Google DeepMind: A 3-D World for Smarter AI Agents


Google DeepMind, a subsidiary of Alphabet that’s focused on making fundamental progress toward general artificial intelligence, is releasing a new 3-D virtual world today, making it available for other researchers to experiment with and modify however they wish.

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The new platform, called DeepMind Lab, resembles a blockish 3-D first-person shooter computer game. Inside the world, an AI agent takes the form of a floating orb that can perceive its surroundings, move around, and perform simple actions. Agents can be trained to perform various tasks through a form of machine learning that involves receiving positive rewards. Simple example tasks that will come bundled with the platform include navigating a maze, collecting fruit, and traversing narrow passages without falling off.

“We’re trying to develop these artificial intelligence agents that can learn to perform well on a wide range of tasks from looking at the environment and from observing what happens,” says Shane Legg, chief scientist and cofounder of DeepMind.

DeepMind made some its first big headlines by creating AI agents capable of learning, through trial and error, how to play many Atari video games (see “Google’s AI Masters Space Invaders”).

An open and customizable 3-D world provides more complex and visually rich challenges for agents, but also means a much wider range of potential tasks. DeepMind Lab could lead to AI algorithms capable of transferring their learning from one task to the next.

Having AI agents work inside a 3-D environment could also have benefits for developing algorithms to control systems that work in the real world such as industrial robots, Legg says.

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