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New AI Challenge Is All About Wanton Destruction

timothy posted about 4 years ago | from the losers-are-made-into-wanton-soup dept.

Programming 45

togelius writes "Previous years have seen a number of car racing competitions where neural nets, rule-based systems and other fancy AI techniques have been put to the test by letting them drive on a track and seeing who gets the best lap time. Recognizing that finding the Michael Schumacher of AI is not enough, a team of researchers from University of Wuerzburg now wants to find the Mad Max of AI. Their new competition is called 'Demolition Derby' and the goal is to 'wreck all opponent cars by crashing into them without getting wrecked yourself.' For this, they use the open-source TORCS game and a custom AI interface, allowing all and any AI researchers and enthusiasts (including you!) to submit their best and most aggressive controllers." (There's a competition for conventional racing, too; competitors can enter either or both.)

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45 comments

First (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31714938)

Now let's find the Ron Jeremy of AI and have a competition for crafting the perfect cunninlingusbot.

Mad Max meets Skynet (1)

Cryacin (657549) | about 4 years ago | (#31714968)

For the love of god, let's hope this does not turn into the next reality television extravaganza.

Re:Mad Max meets Skynet (1)

GrumblyStuff (870046) | about 4 years ago | (#31715192)

On the other hand, it would be more entertaining than 90% of the current reality show lineups. ...or it could be an even more vapid clone of Mythbusters sans the science. I'd mention said vapid clones but luckily, I've forgotten what they were called.

Re:Mad Max meets Skynet (1)

Runaway1956 (1322357) | about 4 years ago | (#31718640)

"more entertaining than 90% of the current reality show lineups"

You seem to presume that reality shows have any entertainment value. I would differ with you. Sitting on the floor, hitting myself in the head with a hammer might be more entertaining than the few reality shows that I've seen. Maybe I'll try it soon, and let you know.

Re:Mad Max meets Skynet (1)

Bakkster (1529253) | about 4 years ago | (#31736176)

You seem to presume that reality shows have any entertainment value.

It has a name: schadenfreude.

Waiting for the DARPA version (3, Interesting)

Bearhouse (1034238) | about 4 years ago | (#31714944)

With real vehicles!

Re:Waiting for the DARPA version (1)

flyneye (84093) | about 4 years ago | (#31715406)

Absolutely!
I know exactly who would be the first entrant as well
www.srl.org
What a fantastic idea for a television show as well.
The world should be exposed to the world of Mark Pauline + AI. Imagine Pauline with a television budget to work with.
This could make the Terminator movies look like Mr Rodgers Neighborhood.

Re:Waiting for the DARPA version (1)

Jurily (900488) | about 4 years ago | (#31715636)

Do you want explosions or test AIs? Computer games can provide the perfect measuring environment: you control exactly what data they have, etc.

Re:Waiting for the DARPA version (1)

Bearhouse (1034238) | about 4 years ago | (#31715860)

Do you want explosions

Nope. Competitors in DARPA autonomous driving tests are not encouraged to explode. See here:

http://www.darpa.mil/grandchallenge/index.asp [darpa.mil]

Computer games can provide the perfect measuring environment: you control exactly what data they have, etc.

Simulations are all good, but look at the massive difference between them and reality. Sure you can control what data they get, but it's rarely as complex and variable as real-world.
Throw in AI that can get anywhere close to working with that 'real-world' data, plus trying to race around a circuit against agressive oppositoin, and that would be impressive.

Re:Waiting for the DARPA version (1)

deniable (76198) | about 4 years ago | (#31722544)

Compare driving a Toyota in a simulation to the real thing. Oh, what a feeling.

Re:Waiting for the DARPA version (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31718794)

People should work on real problems, instead of things that are purely evil like this. Oh well...

Rise of the Machine (2, Interesting)

conureman (748753) | about 4 years ago | (#31714948)

Gotta develop the appropriate durability if they're gonna be dealing with whatever I.E.D.s that the People of the Resistance will be able to use.

No Wall Smashing (1)

Bugamn (1769722) | about 4 years ago | (#31714992)

it says that cars don't take damage from colliding with walls. That means you can't run a car against a wall to smash it. But it is so fun!

Also, those cars have very strong fronts, because they don't take damage from there too.

Re:No Wall Smashing (1)

Halo1 (136547) | about 4 years ago | (#31715254)

Also, those cars have very strong fronts, because they don't take damage from there too.

They're made of black boxes from old airplanes.

The rules are pure idiocy (3, Insightful)

Posting=!Working (197779) | about 4 years ago | (#31715018)

# Cars do not take any damage when colliding with walls.
# Cars do not take any damage in the front when colliding with each other.
# Cars do take the doubled amount of damage in the rear when colliding with each other.

