AI Monthly Digest #11 – From OpenAI partnering with Microsoft to battle.net Blade Runners
AI models are skilled in Chess, Go, StarCraft and, since July, six-player Texas Hold’em Poker. But the hunt for inhuman players has begun.
And when AI models get bored with beating humans in games, it’s apparently time for a bike ride. Read on to find out just why.
OpenAI partners with Microsoft
In March, OpenAI shifted to a for-profit paradigm, forging OpenAI LP. The company has now entered into a strategic partnership with Microsoft to build a new computational platform in Azure Cloud. OpenAI will port its codebase into Azure and develop new solutions with tools available there.
The main benefit for Microsoft will be the access it gains to the fruits of OpenAI’s work as a preferred partner for commercializing new AI technologies. OpenAI was formed with the goal of improving people’s lives with technology and has delivered multiple AI breakthrough models including MuseNet, which produces music in various styles, and GPT-2, a natural language processing model and gold standard in text generation.
For more on the joint venture, click on over to the official press release.
Why does it matter?
As the company recently announced, taking a non-profit approach to develop AI proved too daunting even for the likes of Elon Musk and Sam Altman, the company’s CEO. Unlike with most software, developing artificial intelligence requires not only skilled and talented people but also an astonishing amount of computing power. Training a single GPT-2 model is estimated to cost up to $50,000 – and that’s only for one of many experiments run in a given year. So, securing access to computing power is a must. By providing that, Microsoft will be getting access to the base of talented AI developers, significantly increasing its AI development potential.
AI beats skilled human players in six-player poker
Pluribus bot is the first AI-controlled agent capable of beating human pro players in six-player no-limit Hold’em poker, the most popular format of this game in the world. Unlike chess and Go, poker is a game with hidden information – the player cannot see the hands of other players. The game itself involves bluff and a great deal of psychological factors. AI bots were good at beating one opponent, but going up against more than one was a major milestone.
More details are available in the ai.facebook blogpost.
Why does it matter
Dealing with a one-on-one situation, though common in recreational games, is rare when solving real-life problems. Moreover, it is somewhere between difficult and impossible to get all the information one needs, as in chess or Go. Delivering models that work in a limited-information, multiple-agent environment is pushing models that support demand forecasting or managing cybersecurity threats.
When an autonomous car is not enough
Cars, be they traditional or autonomous, come with various disadvantages, especially in cities. They get stuck in traffic jams, and require parking, which can be hard to come by.
To provide more sustainable autonomous transport, Chinese scientists have brought out an autonomous bicycle. The machine responds to voice commands, avoids obstacles and maintains balance. It uses a new Tianjic chip, which supports processing neuroscience-inspired algorithms. Check out the video below to see how it works.
Why does it matter
The research itself sounds like a lot of fun, but it also constitutes an excellent foundation for further work on autonomous transportation. A bike can be used for delivering fast food, or modified to work as a motorized Rickshaw in our ever more crowded metropolises. Couriers can used them to deliver the mail and other documents or to transport individuals incapable of riding a bike.
Autonomous bikes need not be fully autonomous, by the way: AI can support the driving process or provide alerts to riders.
Alan Turing will be featured on 50 pound banknote
Often hailed as the godfather of modern computing, Alan Turing is widely known for his work on cracking the famed German Enigma code and as the leader of the team that enhanced the cracking methods delivered by Polish mathematicians.
Turing is also considered a pioneer of artificial intelligence. He came up with the Turing Test as a first way to determine if a machine mimicking a human in conversation is truly intelligent.
So great was Turing’s contribution to humanity that he will now be featured on Britain’s 50-pound banknote. Chosen from 227,299 nominations covering 989 eligible characters, Turing was ultimately picked by Mark Carney, Bank of England governor.
Why does it matter
The announcement is a sign that computer science is no longer considered a novelty and prominent AI researchers earn the same respect chemists, physicists or life sciences experts do, as representation on a banknote well attests.
BattleNet Blade Runners
Deepmind, in conjunction with Blizzard, has deployed AlphaStar model on Battle.net, to allow players to test their skills and mettle against artificial intelligence. Battle.net is an official platform connecting players from all around the world, enabling them to quickly find opponents for a multiplayer match.
There is just one twist: the famed, reinforcement learning-trained AlphaStar will play anonymously, thus allowing players to compete with the model as they would do in any match with a normal opponent.
AlphaStar has been developed significantly beyond the abilities it commanded in defeating human professional players MaNa and TLO. Deepmind capped the actions-per-minute and actions-per-second rate to make it more accurately appropriate human abilities limited by muscles and the need to operate a mouse and keyboard. The model’s perception has also been narrowed to a single frame to come in line with what human players see on the screen.
Finally, the model is able to control and compete in any race given, be it Terran, Protoss or Zerg, representing all the factions available in the game. This represents serious progress: during matches in January, the model could only control Protoss units fighting against other Protoss.
Why does it matter
At the moment, it doesn’t. But let the experiment run its course and tune in later for an update. We anticipate more impressive progress.
Interestingly, this most recent news thrilled the players’ community, which all too clearly remembers the wounds AlphaStar inflicted in dominating renowned pros. Given that any match with the model is counted as a normal encounter and a ranking match, on-guard players try to spot and avoid AlphaStar lurking in the muddy waters of the battle.net rankings.
Players have reported “odd” behavior of some opponents and have been uploading videos on YouTube, where they discuss if the other player is actually AlphaStar incognito. They also advise each other to check if the partner responds to messages. Being called a noob by an opponent even once can be strong evidence that the opponent on the other side of the battlefield isn’t human.
So players are on the hunt for a replicant.