A tech company wants to use its videogame engine to create realistic clones of the real-world, in the hope that it will make training AI safer and easier.
Unity, which powers popular videogames such as Cuphead, Hollow Knight and Pokémon, is being used to create 'digital twins' (virtual replicas) of everything from rollercoasters to entire cities.
This is so tech companies can create realistic simulations to test new products and even teach artificial intelligence to handle real-world scenarios more effectively.
But now, according to exec David Rhodes, Unity wants to go one step further and build a "digital twin of the world".
WIRED reports that Unity is using its engine to create realistic virtual humans, known as NPCs (non-player characters). These NPCs can be used to test everything from the safety of rollercoasters to real-world traffic scenarios for a self-driving car—without anybody getting hurt.
Danny Lange, Unity's senior vice president of AI, said: "In a synthetic world, you can basically recreate a world that is better than the real world for training systems. And I can create many more scenarios with that data in unity."
This could, for example, help make fully self-driving cars a reality someday.
Currently, companies like Tesla and Lyft are training their vehicle AIs by driving around real roads, but this has led to a number of accidents as the AI is still learning how to behave.
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AI also requires thousands of types of training data to learn how to handle itself, but this is currently limited by the amount of times a driver can take a car out on the road.
With Unity, engineers can generate as much data virtually as they could driving a car 500 million miles every 24 hours.
Once the AI is trained on this data and uploaded to an autonomous vehicle, it will be much better placed to handle roads without a driver.
Lange said: "How many times does it take [to train an AI]? A thousand? In a game engine, you can have an NPC actually trying to get killed in front of a car, and you can see if the car can actually prevent it."
While the company is still a way off from building a digital twin of the whole planet, use cases like self-driving show the potential for the technology that could one day lead to something like The Matrix.
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