StarCraft 2 Could Be A Big Help For AI Research, Google Suggests

StarCraft 2 Could Be A Big Help For AI Research, Google Suggests

In unrelated news, development on SkyNet has also gotten a huge boost.

Ever since Google’s DeepMind put Go master Lee Sedol on his arse later this year, people have been speculating about the next frontier. And given that AlphaGo was busy laying waste to the world of Go in Seoul, it didn’t take long for people to suggest StarCraft as the next game of choice.

As you’d expect, former StarCraft professionals started talking down Google’s chances. “StarCraft is a game where situational strategy is far more important than in [Go], so it’s an area where AI cannot catch up,” Lim Yo-Hwan, more commonly known as Slayers_BoxeR, suggested.

But whether the DeepMind army wins an exhibition match of StarCraft is a moot point, since the experience might be a massive boon for AI research anyway.

“We feel that the complexity of Starcraft 2 enables us to now start testing algorithms that perhaps some years ago we were not ready to tackle,” DeepMind researcher Oriol Vinyals told Ars Technica recently.

A crucial part of the AI Does StarCraft 2 exercise is teaching the AI how to handle things it can’t see. Fog of war isn’t a new thing in video games, and players have long become accustomed to making educated guesses on the right approach to take based off a limited amount of information.

“Even if it isn’t immediately successful, you can start building benchmarks with how it performs, which allows us to keep pushing the envelope on the state-of-the-art which is great,” Vinyals added.

Google announced during Blizzcon that it was working with Blizzard to share the fruits of their AI research. You can see a video below of what DeepMind sees in the opening seconds of a StarCraft 2 match, for those who missed it the first time around:

It’s not known whether the fruits of the research can be fed back into StarCraft 2’s AI, or AI for other video games. One potential benefit suggested by Chris Sigaty, a veteran of Blizzard and the director of StarCraft 2, is the development of an in-game coach that could offer live suggestions to new players about what units to build and potential strategies.

But before any of those benefits come to fruition, we’ll have an exhibition match to deal with first. The stage hasn’t been set for that quite yet, but both Blizzard and Google are busy laying the groundwork. It’s only a matter of time: who would you bet on? The cream of the crop in South Korea’s StarCraft scene, or Google’s DeepMind AI?