OpenAI trains artificial intelligence with Portal, Red Alert 2 and Shovel Knight

OpenAI, a non-profit organization backed by Elon Musk and Microsoft, among others, has announced a software environment for training artificial intelligence. The Universe platform will have access to a large number of games and other programs for this.

The Universe environment deploys artificial intelligence agents to run programs the way a human would: by recording what’s happening on the screen and responding to it with keyboard and mouse input. The platform works by running programs in Docker containers via VNC and learning from those programs.

That learning happens with the help of Gym. This is a toolkit that OpenAI released earlier this year that allows developers to use reinforcement learning algorithms. It allows agents to get better at tasks by learning from mistakes. With Universe, any program can easily be used in such a Gym environment.

Initially, the developers of OpenAI gave the Universe environment access to dozens of Atari 2600 games, a thousand Flash games and a large number of browser tasks. According to OpenAI, there is already permission to give Universe agents access to more complex and larger games, including Portal, Fable Anniversary, World of Goo, Command & Conquer: Red Alert 2, Mirror’s Edge and Sid Meier’s Alpha Centauri. In addition, they want to train the agents with Wolfram Mathematica. In time, agents must be able to transfer what they learn in one application to other agents, so that they can use the skills. The ultimate goal is that artificial intelligence can do everything that a person can do behind a computer.

Microsoft’s Project Malmo team will use Universe in its efforts to train artificial intelligence with Minecraft. Games are widely used for AI training. For example, there is an annual VizDoom competition in which an artificial intelligence has to play a game of Doom as best as possible. Google and Blizzard have made StarCraft II suitable for training DeepMind, which defeated a Go world champion with the AlphaGo program.

OpenAI is a non-profit organization for researching artificial intelligence. Elon Musk of SpaceX and Tesla and former Google researchers are involved in the organization, which also receives support from Microsoft.