Researchers have developed a Minecraft modification that uses artificial intelligence to help players improve their in-game architecture skills.

Minecraft is a popular 3D video game where players build and navigate their own digital environments. The modification will tell players whether their buildings fit into certain architectural styles and offer ideas for how the structures could be improved.

“One of the things that’s important to learn when you’re a kid and throughout life is creativity, abstraction—how to envision what you want and then create it,” says senior author Ross Knepper, assistant professor of computer science at Cornell University. “This is a tool that helps people not get discouraged, maybe if they’re beginning at Minecraft and don’t know how to use their imagination right off the bat.”

Minecraft temple
Erik Andersen created a model in Minecraft of a temple in Bangkok. (Credit: Cornell)
Based on buildings Minecraft players created and uploaded for others to use, the researchers created a deep neural network—a kind of machine learning trained to predict whether data belongs in a certain category. Through that network, players could learn whether their building is medieval, modern, Asian, or classical—four especially popular tags Minecraft players use. Once the building is classified, another algorithm can show the users similar buildings to inspire them to make improvements to their own.

“People are really interested in having more design spaces in Minecraft, and being able to build certain types of architecture, but there weren’t any design tools as far as we were aware that could teach them,” says first author Irene (Euisun) Yoon.

Yoon curated the data set to make sure the buildings were labeled correctly, since their algorithm was less accurate than they would have liked because it was trained with fewer than 1,000 player-created buildings. Ideally, they could train such an algorithm with tens or hundreds of thousands of pieces of data.

“If you ask an architect to tell you what a building’s style is, the architect will say, ‘OK, it’s one-and-a-half stories, it has dormers, it’s a Cape Cod.’ Deep learning is doing that but it’s doing it in a black box way (hidden from view). It learns patterns, but not necessarily the same patterns an architect would say are the key things,” Knepper says. For example, if all the modern-style houses in a data set have pools on the roof, the computer could assume that rooftop pools are a requirement for modern houses.

For Knepper, a roboticist by training, the Minecraft project helped answer questions about how a robot might follow a human’s instructions.

“If I say, ‘Build a house,’ today a robot is going to say, ‘I don’t know what that means.’ ‘Which brick should I put where?’ is the level at which robots need instruction,” Knepper says. “We’d like humans to be able to interface with robots more like we interface with each other. So if I tell it to build a medieval house or an ancient house and give some of the high-level details, it would know at that point how to turn it into a plausible thing that does everything you want. We’re not there yet, but this is the first step towards that goal.”

Coauthor Bharath Hariharan, assistant professor of computer science, approached the research from the perspective of his own work in computer vision. In trying to interpret an image, scientists can train a computer to pick up cues such as shape and solidity, but may have trouble processing perspective or scale. Using people’s intelligence through their Minecraft structures and tags can help computers learn to solve those problems.

“When you’re working with images, it’s really hard to actually get at the essence of what something is,” Hariharan says. “A machine observing how people build can actually learn quite a bit about what shape is, what structure is, what buildings are.”

The researchers will present a paper on their work at the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence Conference on Artificial Intelligence and Interactive Digital Entertainment in Canada.

The paper is based on work supported by the National Science Foundation.

Source: Melanie Lefkowitz for Cornell University

Original Study

‘DC Universe Online’ Takes a Trip To Aquaman’s Atlantis With New Expansion

‘DC Universe Online’ Takes a Trip To Aquaman’s Atlantis With New Expansion

With Aquaman set to hit theaters next month, we figured it would only be a matter of time before we saw the powerful Justice League member’s world pop up in DC Universe Online. And just like clockwork, it has.

Today, Daybreak Games has announced the arrival of Atlantis, one of the company’s largest expansions for the popular online multiplayer game since its launch seven years ago. The expansion is available now across all platforms, including Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC, with a “brand new underwater world to explore, iconic DC characters and swimming.”

With Corum Rath set to try and take over the Throne (and conspiring with Deluge parties to work alongside him), it’s up to Aquaman and the DC Universe characters to come together and fight back, in an effort to save the Crown from falling into the wrong hands.

The brief launch trailer above gives you an idea of what to expect from this immaculate world, which is jam-packed with space to explore and details from the forthcoming Aquaman film.

