Facebook is using Mojang’s Minecraft to train an AI that it hopes will eventually be molded into a AI assistant in the vein of Apple’s Siri, but with more flexibility to help people with day-to-day tasks.
According to a paper on the topic spotted by Engadget, the decision to drop an AI into a Minecraft server was prompted by the idea to “make progress on the problems of natural language understanding and learning from dialogue.”
That paper, readable here, notes that many machine learning research efforts are directed at performing narrow, well-defined tasks. For this project, the Facebook team was more interested in an AI’s ability to be competent in several simple tasks that are “specified (perhaps poorly) by humans.”
By creating an AI that can be trained in a private Minecraft server, researchers say the relatively straightforward nature of performing tasks in the blocky sandbox world provides a great testing ground for that exact kind of simple task-focused testing.
“Furthermore, since we work in a game environment, players may enjoy interacting with the assistants as they are developed, yielding a rich resource for human-in-the-loop research,” notes the paper.