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Risto Miikkulainen, a professor of computer science and neuroscience at the University of Texas at Austin, was among the BotPrize participants who tried to concoct just the right mix of human and machine. When coding a bot for this year’s contest, Miikkulainen and his team designed the bot to learn quickly. “When humans play games, they adapt very quickly,” he says, “so in creating a bot, you can’t aim to be 100% accurate, because adaptation is inexact.”

The BotPrize is an attempt not only to improve game technology, but also to foster innovations outside the industry, from AI used in emergency training simulations today to the companion robots of the future. “You need some way to measure milestones in AI research,” says Robert Epstein, creator and former director of the annual Loebner Prize Competition in Artificial Intelligence, which involves a conventional Turing test. “So when you arrange contests like the BotPrize, you have a way of knowing whether we reached a milestone.”

Will Wright, creator of best-selling simulation games such as The Sims and Spore, hopes the BotPrize encourages AI researchers to pursue the most elusively human quality of all: emotion. “Machine interactions are becoming a ubiquitous part of our environment, but they’re not necessarily the most satisfying,” Wright says, “so acknowledging our emotional dimension is an interesting task to go for in AI.”

This means developing bots that not only fool people but also move them emotionally. “You want to build an emotional model for the agent you’re competing with,” Wright says. “It’s not just about having an accurate aim. It’s about creating a bot that simulates a victory dance above your dead corpse.”

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Credit: Epic Games
Video by Epic Games

Tagged: Computing, software, gaming, A.I.

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