"StarCraft 2" is the sole remaining game in the real-time strategy (RTS) genre that once dominated the esports scene. But before the genre dies off completely, the premier game is being used by Google in researching artificial intelligence with DeepMind AI and beating professional players.
Using games to test a machine's ability against humans has been done for decades now. Whether it is a chess robot beating a grandmaster or IBM's Watson winning against "Jeopardy" players, time after time people have seen machines triumph over the human mind.
Now, Google is pitting its own machine against the best and brightest minds of another competition: esports. With "StarCraft 2" developer Blizzard Entertainment's blessing, the tech giant and DeepMind AI will go against the professional players who have been honing their skills for years.
DeepMind has already released the tools necessary for AI researchers to create a bot that can beat human players. Additionally, the company is also opening a cache of over 65,000 past matches in training the bots to compete.
DeepMind has already proven itself with the strategy board game "Go" and the RTS game appears to be the next step in the development of AI. Unlike "Go" or chess, which are so-called perfect information games, "StarCraft 2" adds a degree uncertainty which means the AI needs to exponentially increase the number of calculations necessary.
The game seems to be less daunting to humans compared to chess or "Go" but given that computers follow a different method of learning, the game represents a huge leap forward in terms of AI development. However, the AI will still follow the same thought process as a human player in a sense that it must react accordingly to the available information.
By the looks of Google's preliminary tests, DeepMind still has a long way to go before it can match the skills of professional players. At this point, they're just a tad better than the game's built-in AI. Nevertheless, by investing more time and research, as well as data from thousands of real matches, the AI is expected to add "StarCraft 2" to the list of games it has beaten.