Classic Arcade Games Being Used to Improve Artificial Intelligence Software

Did you know that Artificial Intelligence (AI) systems cannot play the Ms Pacman arcade game but they can become better than humans at Space Invaders?

According to research, this is true, plus now we know why. In addition, understanding why AI systems are so bad at Ms. Pac-Man will help to improve the AI systems of the future.

What Happens When an AI Computer Plays Space Invaders?

Scientists and programmers have known for some time that AI systems can learn enough to become better at Space Invaders than their human counterparts. The systems need a few thousand practice games where they learn through trial and error. After this period of time, however, they become expert players.

To improve AI systems, however, scientists wanted to know what the Space Invader-playing systems were doing during the game. For example, they could see the general direction of the gun, but they didn't know whether the AI system was aiming at an individual alien or at a cluster of aliens.

The answer to this came from new research presented at the International Conference on Machine Learning in July – AI systems aim at individual aliens.

The researchers know this because they were able to create a system the overlaid a saliency map on the game the AI system was playing. This put red blobs on the screen to show the researchers where the AI system was concentrating on.

As a result, scientists now have a bit more knowledge about what AI systems do after they learn. So, for example, it is easier for them to know what the AI system in an autonomous car looks at when it changes lanes.

What Happens When an AI Computer Plays Ms. Pac-Man?

The same saliency map system was added to a Ms. Pac-Man game played by an AI computer. It showed the reason AI systems have been so bad to date at playing this classic game – they do not pay attention to the ghosts.

Why is this important? In simple terms, it highlights a flaw in the AI system that programmers can now fix. After all, it is much better to identify a flaw like this in the low-risk setting of playing an arcade game than it is in a more life or death situation, such as an autonomously driven vehicle.

Did you know that while the AI computers learn how to get better a Ms. Pac-Man, you can play the game yourself on a full-size arcade machine? Check out our range today.