Game could offer 'Clue' about landmines

Posted January 30, 2009 6:33 p.m. EST
Updated March 9, 2009 5:12 p.m. EDT

— Col. Mustard in the study with a land mine?

Researchers at Duke University say the same thought processes that go into playing the board game Clue could help program robots to find landmines.

Over the past three years, through support from the National Science Foundation, they have developed a mathematical model that figures out the best strategy to win Clue. While they were at it, they discovered that same model could help robot mine sweepers navigate strange surroundings to find hidden explosives.

"People have used games for a long time in artificial intelligence, but when we looked at Clue, we found it had never been treated mathematically," said mechanical engineering professor Dr. Silvia Ferrari. "Other games, like backgammon and chess have."

In Clue, a player must move through an unknown space, the board, and enter rooms looking for information about the killer and murder weapon before moving to the next room for more information.

In the same way, sensors on a robot mine sweeper must take in information about its surroundings to help the robot maneuver around obstacles as it searches for its target.

The key in both is to take in the new information and use it to help guide the next move.