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Minecraft Video Game May Help Create Aritifical Intelligence for Robots

First Posted: Jun 08, 2015 06:52 PM EDT

Minecraft isn't just a game; it may also be helping robotics. Scientists are using this video game to help develop a new algorithm to allow robots to better plan their actions in complex environments.

Basic action planning is difficult for robots. Part of the problem is that robots don't intuitively ignore objects and actions that are irrelevant to the task at hand. For example, if someone told you to empty the trash in the kitchen, you would know there's no need to turn on the oven or open the fridge. In contrast, robots may perform those actions since that's just part of the regularly routine.

"It's a really tough problem," said Stefanie Tellex,, one of the researchers, in a news release. "We want robots that have capabilities to do all kinds of different things, but then the space of possible actions becomes enormous. We don't want to limit the robot's capabilities, so we have to find ways to shrink the search space."

The new algorithm accomplishes just that. It augments standard robot planning algorithms using "goal-based action priors," which is sets of objects and actions in a given space that are most likely to help an agent achieve a given goal. The priors for a given task can be supplied by an expert operator, but they can also be learned by the algorithm itself through trial and error.

Fortunately for the researchers, the game Minecraft provided an ideal world to test out the algorithm.

"Minecraft is a really good model of a lot of these robot problems," said Tellex. "There's a huge space of possible actions somebody playing this game can do, and it's really cheap and easy to collect a ton of training data. It's much harder to do that in the real world."

The new algorithm could be huge when it comes to creating robots. That said, it will need to be refined for further uses.

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