Facebook is training an AI assistant inside ‘Minecraft’

The most advanced AIs today can perform select tasks with superhuman-like efficiency, beating the best humans have to offer at intricate games like Starcraft II and Go. But ask those same AIs to perform something outside of their area of expertise, and they’ll struggle. Creating an AI that’s a generalist is one of the next major challenges of AI research. And it’s something a team of researchers at Facebook is attempting to do by teaching an AI how to play a game.

This time around, however, the game of choice is Minecraft. According to Facebook, the simplicity and sandbox nature of Microsoft’s popular title make it the perfect training ground for a generalist assistant AI. In Minecraft‘s ‘Creative’ mode, players have been able to recreate complex structures like Star Trek’s Enterprise D with just a few simple building blocks.

It’s that potential for almost infinite creativity with a small set of easy-to-understand tools, in conjunction with the difficulty of teaching an AI to understand natural language, that has Facebook spending countless hours on a private Minecraft server. The hope is to eventually create an AI assistant that can help people with their day-to-day tasks, which is something Facebook has been trying to do for a couple of years now.

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