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How Video Games Laid the Framework for Artificial Intelligence

Video Games Played a Large Role in the Development of Artificial Intelligence

Software engineers, computer scientists, and just about everyone else in the tech industry have become increasingly interested in implementing artificial intelligence in new products. While artificial intelligence seems like a new endeavor for the tech industry, video games have been relying on it for decades. In our latest blog post, UXAX breaks down the role of video games in the development of artificial intelligence.

AI Basics in Video Games

A Brief History and its Use in Video Games

Video games -- and artificial intelligence -- have had a huge impact on the ways we pass our time.

Nim — The First Video Game That Used Artificial Intelligence

To find the first video game using artificial intelligence you have to go all the way back to 1952 when engineers successfully computerized the game Nim. The game is essentially a mathematically based strategy game where players remove pieces from a different heap, trying to avoid being the person to take the last piece from the board. The artificial intelligence in Nim functioned as the opponent and had a notoriously high winning percentage against even the most intelligent of players. This spurred the computerization of many classic board games like chess and checkers as well. Even the classic video game Space Invaders used artificial intelligence by increasing difficulty, moving in distinct patterns, and other actions based on the player’s movements.

Advances in AI Use in Video Games

Artificial Intelligence was also highly utilized in creating opponents in games like Street Fighter, Pac-Man and Galaxian. This AI was typically designed to give opponent's a higher variety of movement patterns and less predictability.

But perhaps the most dynamic and extensive use of artificial intelligence came for sports video games like EA Sports’ Madden NFL. The football video game uses advanced motion capture techniques so their artificial intelligence can perform lifelike movements and gestures. Madden also cycles through different weather conditions that cause players to move and act differently. Weekly updates affect every player’s overall abilities depending on their real-life performance. This allows Madden to be used as a very realistic simulation of actual NFL games, making it a unique tool for predicting the outcomes of the entire season.

Learning from Video Games

How Video Games Are Used for Training

Video games use AI in a variety of ways to provide unique experiences to players.

There are also plenty of other unique uses for video games in artificial intelligence. For example, a computer scientist at Harvard named Artur Filipowicz was working on teaching cars how to recognize different things on the road. Before even worrying about crossing pedestrians or animals jumping out in front of you last minute, he was hung up on the issue of stop signs. How would a self-driving automobile know to stop at a stop sign? He realized he would need to train his algorithm by showing it thousands of pictures of stop signs. He needed his algorithm to recognize stop signs in the dark, through bright sunlight, during a blizzard, partially obscured by trees, rusted stop signs and much more. Taking each of these pictures along would be an extremely tedious task.

Filipowicz chose to confront his unique problem in an interesting way. He turned to the polarizing video game, Grand Theft Auto V, due to the realistic behavior of its artificial intelligence. He noticed computer-generated character driving cars not only stopped at stop signs but also obeyed many other laws of the road. After experimenting with the code, Filipowicz was able to access thousands of different portrayals of stop signs in the game which he then fed through his algorithm.

What’s in Store for the Future

Where AI is Likely Headed Next

AI is only going to grow in the future.

It doesn’t look like artificial intelligence development is going to slow down anytime soon. Many tech companies utilize video games in their AI development as well. Last year Microsoft began “Project Malmo” in hopes of achieving greater collaboration between people and artificial intelligence. The project is still very early on, but the basis of it is to use the popular video game Minecraft to help create a personal assistant. The idea sounds quite far fetched, but actually makes a lot of sense as Minecraft is literally a virtual playground where players can create just about anything they wish by using simple blocks. The plan is to teach artificial intelligence how to not only cooperate with but help people achieve their various goals. This is definitely a project worth keeping an eye on.

Video games will continue to provide a safe place for scientists to test theories and work out kinks in their algorithms. It is extremely cost-effective and all signs point to it being a smart investment for companies. To learn more about subjects such as AI and its role in future technologies, check out more of our insights.

December 2, 2022
by 
Elizabeth Grobstein
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