DeepMind, the AI startup Google acquired in 2014, is probably best known for creating the first AI to beat a world champion at Go. So what do you do after mastering one of the world’s most challenging board games? You tackle a complex video game. Specifically, DeepMind decided to write an AI to play the realtime strategy game StarCraft II.
StarCraft requires players to gather resources, build dozens of military units, and use them to try to destroy their opponents. StarCraft is particularly challenging for an AI because players must carry out long-term plans over several minutes of gameplay, tweaking them on the fly in the face of enemy counterattacks. DeepMind says that prior to its own effort, no one had come close to designing a StarCraft AI as good as the best human players.
Last Thursday, DeepMind announced a significant breakthrough. The company pitted its AI, dubbed AlphaStar, against two top StarCraft players—Dario “TLO” Wünsch and Grzegorz “MaNa” Komincz. AlphaStar won a five-game series against Wünsch 5-0, then beat Komincz 5-0, too.