Minecraft Being Used to Teach Robots Problem Solving in Complex Environments

By   /   Aug 20, 2015
Minecraft update 1.41

Minecraft is a game that is constantly full of surprises for people. Not only popular with the people who play it, it also can be used as a tool to help robots understand problem solving in real life environments.

One problem with robots is teaching them how to achieve goals, and what order things must be done. In the learning process they tend to try out things that may not go the way we expect them to. Researchers at Brown University are using Minecraft as a virtual world to create a new algorithm that will help robots work out tasks in complex environments.

Stefanie Tellex, assistant professor of computer science at Brown, had this to say about Minecraft:

“Minecraft is a really good a model of a lot of these robot problems,” Tellex said. “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 idea was to create an area within Minecraft and letting an algorithm control the character within the game, with tasks such as collecting gold. Through learning what steps this takes in the virtual world, the algorithm was then able to adapt the same principles with real world problems.

“Minecraft is a really good a model of a lot of these robot problems,” Tellex said. “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.”

On tasks for the algorithm within Minecraft:

“It’s able to learn that if you’re standing next to a trench and you’re trying to walk across, you can place blocks in the trench. Otherwise don’t place blocks,” Tellex said. “If you’re trying to mine some gold under some blocks, destroy the blocks. Otherwise don’t destroy blocks”

The article is an interesting read, especially for people who enjoy Minecraft. It may be just a game, but it has led to interesting uses, just like this one. If it can help improve robotics in real world situations, I’m sure it will continue to impress us in the future.

What are your thoughts on Minecraft being used for research like this? Let us know your thoughts below.

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