Ants duke it out in the AI challenge

All of those orange, cyan, and yellow dots represent digital ants fighting for supremacy. This is a match to see who’s AI code is better in the Google backed programming competition: The AI Challenge. Before you go on to the next story, take a hard look at giving this a try for yourself. It’s set up as a way to get more people interested in AI programming, and they claim you can be up and running in just five minutes.

Possibly the best part of the AI Challenge is the resources they provide. The starter kits offer example code as a jumping off point in 22 different programming languages. And a quick start tutorial will help to get you thinking about the main components involved with Artificial Intelligence coding.

The game consists of ant hills for each team, water as an obstacle, and food collection as a goal. The winner is determined by who destroyed more enemy ant hills, and gathered more resources. It provides some interesting challenges, like how to search for food and enemy ant hills, how to plot a path from one point to another, etc. But if you’re interested in video game programming or robotics, the skills you learn in the process will be of great help later in your hacking exploits.

Want to learn Artificial Intelligence? Good.

In a little more than a month, tens of thousands of people around the world will attend a class on Artificial Intelligence at Stanford. Registration for this class is still open for both class ‘tracks’. The “basic” track is simply watching lectures and answering quizzes, or a slightly more advanced version of MIT OpenCourseware or Khan Academy. The “advanced” track is the full class, requires homework and exams, and aspires to Stanford difficulty.

With thousands of people taking this class, there’s bound to be a few study groups popping up around the web. The largest ones we’ve seen are /r/aiclass on Reddit and the stack overflow style aiqus. The most common reply to ‘what language should I learn from this class?’ is Python, although there’s an online code repo that has the text’s working code in Lisp, Java, C++ and C#.

If AI doesn’t float your boat, there are two more classes being taught from Stanford this fall: machine learning and introduction to databases. Any way you look at it, you’re getting to take a class from one of the preeminent instructors in the field for free. Do yourself a favor and sign up.

Thanks to everyone who sent this in. You can stop now.

AI via Super Mario evolution

Can Super Mario teach you to think? That’s the idea behind using a simple version of the game to teach artificial intelligence. [Oddball] calls this The Mario Genome and wrote at program that can take on the level with just two controls, right and jump. He gave the script 1000 Marios to run through the level. It then eliminates the 500 least successful and procreates back to 1000 using the 500 most successful. In this way the program completed the level in 1935 generations and completed it in the quickest possible time in 7705 generations. He’s posted the script for download so that you can try it yourself. It’s an interesting exercise we’d love to see applied to more random games, like Ms. Pac-Man.

[via Reddit]

Swarm robotics


Uber-geek [James McLurkin] was in Austin recently demoing his robot swarm. He’s on tour with EDA Tech Forum. [McLurkin] has multiple degrees from the MIT AI lab and worked at iRobot for a couple of years. Lately, he has been working on distributed robot computing: robot swarms.

[McLurkin] was an entertaining speaker and had an interesting view of robotics. He is optimistic that robot parts will become more modular, so it will be easier to build them, and more importantly, faster to design them.

Some quotes:

  • “There’s more sensors in a cockroach’s butt than any robot”
  • “12 engineer years to design, 45 minutes to build”
  • “If it can break your ankle, it’s a real [rc] car.”

Continue reading “Swarm robotics”