We need your help now

Support from readers like you keeps The Journal open.

You are visiting us because we have something you value. Independent, unbiased news that tells the truth. Advertising revenue goes some way to support our mission, but this year it has not been enough.

If you've seen value in our reporting, please contribute what you can, so we can continue to produce accurate and meaningful journalism. For everyone who needs it.

Matt Chan/Flickr
Fast Learner

Google has taught its AI how to beat humans at video games

Although it won’t do as well in a game of Ms. Pac Man.

GOOGLE’S ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE researchers have created an AI which can play and beat humans at a number of classic videogames.

DeepMind, a company Google bought last year, taught its ‘Deep Q-Network’ AI to play 49 different games on the Atari 2600, a console that was released in the 80s.

Some of the games included Pong, Breakout, and Space Invaders and the findings were published in the scientific research paper Nature.

Instead of teaching it how to play, it learnt about the games while playing. It set up an awards system so the computer would know when it was improving.

Overall, it was able to surpass human performance in 22 games, such as Space Invaders and Breakout, but it underperformed in 20 other games and matched human performance for the rest.

Breakout2600 DeepMind's AI was able to perform well in simple games like Breakout, but faltered with other games like Ms. Pac Man. Wikimedia Wikimedia

One example of the system’s shortcomings was with the game Ms. Pac-Man where it was unable to plan strategies a few seconds ahead. Instead, it’s only able to look at the last 15th of a second (or last four frames if you want to be technical), meaning it’s unable to learn from its mistakes.

The purpose of this exercise was to help improve Google’s core software such as search, translation and its mobile assistant Google Now, according to MIT Technology Review.

Those tools are useful but are defined by what its programmers teach it to do, meaning it can only deal with a situation it knows about. Such advancements would allow development in robotics, if one is caring for an elderly patient, for example, it would be able to cope with unexpected situations or different variations of one.

Work has already begun on having it play games for the Super Nintendo and early PC DOS games so with that in mind, here’s a quick pick of the games we think it should start playing.

Tie-Fighter &/or X-Wing
Simply two of the best Star Wars games released. If you’re going to teach an AI about PC games, you may as well start it off with the classics.

Killerratte / YouTube

Monkey Island 2: LeChuck’s Revenge
How well would it do with point and click puzzles that can sometimes border on the obscure? More importantly, would it get the jokes?

AdventureGameFan8 / YouTube

Civilization II
Not only can it learn a little bit about world history, it can experience the joy of Gandhi threatening to nuke you for the umpteenth time (for those unfamiliar with the series, a bug caused Gandhi to be the most aggressive leader in the series, and it stayed that way for future release).

dan1986ist / YouTube

Super Ghouls n’ Ghosts
Probably its greatest test. If it dies for the millionth time on the first level and quits in frustration, then it’s probably the moment we acknowledge that AI can be human-like.

ShiryuGL / YouTube

Read: Almost 2,400 classic MS-DOS games are now playable on your browser >

Read: Reddit puts its foot down on revenge porn and stolen nude pics >

Your Voice
Readers Comments
    Submit a report
    Please help us understand how this comment violates our community guidelines.
    Thank you for the feedback
    Your feedback has been sent to our team for review.