An average kid can learn how to find a rare diamond in the game after watching a 10-minute demonstration on YouTube. Artificial intelligence (AI) is does not even come close. But in a fantastic computing competition ending this month, researchers hope to shrink the gap between machine and child — and in doing so, assist to reduce the computing power needed to train AIs.

Competitors may take max four days and use no more than eight million steps to train their AIs to find a diamond which is still longer than it would take a child to learn, but much faster than typical AI models nowadays.

The creators of this competition state that Minecraft is particularly good as a virtual training ground. Players of the game allow for many intelligent behaviours. New players must learn Minecraft’s version of physics, as well as discover recipes to turn materials into resources or tools. The game has become famous for the creativity it enables in its players, who construct blocky virtual versions of a wide variety of things: the Eiffel Tower, Disneyland, the Death Star trench run from Star Wars, and even a whole computer.

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