The latest crop of game-playing computers have an ace up their sleeve that helps them dominate in games like Civilization. It's not some secretive backdoor tactic that helps them win. These computers can read the manual.
It all started with a small script that installed software by following directions on Microsoft' s website. This simple script was refined and expanded to create a piece of software that will beat you consistently in Civilization. It's not programmed like the chess-playing IBM Deep Blue. This computer has the basic gameplay in its software routines and analyzes the instruction manual to figure out the rest.
This ability to learn certainly improved the computer's game-wining odds. When playing on its own, the computer won less than half the time (46%). When it browsed the manual, the computer won an impressive 79% of the time.
Not surprisingly, this technology came out of MIT's Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Lab and was developed by graduate student S.R.K. Branavan and adviser Regina Barzilay. [MIT via Motherboard]