Feature Story

AI gamers beat the humans—so where does that leave us?

by Stephanie Chan

AI gamers beat the humans—so where does that leave us?

The future of esports with technology like artificial intelligence.

The year was 2011. Audiences around the world watched as computer system IBM Watson beat two reigning Jeopardy champions, Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter. Using technology like natural language processing, automated reasoning and machine learning, Watson and its ten racks of ten Power 750 servers came away as Jeopardy champion. This was one of the first times we as an audience saw technology go up against human counterparts, and win.

This past Sunday, an AI computer game-playing bot named OpenAI Five went up against some of the world's top professional Dota 2 players. OpenAI Five won two games in a three-game series. OpenAI is a non-profit artificial intelligence research company in San Francisco backed by Tesla CEO Elon Musk and VC Peter Thiel. OpenAI Five's technology is formed of five single-later, 1,024-unit long short-term memory recurrent neural networks. Unlike what humans are capable of doing, Five plays 180 years' worth of games every single day. OpenAI five went from Dota 2 novice to master in just a few months.

Clearly AI can be seen as a threat—or game changer—for the booming esports industry. Esports is the realm of competitive video game playing, something that racked up 258 million unique viewers globally in 2017. SuperData, a gaming data and market research company, prediects the esports industry is on track to hit $2 billion in revenue by 2021. Even colleges are getting into gaming–the National Association of Collegiate Esports is an organization to help grow university esport programs.

With new advancements in technology like AI, this could mean even more viewers and a universal appeal for esports. Marketplace-style AI companies like FanAI looks to figure out the value of esports data and analytics. This can help better understand fans and optimize their engagement.

AI Gaming asks developers to build better AI bots, and has challengers use their solutions to compete in tournaments, sometimes against a "special competition housebot". Forbes writer Darren Heitner even imagines that the future might look like programmer versus programmer in an arena-scale competition, to see whose AI-configured player performed better in a game. The possibilities really are endless.

Want to learn more about how gaming can transform different industries? Read about how video games can be a tool for Global Problem Solving.

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