For those of you who are under the impression that Minecraft is just a game, let me assure you that it’s a lot more than that. Microsoft has been using Minecraft for a variety of different developments, the latest of which is for coming up with and artificial intelligence solution.

The Redmond giant had previously showcased innovations like virtual reality and effective hands-on education using Minecraft after acquiring the firm for $2.5 Billion almost a year ago. Microsoft believes (and so do we) that the environment provided by the real-time online game provides the perfect platform for different sorts of developments.

The company announced on Monday via a blog post that it is launching a project named AIX that allows computer scientists to use the world of Minecraft as a testing ground for conducting research designed to improve artificial intelligence. This is amazing, as you do not need to use any kind of hardware to test out your work. Hardware leads to limitations like cost, damage, danger etc. But emulating AI in a virtual world is completely inexpensive and safe.

The development comes just days after Google DeepMind team managed to defeat Go grandmaster Fan Hui 3 consecutive times in a 5 game series.

Project AIX is currently being handled by 5 computer researchers who will be dedicating their time in trying to teach Minecraft ‘agents’— AI-powered characters to perform tasks inside the gaming environment. These tasks could be anything from simply roaming around the virtual world like players to climbing ledges to even building their own landscapes. The main aim will be to teach these programs to survive the game.

The blog post announcing the project reads:

That may seem like a pretty simple job for some of the brightest minds in the field, until you consider this: The team is trying to train an artificial intelligence agent to learn how to do things like climb to the highest point in the virtual world, using the same types of resources a human has when she learns a new task.

Katja Hofmann, the head of the project believes that Minecraft’s openness and creativity present larger opportunities to explore and develop AI than currently exist.

Minecraft is the perfect platform for this kind of research because it’s this very open world,

Hofmann said.

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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