Here’s a rundown of the new content that you’ll find in this expansion:

Vast Underwater World – For the first time ever, players will be able to visit and explore the underwater Kingdom of Atlantis. Everything from swimming, combat, and lighting has been re-imagined for a fully submerged environment. Swim through the ocean and explore everything Atlantis has to offer.
New Missions – Travel throughout Atlantis including the Throne Room, the city streets and more to take on dangerous missions and fight deadly foes.
New Raids – Fight for the Crown of Thorns, challenge Corum Rath, or take on a massive sea monster in these new raids that are only available in Atlantis.

On top of that, Daybreak has also confirmed that players will be able to earn new feats, as well as discover new collections to add to their lineup. You’ll also be able to collect a variety of new gear, including items inspired by Aqualad, Corum Rath and more.

But keep in mind that in order to access the event portion of Atlantis, you’ll need to have a level of 10 or more. Fortunately, it shouldn’t take that long to get there if you haven’t already.

We’ll be talking with the team behind the expansion soon. But in the meantime, you can check out DC Universe Online now for Xbox One, PlayStation 4 and PC. Also, Aquaman opens in theaters on December 21.

‘Super Mario Party’ Game/Joy-Con Bundle Releasing Next Week

‘Super Mario Party’ Game/Joy-Con Bundle Releasing Next Week

If you’ve been waiting to pick up Super Mario Party until you have enough controllers, or just wanted to snag a couple of JoyCon peripherals in the same shot as the game, we’ve got some good news, fans.

Nintendo has announced that it’s finally releasing a Super Mario Party game and Joy-Con bundle for the U.S. market, after it previously became available in Japan, Europe and South Korea. The bundle will go for $99.99 and will include a copy of the game, as well as special neon green and neon yellow Joy-Con controllers.Nintendo confirmed the news earlier today, with the bundle dated to arrive in stores next week, starting November 16.

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Nintendo of America

Get the party started with the new #SuperMarioParty bundle for #NintendoSwitch, featuring the game and a pair of Neon Green/Neon Yellow Joy-Con! This bundle arrives 11/16 and will retail for $99.99.

11:00 PM – Nov 8, 2018
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The bundle provides a very good value, since the game goes for $59.99 and the Joy-Con controllers can go as high as $64.99. That gives you an estimated savings of about $25 by getting both of these in one shot.

And the fact you can only play Super Mario Party with Joy-Cons makes it easier to have them on hand, since it doesn’t support either handheld play (with the Joy-Cons attached) or the Pro Controller.

This bundle is about the same color as the one that was offered in Japan. However, the European bundle came with a neon pink and neon green Joy-Con controller. It looks like Nintendo of America changed it up here so that it wouldn’t be confused with the Splatoon 2 Nintendo Switch console bundle, which comes with pink and green Joy-Cons.

So if you’ve been looking to get in a Party mood with your friends, or just want to pick up a copy of the game for that beloved member of your family or group for the holiday season, this bundle will likely be for you.

Super Mario Party is available now for Nintendo Switch.

‘Call of Duty: Black Ops 4’ Beats Out ‘Red Dead Redemption 2’ In October PlayStation 4 Sales

‘Call of Duty: Black Ops 4’ Beats Out ‘Red Dead Redemption 2’ In October PlayStation 4 Sales

While Red Dead Redemption 2 set some impressive sales records in its own right within just eight days, Call of Duty: Black Ops 4 is certainly no slouch. It saw a huge record weekend in its own right; and a new entry on the PlayStation Blog indicates that it’s performed well enough to beat out Redemption as the best-selling digital game for PlayStation 4 for the month.

Call of Duty
Based on the top ten listing for PS4 games, Black Ops 4 sat pretty in the first place slot, followed closely behind by Red Dead Redemption 2. Rounding out the top five were Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, FIFA 19 and Battlefield 1, which no doubt found a resurgence thanks to EA giving away free content for the game. The top ten list is as follows:

Call of Duty: Black Ops 4
Red Dead Redemption 2
Assassin’s Creed Odyssey
Battlefield 1
Marvel’s Spider-Man
NBA 2K19
Soul Calibur VI
Castlevania Requiem: Symphony of the Night + Rondo of Blood
WWE 2K19
From the looks of things, Soul Calibur VI and WWE 2K19 had solid debuts as well; and Castlevania Requiem was quite popular with the retro crowd.

As for PlayStation VR, the engaging platformer Astro Bot Rescue Mission topped the list, followed by Superhot VR and Job Simulator. No doubt the just-announced Beat Saber will be getting some attention later this month.

As for free-to-play games, nothing could beat Fortnite: Battle Royale, which took the number one slot. Close behind in second was Warface, followed by H1Z1’s new Battle Royale mode.

