Monday, January 24, 2011

Berkeley Artificial Intelligence beats human Starcraft player

Berkeley Artificial Intelligence beats human Starcraft player

Haomiao Huang is a graduate student in the Artificial Intelligence (AI) and robotics labs at UC Berkeley. Last week he told the story of how they created the "Berkeley Overmind," their entry in the 2010 Starcraft AI competition.

Why have a Starcraft tournamet for Artificial Intelligences? Sure, Starcraft is one of the most successful computer games of all time. A decade and more since it's release it is still popular and still being updated - though that may come to an end soon since Starcraft II is out. But what makes it a good way for testing AI? I can't say it any better than than the article:

“Chess is hard because you have to look far into the future, and go is harder because there are lots of pieces. With poker there’s uncertainty,” he says. “In StarCraft, you have all of these things going on simultaneously, and you have very little time to compute a solution.”

If you've never played Starcraft, it is a very challenging game. To help them build their AI, the boys at Berkeley (apologies to any female team members) recruited Orial Vinyals, a PhD student in computer science. He is also a former world class Starcraft player who was ranked #1 in Spain and in the top 16 in Europe. That means I would probably last all of 10 minutes in a match with him. If I was having a very good day and his was very bad. Using Orial as the opponent for the AI they were able to refine their algorithms. Eventually the AI was able to defeat Orial. It's a statement on how far AI has come, both hardware and software. Here's an example of the AI controlling mutalisks - a flying weapon.

They've built an AI that can locate, gather and allocate resources to produce and control military units. One that is capable of outthinking a human who is expert at doing exactly the same thing. Once someone thinks to set it to controlling the GRASP labs quadrocoptors we'll be needing John Conner, because Skynet will be on the way.