Artificial Intelligence

One Good Way To Research AI? Build Bots That Play Video Games

Artificial intelligence is going to revolutionize our lives in the very near future. But before we can install such advanced software in your thermostat, your car, and your toaster, we need to know more about how such programs learn. How better to discover that than by pitting AI systems against each other in video game tournaments?

StarCraft AI Competition


The annual AIIDE StarCraft AI Competition began in 2010, when bots battled each other in four styles of gameplay. The tournament also showcased a human vs. bot competition, and though the human (a professional gamer) did come out on top, the match was exciting nonetheless. As the competition states on its website, "The best human players still have the upper hand in RTS games, but in the years to come this will likely change, thanks to competitions like this one."

AIs also compete against one another in the World Computer Chess Championship, and Nintendo has hosted Super Smash Brothers tournaments where only Amiibos (figurines with in-game avatars that can level up and "learn") were allowed to enter.

Games give AI software the chance to tackle complex logic problems like those found in the real world. These bots can't just compute math equations and call it a day. They need to handle tougher challenges, like uncertainty, negotiation, bluffing, and cooperation. Games allow researchers to study AI reactions in carefully controlled environments. Think about it. You'd prefer software to be able to drive a car safely through the world of "Grand Theft Auto" before you let it drive your family down the street in a real car.

We may be a few years away from handing over the car keys, but we're becoming more comfortable letting AIs handle the joystick.

Recap of the StarCraft AI Competition

Key Facts In This Video

  1. Expert-level StarCraft gameplay is exceedingly complex, presenting players with a large strategy space that has no dominant strategy. 00:35

  2. 28 teams submitted bots to play in the first AIIDE StarCraft AI Competition. 02:20

  3. The winner of the first AIIDE StarCraft AI Competition was a bot called Overmind from UC Berkeley. 03:30

Written by Curiosity Staff March 14, 2016

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