The latest AI challenge is a Doom deathmatch, humans not invited

The ultimate bot match

Artificial intelligence (AI) is on everyone’s minds lately. Self-driving cars are becoming a reality, experts are predicting job losses at the hands of robots, and not even our games are safe. Earlier this year, Google DeepMind’s AlphaGo AI beat world champion Lee Se-dol at Go, a game once considered impossible for AI to win. Videogames are also proving to be valuable playgrounds for AI research and Microsoft is now using Minecraft to teach AI how to solve problems and learn how the world works.

The next big challenge for AI researchers involves the classic 1993 first-person shooter Doom. The game is often used by hobbyists and hackers and now it’s being used for visual AI research. ViZDoom is a research platform for developing AI that can use visual information to learn. The creators are starting a competition and inviting AI researchers to submit their own bots to compete in Doom for the most kills.

When you play against a bot in a game, they’re part of the game. The bots have access to the game’s inner workings that the players never see. If the developers wanted to, they could make the bots unbeatable by letting them know everything about the game including your current location at all times. That wouldn’t be fun though, so bots are usually restricted and the goal isn’t to be smart but to appear smart in a realistic sense. The bots are programmed to feel like people.

ViZDoom is totally different. It only allows AI bots to play using the screen buffer. What this means is that the AI sees the game just like human players do. If the AI is in a corridor within the game, all they know is what’s happening in that corridor and in front of them. The AI only has knowledge that a human player would have. This allows AI experts to research machine visual learning and the same deep reinforcement learning that DeepMind’s AlphaGo used to beat Lee Se-dol.

The creators of VizDoom are holding a competition at the Computational Intelligence and Games (CIG) Conference in Greece this September. If you want to submit your own bot to the challenge, you have until May 31st to get it battle-ready.

It’s best that we don’t tell the most paranoid people that we’re teaching AI survival skills in Minecraft and gun play in Doom.

Main image © Youtube user FancyFelix