Microsoft sees Minecraft as AI proving ground

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The blocky look of Minecraft creations doesn't seem to bother these fellows. The popular construction game Minecraft is due to become a testbed for artificial intelligence software designed by startups and scientists alike. Minecraft, a game based on the notion of building blocks, is played by millions of people on consoles, PCs and phones. Developed by Stockholm-based Mojang, the game was snapped up by Microsoft in September 2014 for $2.5 billion, followed by the Redmond, Washington, software giant's acquisition of Teacher Gaming's MinecraftEdu line of teaching tools in January of this year. The game has now gone far beyond its roots as a simple building game, and through mods and additional development can also be used as a tool to instruct students on topics including conservation and resource management.

Why does AI stink at certain video games? Researchers made one play Ms. Pac-Man to find out


STOCKHOLM--Artificial intelligence (AI) can kick butt in games such as Pong and Space Invaders, but it comes off like a common n00b when playing Ms. Pac-Man (pictured). Now, by making AI play six classic arcade games, researchers are closer to figuring out why thinking machines excel at some games and stink at others, they reported last month at the International Conference on Machine Learning here. The team developed a new system for visualizing how Atari-playing AIs operate. They chose Atari because the games are relatively simple and a frequent focus for researchers developing "reinforcement learning" algorithms, AIs that learn behaviors through trial and error. An AI "sees" the screen (as an input of ones and zeroes) and at first randomly responds with commands for "left," "right," "fire," and so on, slowly shaping its strategy as it receives points for certain actions.

Angry birds developer to open video game studio in London despite Brexit fears

The Independent - Tech

The company behind the globally successful Angry Birds video game has chosen London for the site of its first game studio outside Scandinavia, shrugging off any concerns over the future of the City's tech industry in the face of Brexit. In a statement on Monday, Rovio said that it aims to build a team of over 20 in London over the next two years. The studio will be the Finnish developer's fifth. The company currently has three in Espoo, Finland and one in Stockholm, Sweden. "Our business is profitably growing and London is the most logical place for us to found a new studio," said Antti Viitanen, a senior vice president for studios at Rovio.

Rickard Nordin, Sweden's 'Hearthstone'-streaming politician


For many people, eSports cropped up when they weren't looking, growing out of the passionate local communities built by game creators and players. Professional teams now compete in high-stakes leagues for prestige, tournament winnings and lucrative sponsorship deals -- but only in places where eSports is encouraged to take root. Many countries don't offer pro game players the same ease of travel as traditional athletes, leading lawmakers to continue debating just how much the state should support the local video game scene. Such is the case with Sweden, but national Parliament member Rickard Nordin is rallying his peers to embrace the financial and cultural benefits eSports can bring, and he's reaching out to fans (near and far) on a platform fitting his mission. Just after Parliament members from each party hold their regular Tuesday meetings, Nordin retires to his office in Stockholm's Parliament House and loads up his current favorite competitive title, the digital card game Hearthstone.

Microsoft's AI Is Playing Minecraft to Learn How the World Works


Microsoft is using an experimental version of its game Minecraft to test the limits of artificial intelligence. Called Project Malmo (named after a Swedish city, as Minecraft originates out of Sweden), the new version of the game allows reinforcement-learning algorithms to control a character. Reinforcement algorithms, which are inspired by psychology, focus on putting artificial intelligences within a specific environment and letting them figure out how to gain further rewards. By making those rewards incremental, Microsoft researchers believe they can train the AI to learn goals. Minecraft's sandbox nature could turn it into the perfect training ground for AI.