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Minecraft's Code-Writing AI Points to the Future of Computers

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Microsoft has built an AI coding tool called GitHub Copilot that automatically suggests code when a developer starts typing, or in response to the comments added to a piece of code.

Credit: Alamy

Microsoft just showed how artificial intelligence could find its way into many software applications—by writing code on the fly.

At the Microsoft Build developer conference today, the company's chief technology officer, Kevin Scott, demonstrated an AI helper for the game Minecraft. The non-player character within the game is powered by the same machine learning technology Microsoft has been testing for auto-generating software code. The feat hints at how recent advances in AI could change personal computing in years to come by replacing interfaces that you tap, type, and click to navigate into interfaces that you simply have a conversation with.

The Minecraft agent responds appropriately to typed commands by converting them into working code behind the scenes using the software API for the game. The AI model that controls the bot was trained on vast amounts of code and natural language text, then shown the API specifications for Minecraft, along with a few usage examples. When a player tells it to "come here," for instance, the underlying AI model will generate the code needed to have the agent move toward the player. In the demo shown at Build, the bot was also able to perform more complex tasks, like retrieving items and combining them to make something new. And because the model was trained on natural language as well as code, it can even respond to simple questions about how to build things.

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