A video game-playing AI beat Q*bert in a way no one’s ever seen before

A screenshot of the 1980s arcade and Atari classic Q*bert

AI research and video games are a match made in heaven. Researchers get a ready-made virtual environment with predefined goals they can control completely, and the AI agent gets to romp around without doing any damage. Sometimes, though, they do break things.

Case in point is a paper published this week by a trio of machine learning researchers from the University of Freiburg in Germany. They were exploring a particular method of teaching AI agents to navigate video games (in this case, desktop ports of old Atari titles from the 1980s) when they discovered something odd. The software they were testing discovered a bug in the arcade classic Q*bert that allowed it to rack up near infinite points.

As the trio describe in the paper,…

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