Thursday, August 10, 2017

Google is Building an AI to Kick Your Butt at 'StarCraft'

Google is trying to teach an AI how to beat the world's best StarCraft 2 players.

Because it's Google and they have the power to do that.

In 2014, Google acquired DeepMind, a company focused on artificial intelligence research and application. The company has worked with games before on the Atari to try and surpass human players. But StarCraft is a different beast, focusing on complex problem solving and the random variable of the human mind. You may think I'm going to construct an additional pylon, but what if I decide not to and instead pull a Zerg rush with my Protoss crew (always rolling with team Protoss)?

But that's exactly the type of environment DeepMind and Google want to jump into to further develop AI technology. They need those random variables. The company is partnering with Blizzard and have already released a new set of tools to help advance the project. This includes a release of content of the game for Linux, for the first time ever.

StarCraft has long been used as a test subject for AI and ML research. For a game with a 20 year history and a heavily devoted fan-base, you can bet that some of the best players in the world cultivated from the StarCraft arena. The game requires you to manage multiple functions at once: gathering resources, building up a base, defending your territory, etc. Players have to balance out the primary objective with the ancillary goals - an AI must do the same if they want to win. And unlike an Atari game with 10 actions a player can make at any one time (up, down, left, right, button), StarCraft can have up to 300. That is a lot of content an AI has to review.

Google and Blizzard hope that with the release of the tools and the research paper will drum up interest in the project and participants may be willing to throw themselves into the pool to be act as data/test dummies. It will be interesting to see what results are produced from the project.

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