Thursday, April 19, 2007

Grand and Molyneux on game AI

The Guardian has an article containing short interviews with Peter Molyneux and Steve Grand, two people who have managed to put out commercial games (in one case arguably commercially successful as well) containing "real" AI. Interesting read. They're both essentially pushing the idea that as games get even prettier, the stupidity of current game "AI" will shine through more and more, and so the need for "real" AI will increase, not increase.

I say maybe. While Molyneux's games are a great source of inspiration it's possible that it and its likes will always constitute a niche market, and your average FPS, RTS or movie tie-in adventure will never benefit from a neural network or evolutionary algorithm. But I do hope that I'm wrong here.

Whichever the case, we can still use commercial games for academic research just the same, in order to help us understand natural and computational intelligence. And I think we should. Much more than today.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Back from Hawaii, back to reality...

Finally, my first "normal" day since coming back. That is, I plan to spend most of my day in the lab... reviewing some papers for CEC, answering some mails, and starting to write my thesis.

Yes, that's right. The plan is to start writing my PhD thesis. Today. So maybe it's not that normal a day after all. Further, according to the plan, I will hand in my thesis in June and have a viva in September. It's not impossible, I believe.

The IEEE Symposium Series on Computational Intelligence was a good event from a scientific perspective, and an excellent one from a networking perspective. I spent plenty of time drinking cocktails with Games and ALife people, discussing research ideas and completely unrelated stuff.

After the conference we spent a few more days in Hawaii, and me and Hugo went on to do some touristing in San Francisco. Fantastic city, indeed.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

CIG Car Racing Competition results

The winner of the CIG Car Racing Competition is Peter Burrow - congratulations, Pete! He used a modular controller based on two incrementally evolved neural networks, and the nearest competitor, Thomas Haferlach, also used a modular controller based on two neural networks, although CTRNNs rather than the more straightforward networks Pete used.

Aravind Gowrisankar and Matthew Simmerson submitted controllers based on NEAT (NeuroEvolution of Augmenting Topologies) and I submitted a simple hard-coded controller, an simple evolved neural network, as well as (together with Hugo Marques) a controller based on an evolved neural network for controlling the car together with a copy of the whole simulation environment for predicting which car will reach the current way point first. None of these approaches scored as well as the modular controllers of Pete and Tom, but with some more work they might well do.

As for where that work would be submitted, we are planning to run another car racing competition for CEC 2007. That would give contestants several more months (until September) to work on their controllers. We haven't currently decided on the exact details of that competition, but plan to finalise it before the end of April. So if you have any ideas on in what direction to take the competition (changing the interfaces? dynamics model? task? etc) please speak up now!