Project Malmo, established in 2015, called Project AIX back then, finds its way out of infancy and into childhood, and is now looking to engage in its first social interactions. To further this it has launched a contest for PhD students.
It all started with Microsoft researchers trying to make a Minecraft character climb a virtual hill. This might not sound a big deal, but the difference was that this AI agent tried to overcome its hurdle through learning and interacting with its environment, not by being programmed to do so.
Since then, many other research initiatives have found their way into the mainstream, like OpenAI's Gym, a most interesting platform involving AIs that learn to play a video game on a variety of gaming environments such as Atari, Board Games or even Box2d (Angry Birds anyone?), just as humans do.
With projects like ALPHA algorithm in which artificial wingmen communicate with each other as well as with their human operators under combat simulations (check Achieving Autonomous AI Is Closer Than We Think for more on that) and now under Malmo, it seems that we're well beyond the single AI agent phase and are entering a new age where AIs actively look to collaborate.The practical implications of such a development are far-reaching:
For example, autonomous driving agents could speak to each other in order to decide who's going to be given priority in crossing a road or to notify the vehicles behind that it's going to step on the brakes to avoid an accident. Nevertheless, for AI to be of true value to human society it has got to be able to communicate through a common protocol for accomplishing complex tasks that span the boundary of the individual AI, for example in cooperating as a swarm of AIs.
That aside, as we explored in our review of the How Will AI Transform Life By 2030? report as well as in the Formation of Partnership On AI, we live in a corporate world with each stakeholder soon to be able of producing its own kind of AI's with abilities and features different to the rest, and with no one monopolizing the market (or that's what we are led to believe). This leads to the need, especially in the public sector, for AIs of a variety of brands as well as purposes to be able to collaborate.
Recognizing the need for:
"developing technology that can comprehend the intent of others, develop a shared problem-solving strategy and coordinate activity to efficiently accomplish a common task"
Project Malmo has organised a contest for any interested parties, and specifically PhD students aged 18 or over, to develop agents who can, in the settings of a Minecraft game, work together by solving mini puzzles;imagine a multiplayer Minecraft game but the players being computer AI, not humans.
The contest is already underway and teams, which can also include undergraduate students, have until April 14th to register and until May 15th to submit their entries - comprising code, a Readme file of no more than 2,500 characters and a short video.
True to Project's AIX founding roots of doing everything in the open, that is releasing all code as open source and under a liberal license to facilitate collaboration on a human level, the Malmo Collaborative AI Challenge expects everyone to use GitHub for of their code..
Three winning teams will be awarded Microsoft Azure for Research Grants with a maximum value of $20,000, decided on the grounds of originality, performance, code quality and GitHub repo stars. European participants have an extra incentive by being eligible to win three spots at the Microsoft Research AI Summer School.
So are you a PhD student who wants to change the world? Take your chances by joining the competition.
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