Microsoft’s artificial intelligence technology, it turns out, is a whiz at playing Ms. Pac-Man, the 1980’s-era video game. The tech giant’s computers achieved a perfect score of 990,900, surpassing the existing (human held) record of 266,360.
To score points, players must maneuver Ms. Pac-Man around a maze, avoiding “ghosts” that could knock her out or confronting the ghosts head on after eating an energy pellet that makes her temporarily invincible. Yes it sounds silly, but it’s also addictive.
Researchers at Maluuba, the Montreal-based AI startup Microsoft (MSFT) acquired early this year, split up the technology it used to play the game among more than 150 different artificial intelligence software agents. Each one took responsibility for a particular task to, as Microsoft described it, “divide and conquer” the game.
Here’s a video of a demo is below:
The agents worked indpendently to learn different aspects of the game. Some would be rewarded for finding a specific energy pellet. Others were instructed to steer clear of ghosts. A “Master Agent” then took suggestions from the lesser agents about how to best play the game and to manage the game playing.
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In the online blog post, Maluuba program manager Rahul Mehrotra said AI researchers can learn a lot from video games that require varied strategy for each time someone plays them.
And he said what was learned from the divide-and-conquer Ms. Pac-man technique could help corporate sales teams better predict which customers to approach and at what time or day.
Tech companies are investing heavily in AI research and are eager to trumpet their accomplishments. On Tuesday, for example, Facebook (FB) also announced new AI research that it says will help software bots negotiate transactions or deals on behalf of people.