More than just a game
As part of his Honors College curriculum, 18-year-old
sophomore Mike Garcia works closely with Associate Professor Larry
Holder in developing software to control robots during computer
Mike Garcia utilizes his native, human intelligence
to understand the world of artificial intelligence, the science
and engineering of creating machines and computer programs that
He's starting the heavy-duty research early, as
an 18-year-old computer science and engineering sophomore. After
earning dual high school and college credit in the UTA Honors Summer
Academy, Garcia skipped his senior year at Arlington's Martin High
School. Two university scholarshipsthe Honors Presidential
Scholarship and the Louis Stokes Alliance for Minority Participation
Research Scholarshipalso helped him make the jump to college.
"I didn't know I was going to graduate early,
until about a month before school was over," he said. "But
as it turned out, I was able to skip my senior year and begin college
with 12 credit hours. My best friend convinced me that my senior
year would be more or less wasted in high school. While I don't
think it would have been exactly wasted, I know that I've learned
more in college than I could have in high school."
Much more. Particularly about super-smart computers.
Garcia studies how computers learn by playing
games. Under the direction of Associate Professor Larry Holder,
he is developing a wireless intelligent agent simulation environment
(WISE). They have installed a wireless network on the second floor
of Nedderman Hall and are developing software to control robots
and make split-second decisions during game simulations. The experimental
interface is being built on top of the gaming engine of the popular
Half-Life computer video game, an intense action game set in a federal
"The players will be of three typesrobots,
humans and software agents," Garcia explained. "The software
agents are electronic entities that can be seen by people viewing
the simulation over computers, or by the actual players in the game
through wearable computers. I'm working on modifying the existing
Half-Life gaming engine in a way that other people would be able
to connect to the server and see the game through a three-dimensional
So, spectators could watch the game over the Internet.
Bring on the chips and drinks.
Garcia and Dr. Holder are exploring the Half-Life
world not only for the love of the game, but to achieve serious
"The WISE project investigates automated
decision making, multi-agent cooperation and learning in a wireless,
simulated game environment," Dr. Holder said.
"The main purpose of this game will be to
provide students working on artificial intelligence a playing field
to test their software," Garcia added.
Funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation,
the WISE project represents another step forward in advancing the
development of artificial intelligence.
Already, researchers have demonstrated that computers
are capable of tutoring, reasoning and other amazing feats. Last
year, interactive robot petswith faces that express emotionsbecame
They bark and purr. With a few more years experience,
perhaps Garcia can make them shed.