All of these rules are the opposite of how actual demolition derbies work. Smashing a car into the wall causes large amounts of damage. Damage to the front (the radiator, engine etc) is way more effective than damage than the rear. Most cars are driven backwards because the trunk is just a big crumple zone. As long as it doesn't get the wheels or axle, damage in the rear doesn't really matter.

each car's damage is reset to zero every time a competitor gets wrecked.

OK, they need to call it something else now. It's not a demolition derby anymore. There's no floating wrenches that repair all damage in real life either.

Re:The rules are pure idiocy (5, Insightful)

Eudial (590661) | about 4 years ago | (#31715040)

Perhaps the goal is not so much about creating an accurate demolition derby simulator, so much as it is about creating a suitable challenge to improve artificial intelligence? ... you know, like how chess is a terribly unrealistic war simulator, while still being useful in training strategical thinking.

Re:The rules are pure idiocy (2, Informative)

Random Destruction (866027) | about 4 years ago | (#31715134)

I agree this is about AI and not derbies, but I don't see how these rule changes make the game a better AI challenge.

The damage resetting rule is the only one I see as obviously beneficial when competing algorithms.

Re:The rules are pure idiocy (2, Interesting)

GrumblyStuff (870046) | about 4 years ago | (#31715182)

I think it would be more interesting if they kept it closer to actual demo derbies but maybe they're just taking it one step at a time.

Things like... there's no teams but they can still communicate and decide to take out a competitor who's doing better than them or they trick others into doing the damage by pushing cars in the way instead of trying to smash 'em on their own.

Re:The rules are pure idiocy (1)

WrongSizeGlass (838941) | about 4 years ago | (#31715236)

Perhaps the goal is not so much about creating an accurate demolition derby simulator, so much as it is about creating a suitable challenge to improve artificial intelligence? ... you know, like how chess is a terribly unrealistic war simulator, while still being useful in training strategical thinking.

This is /. and a story involving simulated cars. I believe a car analogy would have been more apt than a chess analogy (and perhaps even required).

Re:The rules are pure idiocy (1)

Posting=!Working (197779) | about 4 years ago | (#31715418)

But why arbitrarily make it backwards? Make damage to the rear count way less than damage to the front. There's no reason to reverse it.

And why not count wall damage? Immovable solid object damage should be easier to model than moving deformable one. If it really is even modeled, otherwise a simple damage based on speed and angle of impact would suffice.

The strategies learned would be unique to these rules, which effectively provide video game shields to the cars. For instance, a car backed into the wall is only vulnerable on the sides, and completely indestructible when hit from the front. Actually, facing backwards to traffic with one side of your car against the wall would only leave a very narrow approach angle in which you could be damaged. But then the cars trying to hit you can aim with impunity, as long as the side of their car doesn't hit your car, they can't be hurt either, since they'll either hit you with the front of their car (shields) or the wall (marshmallow fluff). Neither is a useful strategy in the real world, where we don't have invulnerability to collisions or unbreakable shields.

As for the damage reset - the competitors could target undamaged cars under certain conditions-as long as enough do this, lurkers would be subject to group attacks. If it's about strategy, then let it be about strategy. If a lurking strategy wins (and I doubt it would, it's not a secret), it won't work the next time - no rule would be needed.

I understand the point of the exercise. Applying these rules to it just doesn't make any sense to me.

Re:The rules are pure idiocy (1)

Garrett Fox (970174) | about 4 years ago | (#31716456)

I've been dabbling in AI myself, and gotten bored talking with people about "chatbots" like ELIZA. There's a group of people devoted to making more in that vein, following pattern-recognition rules... and claiming in some cases that this strategy is going to lead to real AI if they just make the conversation-fakery detailed enough. I see that as a dead end even though it does have a few applications.

Game AI in general also strikes me as a dead end. I recently read a book on the subject that emphasized how AI for a game should be a like a babysitter that plays hide-and-seek -- by stumbling around saying "I can't see you!" and losing in an entertaining way. Almost pointless for the goal of developing an AI that can one day work in the real world.

What I suggest is that if we don't want to work with the fiddly details of actual robot hardware (like "how do I control all these motors?"), we should work with little video-game worlds that are almost nothing like video games. More like enhanced versions of SHRDLU instead. I've already been messing with a little sim I built that has tile-based, turn-based movement and objects to pick up, nothing fancy.

Re:The rules are pure idiocy (2, Informative)

JoeMerchant (803320) | about 4 years ago | (#31715178)

I entered one of the early driver races, seems like about 14 years ago, and got disgusted with the 2nd round of competition when the rules about pitting, collision, etc. started to be the major factor in success instead of improving the (then dismal) simulation realism.

Like all racing, winning is in working the rules, not making the fastest or most effective vehicle - the fastest and the best are quickly barred from competition.

