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Friday, January 16, 2009

AI and Robots: StarCraft AI Competition to be held at AIIDE 2010

The Fifth Artificial Intelligence for Interactive Digital Entertainment Conference (AIIDE 2010), one of the conferences organized by Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI), will be held in October 2010 at Stanford University (as always). And the organizers have recently announced that they will be hosting a StarCraft AI Competition at the conference. AI researchers all over the world will have the chance to let their AI system compete in a Real Time Strategy (RTS) platform, and the final matches will be held live at the conference.

The idea of having AI agents compete with each other in gaming environments is nothing new. In fact, in one of the AI classes I took at BYU, we had to program agents to compete with other teams playing the game of BZFlag, a Capture the Flag game using tanks. The winning team gets an automatic A for the class. That was certainly a lot of fun, even though we didn't win the end of semester competition (because of a bug that confused our agents occasionally between home base and enemy base, doh!), we, as human players, had a hard time beating the agents we created ourselves.

In 2007, I went the the AAAI conference held in Vancouver, BC. At that conference, there were two live AI competitions. One was the General Game Playing Competition, where AI agents would compete in games they have never played before (all they know is the game logic at the competition time). The winning agent then played a game of Pacman against a real human player, and was able to force a tie! The other one was the Computer Poker Competition, and the winning agents challenged two real-world Vegas professional poker players with real money on the table ($50,000). Although the professional poker players narrowly defeated the poker playing software, the two players felt as if they were playing against real human.

What makes this StarCraft AI Competition unique are:
  • StarCraft is a very popular game with a commercial rendering engine and beautiful graphics.
  • It is a Real Time Strategy (RTS) game where the player controls many characters at the same time and had to manage game play strategies both at the macro and micro level.
The following video shows the kind of game play one would expect to see in StarCraft. Make sure you watch the HQ version in full screen mode to really appreciate the beautiful real-time graphic rendering.

Follow this link to get more info about how to use Broodwar APIs to write bots to work with the StarCraft game engine. If I haven't been buried in papers Piled Higher and Deeper, I probably just writing some agents for fun!

There are, of course, other commercial game engines used for AI and robotics research. For example, the game engine for the very popular First-Person Shooting game Unreal Tournament had been turned into USARSim (Unified System for Automation and Robot Simulation), a high-fidelity simulation of robots and environments.

Now my question is: when will EA Sports ever release APIs for their FIFA 2010 video game, so I can write software agents that play the game of soccer like real professionals (at least graphically)?

Picture of the Day:

BYU Computer Science Department Building
(See that big Y on the mountain?)