If you think AI is a difficult theoretical subject, we have a practical challenge that you can join in about five minutes. All you have to do is take charge of an ant colony and wipe out the opposition. It's simple, direct and AI in action..
The Ants AI Challenge is all about creating artificial intelligence and is open to novice programmers and experts. Using one of the starter kits provided, you create a computer program that controls a colony of ants which fight against other colonies for domination.
The contest was originated by the University of Waterloo Computer Science Club. Then it went international and it is now run by volunteers around the world. It is sponsored by Google which helps it spread the word so that more people can take part.
For a quick overview see the video:
Ants is a multi-player strategy game in which the objective is to create a computer program (a bot) that plays the game specified in the Problem Description and Game Specification as intelligently as possible.
You are recommended to use one of supplied packages as a starting point and them improve on its strategies. If you want help with this refer to the Strategy Guide, which in turn directs you to Wikipedia for an explanation of breadth-first search and A* search.
The game is set on a plot of dirt with water for obstacles and food that randomly drops. Each player has one or more hills where ants will spawn. The objective is for players to seek and destroy the most enemy ant hills while defending their own hills. Players must also gather food to spawn more ants, however, if all of a player's hills are destroyed they can't spawn any more ants.
The strategies implemented in the starter packages are far from ideal - they are simply provided to get you started quickly and as a basis for writing your own code. The great thing about the starter package is that it gets you into the game and within a few minutes you'll find your name in the list of participants and it's time to let your bot join in the fray.
Starter kits are available in a large and growing number of language but at the time of writing the full feature set has been implemented in around half of them. This still gives you a wide choice including C#, C++, Java and Python. You also need to install a Python interpreter to run the game engine whichever language you choose to program in. The Ants tutorial is also for Python, although part of it also shows the code in Java.
The current phase of the contest will end on December 18th. Soon after that, the final tournament, expected to last less that a week, will be started. Upon its completion the contest winner will be announced and all results will be publically available. Currently there aren't any prizes but as the site states:
There is of course the glory and bragging rights that come with doing well in the best programming contest ever made.
This video didn't win the AAAI Video competition, but it is certainly good enough to amuse you while teaching you some basic AI. We also think that this crew deserves a TV series of its own own. [ ... ]