As far as PlayStation Classics go, Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas continued to be a big hit with fans, but Rockstar Games also benefited from strong sales with Bully, which landed in the second place spot; and Metal Slug Anthology found a good spot in third place. Surprisingly enough, War of the Monsters found a fifth place position, finding good popularity with the Halloween crowd.

As far as how November’s numbers will shape up, it’s too soon to call. Battlefield V is on the way; and Spyro Reignited Trilogy is set to spark things up as well. We’ll see where the cards fall by this time next month.

‘Detective Pikachu’ Trailer Will Reportedly Debut Soon

‘Detective Pikachu’ Trailer Will Reportedly Debut Soon

Considering that the movie just had a very positive screening, it looks like the Detective Pikachu film could very well have its time in the sun. And that means we won’t have to wait too much longer for the trailer.

Detective Pikachu
A report from Trailer Track suggests that a trailer will make its debut for the film as soon as next week, as Warner Bros. is reportedly getting it ready to run alongside the forthcoming film Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald.

The movie, directed by Rob Letterman and featuring Deadpool himself, Ryan Reynolds, reportedly has a trailer that’s been rated by Alberta Film Ratings, suggesting that it’s good to go for distribution. That said, the site warns that it won’t be arriving online before the premiere of the Fantastic Beasts film. More than likely, we’ll see it debut as soon as next Friday, November 16.

The trailer has been given a rating of “PG,” and more than likely, Warner Bros. will seek a similar rating for the final film when it arrives next summer.

The positive reception for the early screening of Detective Pikachu should get fans hyped, and once the trailer premieres, we’ll have a better idea of what to expect from the live-action approach, even though we’ve already got a good idea of what the storyline is about. But for the time being, you can read the impressions over at Super Bro Movies, in which the site notes that the movie has “easter eggs, good performances, and a great script,”

The film features Reynolds as the voice of PIkachu, but also stars Justice Smith, Kathryn Newton, Ken Watanabe, Bill Nighy, Suki Waterhouse and Rita Ora in live-action roles. It’s set to premiere on May 10 in both the U.S. and European markets.

As expected, we’ll let you know as soon as the trailer is making its premiere and share our thoughts on it. But it sounds like it’s going to be a lot more fun than some skeptics expected it to be. Besides, you have Reynolds voicing Pikachu. Isn’t that magic in itself?! (Yes, you can tell him we said that.)

‘Minecraft’ Releases New Version 3 Textures

‘Minecraft’ Releases New Version 3 Textures

Minecraft’s newest textures are now available for some players with Version 3 released for Java platforms before coming soon to the Bedrock version of the game.

Mojang’s Tom Stone announced the release of textures Version 3 in a post on the Minecraft site that encouraged Java players to try out the new looks for the Minecraft world’s many blocks. The third downloadable pack of new textures comes 10 months after the second one released in January, Stone said, and as of November 3rd, the latest official texture pack from the Minecraft team is now available for Java players.

“Minecraft: Java Edition players can try Version Three today!” Stone said about the release. “This pack will also be coming to all versions of Minecraft that have the Minecraft Marketplace very soon as a free download and we'll update this story as soon as it's available.”

The tweet below from the official Minecraft account showed off some comparison images with the previous texture packs on the left and Version 3 shown to the right. For Java players who want to experience the new textures for themselves, Mojang provided a step-by-step list of instructions for copying the new files over to their game to replace the textures.

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We spoke to @JasperBoerstra about the new Minecraft Textures! Java players can download Version 3 of the texture pack from http://Minecraft.net today, and it's coming VERY SOON to bedrock!https://minecraft.net/article/try-new-minecraft-textures …

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Players should start getting used to the new textures when possible because what’s found in Version 3 will eventually become the default textures. Stone asked Minecraft texture artist Jasper Boerstra what would happen to the old textures with the artist responding to say they’d be replaced before long, but not before more changes are potentially made.

“These new textures will eventually replace them all and become the default textures of Minecraft,” Boerstra said about the texture changes. “They're not yet final though, and still in development, that's why I'm taking in all the community feedback first. The original textures will be available for free later. This might be directly in the game or somewhere else. We haven't decided yet.”

Boerstra mentioned the main feedback he’d received was that blocks and other things looked blurry due to the use of anti-aliasing and Minecraft’s inherent low-resolution nature, so he cut back on the use of the art technique to give everything a crisper look.

Minecraft’s Version 3 textures are now available for Java players with the full releases for all platforms coming later.