Minecraft flickr

Back in March, Microsoft introduced its Project Malmo initiative for 2017. The competition challenged PhD students to leverage Malmo to create AI that can learn within Minecraft, the game on which the project is based. Today, Microsoft has announced the winners of the competition across several categories.

Microsoft has clearly said that it believes collaboration is the key to driving artificial intelligence development. The company seeks creations that can use AI that mirrors human levels of learning and decision making.

Eventually, Microsoft envisions technology that can make complex decisions and automate in a task-based environment. For example, AI that can understand speech or captions. While Microsoft has been exploring AI advancements through its Research division for years, Project Malmo allows the company to draw in developers.

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“In Minecraft, the possibilities for creation are endless,” the company says. “Project Malmo adds the ability to try different methods and approaches to teaching an agent to work within the Minecraft framework. The challenge then gave teams a specific task to demonstrate an agent’s ability to predict or learn whether to collaborate and how to collaborate successfully. From this challenge, we learned lots about various strategies for developing collaborative AI, such as planning-based approaches, deep neural network-based approaches, and co-evolution approaches.”

More than 80 teams of postgraduates represented 26 countries through the Project Malmo challenge. The contest tasked the teams with creating mini games within Minecraft. For example, the ability to train AI within a minigame called catch the pig.

Each team submitted the results to GitHub and sent Microsoft a report about their creations and how they developed it.

Prizes for winning the challenge included a placement at the invitation-only Microsoft Research AI Summer School and/or Microsoft Azure for Research grants, worth up to $20,000 USD.

Project Malmo Challenge Winners

“This prize provides winners with a slot at our Microsoft Research AI Summer School, where PhD students work alongside Microsoft Research scientists in Cambridge. Attendees learn general research skills, get to know the MSR Cambridge Lab and enjoy the opportunity to network with leading AI research leaders.

First place:

  • Bacon Gulch (UK)

Second place:

  • Village People (Romania)

Third place:

  • The Danish Puppeteers (Denmark)

Runner up:

  • AASMA (Portugal)

Microsoft Azure for Research grant prize winners

This prize provides additional computing resources to the student teams for their future research efforts. Microsoft Azure for Research supports hundreds of researchers worldwide when they need cloud-based memory, a cluster with thousands of cores, a big data platform, an Internet of Things solution or open-source machine learning at scale.

First place:

  • HogRider (Singapore)

Second place (tie):

  • HelloJason (Mainland China)
  • Bacon Gulch (UK)

Third place (tie):

  • The Danish Puppeteers (Denmark)
  • Village People (Romania)”
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