Re:The rules are pure idiocy (1)

AmberBlackCat (829689) | about 4 years ago | (#31715282)

Couldn't you get over the first two problems by assuming all the cars have the engine in the back instead of the front?

Re:The rules are pure idiocy (1)

hairyfeet (841228) | about 4 years ago | (#31716004)

I have to agree this games stupid "rules" make it about as close to demo derby as playing Galaga gets you ready to fly the shuttle! Oh and for those that have never had the fun of going to a demo derby, go while you can. I have several friends that run demo derby and they are predicting it'll be gone in less than a decade as the old 70s land boats become to hard to find in a usable shape and the 80s and 90s cars are just too much thin plastic and aluminum to use for demo derby. So go while you can because it won't be around too much longer.

Re:The rules are pure idiocy (1)

WindowlessView (703773) | about 4 years ago | (#31716148)

> All of these rules are the opposite of how actual demolition derbies work. Smashing a car into the wall causes large amounts of damage. Damage to the front (the radiator, engine etc) is way more effective than damage than the rear.

Complete speculation but maybe it really isn't a demolition derby at all but something approaching what some envision for real driving in the future.

Imagine a driving environment where because there are sensors on the side of road that automatically communicate with all cars and take over control when required, it is difficult/impossible to drive off a road or crash into a wall/side rail. Similarly, almost no one in reality drives in reverse on a highway or surface street so it makes sense to eliminate this from the simulation.

The goal then is to use the derby metaphor to get people to purposely execute the insane things that real people might accidentally do real life - and develop possible ways to counteract them.

Sam and Max hit the road (2, Funny)

fph il quozientatore (971015) | about 4 years ago | (#31715222)

Sam: Actually, that was the Commissioner with another idiotic and baffling assignment.
Max: Does it involve wanton destruction?
Sam: We can only hope.

Quoth Joshua 8:28 (1)

line-bundle (235965) | about 4 years ago | (#31715290)

From the holy book: So Joshua burned Ai and made it a permanent heap of ruins, a desolate place to this day.

Is AI just seeking revenge?

Re:Quoth Joshua 8:28 (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31715492)

Yes, yes he is. Now go forth and multiply fruitfully so there's more of you for him to cast his wrath upon.

Last man standing... (1)

lalena (1221394) | about 4 years ago | (#31715386)

This last round of the competition is last man standing derby, so it poses an odd challenge for AI. Someone should probably first develop lots of agressive AI players as expected, but then train the final AI to sit on the sidelines until only one other opponent is left. The final problem, of course, is what happens if everyone does this.

Re:Last man standing... (1)

jack2000 (1178961) | about 4 years ago | (#31715514)

Congratulations you've just rediscovered the ... uh... there was a word for the entire setup you described, i just can't remember what it was called.

Re:Last man standing... (1)

Bearhouse (1034238) | about 4 years ago | (#31715962)

train the final AI to sit on the sidelines until only one other opponent is left. The final problem, of course, is what happens if everyone does this.

That's actually not a bad strategy to attempt, if you've tried http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Demolition_derby [wikipedia.org]
(If you have not, get out of the basement NOW and try before you die...It's MUCH less expensive than many other forms of motor racing, and great fun.)
You need to minimise damage in order to win, following the old adage of "to finish first, first you have to finish".
However, and this is the real thing about AI and 'mimicking a human' , as soon as you start to look to be in a good, (undamaged, fast) condition, other competitors, (especially the already seriously-damaged ones), will start to target you...
Equally, in championship finals, (where the careful, fast guys are the only ones left), it all starts out OK, but soon degenerates, because there's real competitive advantage in, for example, leaning on another competitor's car to go around him on the inside, ramming him on the rear corner to save your brakes whilst spinning him out...

Wanton Descruction? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31715654)

As long as they leave my chow mein alone!

MOOORONS. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31716616)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cJLDiYmvipg

it's idiotic not to use rigs of rods when it's about destruction. i mean, come on. it's like RoR has been a closet destruction derby from the beginning, just waiting to for the proper coming out moment.

Progress! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31716994)

I know there has been a lot of research and development before now, and that there are perfectly reasonable uses for an AI that drives well, but it's nice to finally see some progress towards making a driving AI that can survive on the streets of New York.

More Attention... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31717176)

It seems to me they just feel the need for more attention. I can't really see how crashing cars instead of driving them in the right way will help AI, in a direct way. Maybe if they can attract more interest and maybe more money, they'll be able to spend more for research.

TORCS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31718092)

whenever I've tried TORCS the whole program has locked up and crashed if I even touch another car let alone *try* to crash into it

New AI Challenge Is All About Wanton Destruction (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 4 years ago | (#31718886)

Al is all about wanton destruction? Al needs to chill out.

I really hate the Arial typeface.

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