An AI that plays Minecraft for you got made, but it won't be released

Minecraft 1.20 - Steve celebrates his new camel pal
(Image credit: Mojang)

Microsoft has applied advanced AI towards a program that plays Minecraft in response to natural-language text prompts: Telling the character to dig, or build, would result in the character doing just that. The tech was demo'd internally to Microsoft employees, and was made using an AI other than Prometheus, the technology that Microsoft uses for its new Bing chat—developed by ChatGPT.

The development was reported by Semafor, who got it from an internal source. The Minecraft-playing AI was made as an experiment of sorts, shown off as an internal demo. Either way, the thought of an AI capable of taking an input like "build a house" or "cut down a tree" and implementing it in Minecraft is pretty impressive stuff. (That's what Microsoft wanted to do as-of May last year, and it seems like it at least partially succeeded.)

Semafor reports that Microsoft "has no immediate plans to include the feature in the public version of Minecraft." That's not surprising, as past language or voice control experiments in gaming have generally been failures—experiments implemented as gimmicks before the technology was truly ready. That, or much like the similar Hololens tech Microsoft used to love combining with Minecraft, fancy proofs of concept.

Perhaps the most interesting possible application of the tech was pointed out by Kotaku: A voice-controlled natural-language game may well be an accessibility option in the future. Despite remarkable advances in controls for people who can use neither keyboard nor mouse, such equipment can still be quite expensive. (Not to mention others for whom current tech isn't an option at all.)

Microsoft isn't the first to play with its crafting game as a place to train AI. OpenAI did so last year, and as far back as 2016 a firm was using the game as a playground for AI research.

For my part seeing the whole thing reported as impressive is more than a little funny, seeing as Twitter (and has been relentlessly mocking Microsoft's new AI-driven Bing chat service for the past week. Different AI, at least—but still.

Anyway, show me the AI that plays Skyrim for me next, Microsoft. Surely that's an easier problem to solve.

Jon Bolding is a games writer and critic with an extensive background in strategy games. When he's not on his PC, he can be found playing every tabletop game under the sun.