Monday, September 19, 2011

MIT Professor Gives Language Lessons to Computers

Regina Barzilay, an associate professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is trying to make computers better listeners by making them play Civilization, a 20-year-old strategy game in which players build a city into an empire by vanquishing and absorbing neighboring cultures. A member of MIT’s Computer Science & Artificial Intelligence Lab, Barzilay, 40, developed a software program that begins with no grasp of the game. The computer “reads” the manual and then keeps returning to it while playing. As it races through thousands of simulations, the computer learns to connect words in the directions (“attack,” “build,” “capture,” and “revolt”) as the game unfolds...The computer gets positive reinforcement—a higher score and a win—when it makes correct guesses about the meaning of words. When the computer loses, it traces back through its reading of the manual to see where its interpretation went wrong. more

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