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AI plays Dusk Drive
Universe makes it possible for an AI agent to play Flash games like Dusk Drive. (OpenAI Graphic)

If you were weirded out by HBO’s “Westworld,” hold onto your cowboy hats: OpenAI, the artificial intelligence lab backed by Elon Musk and other tech gurus, has released a software platform called Universe that lets AI agents use computers the way humans do.

Universe’s first mission? Master thousands of video games and real-world browser tasks.

The idea is to train AI agents to hone their general-intelligence skills by exposing them to a huge number of computer-based environments, over and over again.

“Our goal is to develop a single AI agent that can flexibly apply its past experience on Universe environments to quickly master unfamiliar, difficult environments, which would be a major step towards general intelligence,” OpenAI says in a blog post announcing Universe’s release.

Toward that end, OpenAI is looking for help from gamers and coders – by giving permission for Universe AI agents to access games and applications, or by training agents, or integrating new games, or just standing by while bots play games on your computer.

Musk, who’s one of OpenAI’s founders as well as the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla, gave the effort a boost today in a couple of retweets. You can sign up now to become a beta tester.

Microsoft’s Project Malmo team will be integrating with Universe, and Microsoft Studios has given permission for Universe to make use of games such as Fable Anniversary. And those aren’t the only connections to Redmond: Microsoft Azure serves as OpenAI’s primary cloud platform.

Bellevue-based Valve and dozens of other game companies are in on the adventure as well.

OpenAI says Universe was inspired by the history of the ImageNet dataset in the computer vision community, which has reduced its error rates from 28 percent in 2010 to the human performance level of 3 percent in 2016.

“If the AI community does the same with Universe, then we will have made real progress towards systems with broad, general intelligence,” OpenAI says.

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