U.S. Navy Using Video Game Technology to Train Robots

Back when upright arcade machines were all the rage, it might not have seemed possible that similar technology would one day be used by the U.S. government to train robots. That would have seemed more like the plot line of a futuristic science fiction movie. But today, it’s actually happening – the U.S. Navy is using video game simulations to teach robots their manners.

‘Quixote’ Software

The Office of Naval Research believes that someday soon, robots will be able to operate autonomously. Whether they take over routine jobs like resupply missions or enter dangerous military zones, robots in these scenarios will have to make decisions. They will also have to interact with humans efficiently, and that’s where the software called ‘Quixote’ comes in.

Developed with assistance from Georgia Institute of Technology, Quixote takes the robot through a series of situations and allows them to choose a behavior. For example, the robot might go to a restaurant. They have to make a choice: should they speak with the waiter? The robot might have to pick up a prescription from the pharmacy. Should they wait their turn in line or should they bypass societal norms and steal?

When the robot makes the right decision, they’re rewarded. This system teaches the robot how to behave in a socially acceptable way through repetition. After taking the robot through 500,000 different scenarios, it behaved correctly over 90 percent of the time. For now, Quixote’s games are mostly simplistic, modeled after early arcade games. Soon, researchers will make the challenges harder, with the games becoming more like Minecraft. The ultimate goal is to train artificial intelligence bots to be able to safely work alongside humans, in both military and civilian environments, without any concern that they will hurt humans.

One thing the Navy doesn’t plan on? Having robots make kill decisions. According to the Navy, robots won’t be allowed to use weapons anytime soon. Even though video games are a useful training tool and are producing positive results, that’s still a relief.