OpenAI, an artificial intelligence research center based in San Fransisco, has released an open source software platform that virtually tests and trains AI.

The platform, called Universe, is a digital playground comprised of games, web browsers, and even protein folding software that an AI can interact with. AI does this by sending simulated mouse and keyboard strokes via what’s called Virtual Network Computing, or VNC.

Universe facilitates reinforcement learning, where the AI learns tasks by trial and error; through risk and reward.  Over time, OpenAI researcher and former Googler Ilya Sutskever says AI can even practice “transfer learning,” in which an agent takes what it has learned in one application and applies it to another.

Credit: OpenAI

Games that AI can currently access include Portal, Shovel Knight, and SpaceChem. Video games may be a good benchmark and training-aide for the AI, but the researchers intend to add more apps tot he list, and teach AI problem solving skills in unfamiliar environments.

“An AI should be able to solve any problem you throw at it,” Sutskever said to Wired. Michael Bowling, a University of Alberta professor lauds the wide scope of the platform and it's role in improving AI; “It crystallizes an important idea: Games are a helpful benchmark, but the goal is AI,” he says.

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