The BotPrize is a three-month contest in which programmers are challenged to develop a software bot to control a game character that can pass for human, with the goal of devising better artificial intelligence (AI) for games as well as non-game applications. “The BotPrize [is] important for AI in general because it highlights a central question in AI: How is human intelligence related to computer intelligence?” says Edith Cowan University’s Philip Hingston. The second annual BotPrize competition placed bots in Unreal Tournament 2004, a first-person-shooter game in which the winner is the one that scores the most virtual kills. The humanness of the bots was judged solely on the basis of their physical behavior, and a bot had to fool at least 80 percent of the judges in order to win the $6,000 prize. Epic Games programmer Steve Polge says developers often prefer creating AIs “that can make unexpected plans and present emergent and surprising challenges to the player”–not only because it can improve games, but also because AIs that mimic humans too closely can be as irritating and obnoxious as human opponents. Simulation game creator Will Wright is hoping that the BotPrize fosters an interest among AI researchers to create programs that emulate emotions. “Machine interactions are becoming a ubiquitous part of our environment, but they’re not necessarily the most satisfying, so acknowledging our emotional dimension is an interesting task to go for in AI,” he says.
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