Friday, March 09, 2007

The Restaurant

Here's another interesting idea that's game-related:
The Restaurant Game is a research project at the MIT Media Lab that will algorithmically combine the gameplay experiences of thousands of players to create a new game. In a few months, we will apply machine learning algorithms to data collected through the multiplayer Restaurant Game, and produce a new single-player game that we will enter into the 2008 Independent Games Festival.

I think that's an ingenious approach to mimicking human intelligence--in simple terms, just collect a whole bunch of it and try to create an algorithm that mimics it.

Here's how it works: you participate in a two-player game (the other player is selected for you) that lasts about ten minutes. One of you is a patron in a restaurant, while the other player is the waiter. Your interactions are recorded.

Here's a little bit more:
This project attempts to address two frustrations I experienced as a professional game developer. 1) Convincing human social behavior is difficult to model with existing hand crafted AI systems. 2) Play testing by people outside of the development team typically comes too late to have a major impact on the final product. This experiment aims to generate AI behaviors that conform to the way players actually choose to interact with other characters and the environment; behaviors that are convincingly human because they capture the nuances of real human behavior and language.

Actually, let me revise the opening to this post: it's not an "interesting," idea, it's an outstanding idea. If you'd like to play, or just get more information, the project website is here.

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