AIcrowd Research

AIcrowd Community tackles some of the most diverse and interesting problems in AI. Check out the research we're proud to facilitate below.



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  • We held the first-ever MineRL Benchmark for Agents that Solve Almost-Lifelike Tasks (MineRL BASALT) Competition at the Thirty-fifth Conference on Neural Information Processing Systems (NeurIPS 2021). The goal of the competition was to promote research towards agents that use learning from human feedback (LfHF) techniques to solve open-world tasks. Rather than mandating the use of LfHF techniques, we described four tasks in natural language to be accomplished in the video game Minecraft, and allowed participants to use any approach they wanted to build agents that could accomplish the tasks. Teams developed a diverse range of LfHF algorithms across a variety of possible human feedback types. The three winning teams implemented significantly different approaches while achieving similar performance. Interestingly, their approaches performed well on different tasks, validating our choice of tasks to include in the competition. While the outcomes validated the design of our competition, we did not get as many participants and submissions as our sister competition, MineRL Diamond. We speculate about the causes of this problem and suggest improvements for future iterations of the competition.
  • In this report, we summarize the takeaways from the first NeurIPS 2021 NetHack Challenge. Participants were tasked with developing a program or agent that can win (i.e., 'ascend' in) the popular dungeon-crawler game of NetHack by interacting with the NetHack Learning Environment (NLE), a scalable, procedurally generated, and challenging Gym environment for reinforcement learning (RL). The challenge showcased community-driven progress in AI with many diverse approaches significantly beating the previously best results on NetHack. Furthermore, it served as a direct comparison between neural (e.g., deep RL) and symbolic AI, as well as hybrid systems, demonstrating that on NetHack symbolic bots currently outperform deep RL by a large margin. Lastly, no agent got close to winning the game, illustrating NetHack's suitability as a long-term benchmark for AI research.
  • Efficient automated scheduling of trains remains a major challenge for modern railway systems. The underlying vehicle rescheduling problem (VRSP) has been a major focus of Operations Research (OR) since decades. Traditional approaches use complex simulators to study VRSP, where experimenting with a broad range of novel ideas is time consuming and has a huge computational overhead. In this paper, we introduce a two-dimensional simplified grid environment called "Flatland" that allows for faster experimentation. Flatland does not only reduce the complexity of the full physical simulation, but also provides an easy-to-use interface to test novel approaches for the VRSP, such as Reinforcement Learning (RL) and Imitation Learning (IL). In order to probe the potential of Machine Learning (ML) research on Flatland, we (1) ran a first series of RL and IL experiments and (2) design and executed a public Benchmark at NeurIPS 2020 to engage a large community of researchers to work on this problem. Our own experimental results, on the one hand, demonstrate that ML has potential in solving the VRSP on Flatland. On the other hand, we identify key topics that need further research. Overall, the Flatland environment has proven to be a robust and valuable framework to investigate the VRSP for railway networks. Our experiments provide a good starting point for further research and for the participants of the NeurIPS 2020 Flatland Benchmark. All of these efforts together have the potential to have a substantial impact on shaping the mobility of the future.
  • Although deep reinforcement learning has led to breakthroughs in many difficult domains, these successes have required an ever-increasing number of samples, affording only a shrinking segment of the AI community access to their development. Resolution of these limitations requires new, sample-efficient methods. To facilitate research in this direction, we propose this second iteration of the MineRL Competition. The primary goal of the competition is to foster the development of algorithms which can efficiently leverage human demonstrations to drastically reduce the number of samples needed to solve complex, hierarchical, and sparse environments. To that end, participants compete under a limited environment sample-complexity budget to develop systems which solve the MineRL ObtainDiamond task in Minecraft, a sequential decision making environment requiring long-term planning, hierarchical control, and efficient exploration methods. The competition is structured into two rounds in which competitors are provided several paired versions of the dataset and environment with different game textures and shaders. At the end of each round, competitors submit containerized versions of their learning algorithms to the AIcrowd platform where they are trained from scratch on a hold-out dataset-environment pair for a total of 4-days on a pre-specified hardware platform. In this follow-up iteration to the NeurIPS 2019 MineRL Competition, we implement new features to expand the scale and reach of the competition. In response to the feedback of the previous participants, we introduce a second minor track focusing on solutions without access to environment interactions of any kind except during test-time. Further we aim to prompt domain agnostic submissions by implementing several novel competition mechanics including action-space randomization and desemantization of observations and actions.
  • This report to our stage 2 submission to the NeurIPS 2019 disentanglement challenge presents a simple image preprocessing method for learning disentangled latent factors. We propose to train a variational autoencoder on regionally aggregated feature maps obtained from networks pretrained on the ImageNet database, utilizing the implicit inductive bias contained in those features for disentanglement. This bias can be further enhanced by explicitly fine-tuning the feature maps on auxiliary tasks useful for the challenge, such as angle, position estimation, or color classification. Our approach achieved the 2nd place in stage 2 of the challenge.
  • Reinforcement learning competitions advance the field by providing appropriate scope and support to develop solutions toward a specific problem. To promote the development of more broadly applicable methods, organizers need to enforce the use of general techniques, the use of sample-efficient methods, and the reproducibility of the results. While beneficial for the research community, these restrictions come at a cost -- increased difficulty. If the barrier for entry is too high, many potential participants are demoralized. With this in mind, we hosted the third edition of the MineRL ObtainDiamond competition, MineRL Diamond 2021, with a separate track in which we permitted any solution to promote the participation of newcomers. With this track and more extensive tutorials and support, we saw an increased number of submissions. The participants of this easier track were able to obtain a diamond, and the participants of the harder track progressed the generalizable solutions in the same task.
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