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Could AlphaGo Go Pro?

Artificial Intelligence falls to the Zerg Swarm.

In the beginning of this month, the Artificial Intelligence (AI) program AlphaGo beat one of the best Go players in the world, which is causing some to wonder if AI’s might be coming to an eSport near you. The AlphaGo program was created by Google DeepMind, a company that specializes in artificial intelligence. In an interview in The Verge, DeepMind co-founder Demis Hassabis discussed testing AI programs like AlphaGo in video games, particularly Starcraft. That’s not too surprising since Starcraft already hosts an AI vs. AI tournament, the AIIDE competition. The competition also features a match between the top AIs and professional level Starcraft players. So far, the humans are winning.

But could AI programs someday be good enough to compete with professional players? Michael Cook, an AI researcher at the University of Falmouth, thinks so. In an interview with Red Bull he proposes teaching AI to commentate on live games, or even captain a team of human players.

Even if someday we build AI capable of those things, they still probably wouldn’t replace human players in eSports, because a successful eSport is only partly about the game. The other half of the equation is the fans. Gamers tune in to Twitch to watch their favorite streamers and cheer on their favorite teams or players. There’s a reason streamers are sometimes called “Twitch personalities”. It’s unlikely that AIs playing DOTA2 or League of Legends will draw the same fan base as the players of Team Liquid, Cloud 9, or TSM do.

Unless, of course, AIs start to develop personalities. Feel free to make “The DOTA 2 International now sponsored by Skynet” jokes in the comments below.

Published Mar. 17th 2016

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