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Microsoft's Project Malmo, now open sourced, uses Minecraft for AI research

Artificial intelligence (AI) developers now have a new, curious tool to test their system, as Microsoft announces the release of its open source Project Malmo – previously only in private preview – which uses the world-building game Minecraft for AI research.

The project is expected to help researchers develop more sophisticated intelligence that can complete human like tasks, through a process called reinforcement learning. In this process, AI agents go through multiple trial and error processes to complete a task, and is rewarded for the right action.

Minecraft’s immersive world with endless possibilities for collaboration and exploration provides the ideal environment for the process. Researchers praise the game for its close simulation of real world’s interactions, allowing them to push AI development in gargantual challenges like comprehending humans or crafting.

Not only for the AI, the collaborative nature of Minecraft also benefits researchers themselves, who often develop isolated systems to test their theories and algorithms. With Project Malmo, they can do the testing in the same environment, sharing insights and combining their findings, especially since the project is open-source. That is not to mention Overclocking – the ability to accelerate experiments relative to the usual Minecraft pace.

While research papers have been produced using Project Malmo, it is by no means only for researchers: the project is opened to everyone to explore and experiment, and you don’t need to be an advanced programmer. In fact, the platform is only a mod to the Java version of the main game, and any programming language can be used. Microsoft is also expecting it to be incorporated into student curriculums, which is also the company’s ultimate goal for Minecraft.

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