Microsoft's Project Bonsai Brings Deep Reinforcement Learning to AnyLogic

AnyLogic North America and Microsoft announced a new collaboration this week that will bring the deep reinforcement learning and machine teaching capabilities of Microsoft's Project Bonsai to AnyLogic's simulation modeling software for business applications.

Project Bonsai is a "machine teaching" service in Microsoft's Autonomous Systems suite. It combines machine learning (ML), calibration and optimization to create intelligent industrial control systems using simulations (think robotic arms and driverless forklifts). Microsoft acquired AI startup Bonsai back in 2018, and released Project Bonsai for public preview in May during its Build 2020 online conference. The company also debuted an experimental platform called Project Moab, which aims to familiarize engineers and developers with Bonsai's functionality.

"The integration with Project Bonsai enables AnyLogic to bring advanced artificial intelligence and reinforcement learning to our world class business simulation platform without the need for Business Analyst and Engineers alike to become data scientists," said John Yedinak, managing director at AnyLogic North America, in a statement.

Deep reinforcement learning (DRL) uses deep learning (DL) and reinforcement learning (RL) principles to create algorithms that can be applied to robotics, but also video games, finance and even health care. The growing demand for data-intensive, learned-based ML methods is leading to the adoption of DRL across a range of industries, from health care and education to manufacturing and marketing. That's the conclusion of a recently published study from Research and Markets ("Reinforcement Learning: An Introduction to the Technology"). In that study, market watchers found a growing demand for a general framework for DRL (also known as a semi-supervised learning model in the machine learning paradigm).

"We welcome AnyLogic to our growing portfolio of integrated simulators supported by Project Bonsai," said Cyrill Glockner, principal program manager at Microsoft, in a statement. "Industrial engineers are now able to use Project Bonsai to create intelligent processes and controllers without needing a background in data science or AI."

The collaboration will involve the joint development of an easy-to-use connector that allows users to apply AnyLogic models as simulators connected to Project Bonsai; a simplification of the conversion of simulation models into learning environments that use a provided wrapper model, a customized AnyLogic model that has all the Project Bonsai connectivity requirements built into it; and the enablement of subject-matter experts, even those with no AI background, to incorporate their expertise directly into an AI model and teach it how to solve real-world business problems.

About the Author

John K. Waters is the editor in chief of a number of sites, with a focus on high-end development, AI and future tech. He's been writing about cutting-edge technologies and culture of Silicon Valley for more than two decades, and he's written more than a dozen books. He also co-scripted the documentary film Silicon Valley: A 100 Year Renaissance, which aired on PBS.  He can be reached at