How Forza 5 and the Xbox One use the cloud to drive machine-learning AI

For months now, Microsoft has been touting how Xbox One games will be able to make use of cloud computing resources to handle certain time-insensitive tasks that aren’t really feasible to calculate on a single local box. While Microsoft has gone into some detail on how this process works, a lot of the company’s talk has taken the form of vague hand-waving about how the magic of the cloud will make everything more powerful.

So when we had a chance to talk to Forza Motorsport 5 Director Dan Greenawalt recently, we wanted to take a deep dive into how, precisely, the game makes use of Microsoft’s cloud resources to power its adaptive, machine learning-based AI system, called Drivatar. And we learned how processing a massive amount of data on Microsoft’s servers allows for possibilities that Greenawalt says weren’t really possible on previous consoles.

It’s learning

The Drivatar team at Cambridge’s Microsoft Research campus has been creating adaptive AI opponents based on real users since the first Forza Motorsport was released on the original Xbox in 2005. But previous games were only able to learn from local races and had to process and learn from that data on local hardware.