IntroductionGames capture essential aspects of real-world situations and provide fun, entertaining, and safe virtual worlds to play within. Classic board games like Chess and Checkers are simulations of war and modern computer games with realistic physics and ever more realistic graphics are getting closer and closer to the real world. Artificial Intelligence research has used games as testbeds since the inception of computing. Alan Turing, described the first chess playing program in the 1940s. Advances in Artificial Intelligence - in learning, search, planning, and representations - have changed the world. Cameras use AI techniques to focus in, real-time, on faces framed in a view, Apple's Siri understands you and can find and present information you need, Google Now can understand airline ticket information in your email and will bring up detailed information on your flight plan including gate numbers and times, Microsoft's Kinect can locate all of your joints in 3D space and makes Minority Report type human computer interaction possible, designer drugs can be created by searching through protein conformational space, Amazon and Netflix know your preferences and recommend things to buy and view, ..., the list goes on. No part of human life is untouched by AI.
Computer games are one of the biggest areas in which people deal with behavior generated by AI on a regular basis. It is not all just fun and games though, this is a serious area of research where human intuition and creativity gets combined with computing power to produce solutions to really hard problems. Remember the part about designing drugs in the previous paragraph? Researchers cast the problems as a computer game and enabled "players" around the world to collaborate and piece together the molecular structure of a retrovirus enzyme that had baffled scientists for more than a decade. This has direct application to the fight against AIDS. IBM's Watson, uses probabilistic learning techniques to "play" Jeopardy and win. Now, the same technology is being used to fight cancer, improve customer service, do financial planning, and lots more.
BackgroundIf you are interested in this area you will need to learn and love programming (data structures, recursion) probability and statistics, discrete physics, math, psychology, biology, and human computer interaction. We offer a number of courses relating to AI and Games and you will need to do well in both kinds of courses.
The evolution of capability over the course of a semester in CS381: A movie. You can get an idea of what students start with and where the end up. It really is all fun and games
in the end:-)
Employment, Education, and InternshipsThe market for video games is growing not just in sales but also in the diversity of content being offered. This ranges from educational games to first-person shooters to movie quality cut-scenes and narrative. There are a large number of domains where AI-based approaches are used. From optimal industrial control, process management and optimization, to business rules and financial modeling, to text analysis, machine translation, search engines...
Almost anywhere humans have been used to take complex decisions based on data, the amount of data modern electronic communications and acquisitions methods produce has become too much to handle without software. And only "intelligent" (or at least, less single-mindedly stupid) software can handle the complexity of the data, the complexity of the rules, and the numerous failure modes.
Of course, all major gaming companies offer careers involving AI in games. EA and Red-Storm have hired our graduates. Blizzard is another big name, and these are just some of the big ones. With mobile gaming platforms proliferating, you can write your own mobile games with fun adaptive AI and retire at 30! Google , Microsoft , Facebook, Amazon , Linked-In , IBM , , Apple , HP, Oracle all recruit software engineers who know AI or Games or both. Good AI game programmers are among the best paid software engineers on the planet.
Internships and local opportunitiesThere are also a large number of opportunities in research and academia. Students from our department and the Evolutionary Computing Systems Lab (ECSL) have been hired by EA, Red-Storm entertainment, Starkey research, and have formed their own businesses. They have worked for Google, Apple, Amazon, and other big companies. Local companies like IGT , PC-Doctor , and Bally Techonologies have hired recent graduates. All these companies and national research labs from Lawrence Livermore to the Naval Research Labs offer well paid internships in these fields. Undergraduates and graduate students interested in this area can start by working on projects with the ECSL lab at UNR, get to know alumni and leverage these contacts to evaluate and start on great careers in the field.
Research at ECSLHere are five projects we are currently working on at ECSL.
Tactical planning for real-time strategy (RTS) gamesCan we evolve RTS micro? We use Starcraft: Brood War (SC) . This shows how our evolved AI does against the default SC AI when SC's units are dispersed, concentrated, or normally distributed.
Generating Build orders for Real-time Strategy (RTS) gamesCan we co-evolve robust macro for RTS games?
Can we use simulation training to improve decision making skills for Naval Surface Warfare Officers?We do have far better code and much better looking boats, ships, and planes. But you have to ask me to see them!
For funThis is what we did for fun in our spare time. Controlled a drone with body movements!
Stem gamesCan we teach Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) using already popular games and game mechanics? This is the classic game Snakes: