Angelina: The AI That Builds Video Games (Almost) By Itself

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Recall those experiments behavioral psychologists like to conduct on rats where the rat is placed inside of a labyrinth and must then make its way through the maze in order to locate the block of cheese at the end. We humans devised such puzzles in order to study the behavior of rats, which gave us new information about learning and behavior that we superimposed and tested with humans.

In the future, artificially-intelligent machines might be studying us the way we studied the rats thanks to our affinity for video games (which would be our cheese, I guess) but thankfully we don't need to batten down the hatches and prep our EMP bombs just yet. For now, the machines are still getting a feel for fighting off 8-bit space aliens.

Angelina, an artificial intelligence that can create video games from nearly scratch, is the project of Michael Cook, a PhD student at the Computational Creativity Group at Imperial College in London. While the game created by Angelina, Space Station Invaders, won't really match the complexity and detail of, say, an Assassins Creed, you'll remember that the first generation of video games designed by humans weren't all that flashy, either.

According to New Scientist, Angelina designs video games using a technique called cooperative co-evolution, meaning humans still have to do a little bit of work on the game. To show off its wares, Angelina created a game specifically for New Scientist called Space Station Invaders where players control a hero, Dr. Science, to fend off aggressive aliens and rebellious robots.

Below are a couple of videos demonstrating other games built by Angelina.

Space Invaders:


Angelina isn't quite to the level of being able to build a game without at least some human assistance, but that shouldn't really diminish the machine's achievement. And while this is a decent-sized leap for technology, there is a footnote of poetic humanity in the end: players can't actually be killed in Space Station Invaders. Angelina, Cook explained, can't grasp the scope of difficulty for the levels it creates and so it can't calculate what players would find to be an "inescapable situation."

"If we had introduced death, it would be quite easy for Angelina to produce impossible-to-complete games," Cook said.

The machine, it would seem, cannot value the gravity of death.

For those interested in checking out the custom-built game Angelina put together for New Scientist, you can give it a go here.

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