Microsoft Uses Minecraft for AI Research | Crunch Report


Microsoft finds a new use for Minecraft, Georgia
blocks YouTube, John Oliver takes on Apple vs the FBI and more… It’s March 14, and this is Crunch Report. Remember when Microsoft acquired Minecraft for 2 point 5 billion dollars? It kind of
made sense at the time, since Minecraft is an enormously popular gaming platform, but
today the company is announcing new way that it’s using the technology — to research
artificial intelligence. It’s a platform called A-I-X, where researchers can create agents
that are powered by AI and roam Minecraft worlds. Microsoft suggested that this is a
more cost-effective way to test AI than robots, because quote “Building a robot and trying
to teach it to climb a real hill is costly and impractical.” Microsoft has already invited
some members of the academic community to participate and plans to make release the
software through an open source license this summer. Georgia is the latest country to block YouTube
— and yes, I said the country, not the US state. The issue seems to be resolved now,
but according to reports from Georgian blog Civil.ge, users on two of the country’s leading
Internet Service Providers could not access YouTube on Friday and today. What’s the problem?
Apparently someone uploaded sex tapes featuring federal government officials. Google, which
owns YouTube, denied that there were any problems on its end, and as of right now, the videos
have been removed and YouTube access has been restored. Speaking of Google, the company also announced
some new features for Android game developers. The big one is something Google is calling
Search Trial Run Ads. That’s a mouthful, but once you get past the name, it’s pretty impressive,
because you’ll actually be able to play games directly from search result.s These are ads
where you hit the Try Now button and the game will stream from Google’s servers. You can’t
play forever though — there’s a 10-minute time limit. And data shouldn’t be a problem,
since this only works on WiFi. Other new features include an Indie Corner in Google Play. So we’re all fans of the comedian John Oliver,
right? I mean, he’ll always have a special place in my heart since he hosted our awards
ceremony the Crunchies, but he’s an even bigger deal now with his HBO show Last Week Tonight.
In this week’s episode, he took on a pretty tough topic — the FBI’s efforts to force
Apple to unlock the iPhone used by one of the San Bernadino shooters. It can be pretty
tough to defend Apple — I mean, who wants to say they’re not helping the government
fight terrorism? — and even Oliver said this isn’t an easy debate. Still, he explained
that it’s unrealistic to expect Apple to create a backdoor to the iPhone and then only have
the government use it once. He said, quote, “Think of the government as your dad. If he
asks you to help him with his iPhone, be careful, because if you do it once, you’re going to
be doing it 14 times a day.” But, you know, imagine someone saying it with a British accent. Here’s a lighter Apple story: Soon, you might
be seeing fewer random, rip-off apps getting featured in the App Store. TechCrunch’s Sarah
Perez says that this is a longstanding problem — for example, someone was tweeting about
copycat versions of that addictive 2048 game, which were getting featured in the App Store
puzzle section. Now Apple executive Phil Schiller took over managing the App Store in December,
and responded on Twitter, that this shouldn’t be happening and he’d look into it. Which
is okay, not exactly a concrete plan of action, but at least it suggests that he’s aware of
the problem. That’s the report for today. I’m Anthony
Ha. Crunch Report airs every weekday at 7 pm Eastern,
4 pm Pacific, on Techcrunch.com. You can also find us on iTunes, and on YouTube. See you
tomorrow!

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6 thoughts on “Microsoft Uses Minecraft for AI Research | Crunch Report

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