A Microsoft Research team has announced a new competition that leverages the company’s Project Malmo. The platform was announced last year and uses Minecraft for advanced artificial intelligence development. Now there is a challenge for PhD students to use Malmo to create an AI that can learn within Minecraft.

More specifically, Microsoft says the winning AI will be able to “collaborate with other randomly assigned players to achieve a high score in a mini-game within the virtual world.”

In a blog post, the company says collaboration will be a key component of AI development. Artificial intelligence that can match the way humans learn and make decisions will be important. Microsoft says such an AI would make complex decisions and be an evolution in task-based automation.

It would also understand speech and caption images. Microsoft Research has been exploring these avenues for years, but now the company is tapping into developers.

The Project Malmo challenge is open to PhD students around the world. There is a registration page open for teams of one to three people to enter the challenge. Once registered, the teams are given a task that features one of more mini-games.

“The goal is to develop an AI solution that learns how to work with other, randomly assigned players to achieve a high score in the game,” Microsoft explains.

Entries are submitted through GitHub and must include a video that shows off the AI in action. Microsoft says it will judge entries on performance, code quality, and originality. Three teams will be announced as winners and will receive an Azure research grant of $20,000 each.

Project Malmo

Project Malmo was launched last July. It is a multi-disciplinary research platform that focuses on advanced artificial intelligence research. Minecraft is used as the platform test ground. The game allows researchers to develop AI that covers several tasks.

Project Malmo uses Java coding and is available in Linux, Mac OS, and Windows.