby could do better.

“We’ve trained the artificial intelligence to identify patterns in the dictation, but the underlying technology doesn’t have any understanding of what those words mean,” Hofmann said. “They’re just statistical patterns, and there’s no connection to any experience.”

Microsoft has also added new functionality to the platform on launch which will allow developers to create bots which can learn to talk to each other — as well as people. Researchers will also be able to overclock Minecraft to increase the speed of experiments beyond the game’s usual pace.

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