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The next step for Google's artificial brain? Playing one of the most competitive games out there

The popular 1998 RTS game Starcraft will likely be the next step for Google DeepMind.

Starcraft II is one of the most popular games played competitively with millions tuning in to watch it and other games like League of Legends and DOTA 2.
Starcraft II is one of the most popular games played competitively with millions tuning in to watch it and other games like League of Legends and DOTA 2.
Image: AP Photo/David Goldman

GOOGLE’S DEEPMIND WON its second of five games of the classic board game Go against a top-ranked world champion – a feat that impressed even Elon Musk.

Now that Google has proven that the DeepMind artificial intelligence is capable of playing the notoriously complicated Go at a world-class level, what’s next?

“StarCraft, I think, is our likely next target,” Google senior fellow Jeff Dean said at the Structure Data event in San Francisco.

Dean is referring to the 1998 smash-hit PC game StarCraft, which casts players as supreme commanders in an interstellar conflict between humans, the bug-like Zerg, and psychic warrior Protoss. Players compete to gather resources, build their forces, and outmanoeuver their opponents.

starcraft Source: ESL/YouTube

Board games like Go and chess are what researchers call a “perfect information” game, where both players have a total awareness of everything that happens on the board at all times.

“The thing about Go is obviously you can see everything on the board, so that makes it slightly easier for computers,” Google DeepMind founder Demis Hassabis told The Verge recently.

Meanwhile, games like StarCraft and its sequel keep your opponents’ moves largely secret, at least until you come into conflict – skilled players watch closely for clues as to their opponents’ strategy and try to anticipate their next move.

Of course, when Google is ready to test DeepMind’s StarCraft skills, there are no shortage of skilled players who might be willing to step up: StarCraft birthed an insanely competitive professional gaming scene, including a status as a major spectator sport in South Korea.

Here’s a professional StarCraft 2 match in action:

Source: ESL/YouTube

“You have to keep track of things happening off the screen,” Dean says.

It means that Google’s DeepMind would have a brand-new challenge of trying to outguess their opponent, and react if and when they come up with something totally crazy. It would test a new set of skills for artificial intelligence.

“Ultimately we want to apply this to big real-world problems,” Hassabis told The Verge.

 

Read: Why YouTube sees you playing games on your phone to be the next big thing  >

Read: In case you’re still wondering, closing apps does not speed up your iPhone >

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