Alphabet Inc., the parent company of Google, announced a software program Wednesday called AlphaGo that successfully beat European Go champion Fan Hui on a full-sized board five times in a row. Developed by researchers at Alphabet's DeepMind company, AlphaGo is considered a major landmark in the development of artificial intelligence. The game of Go, played on a 19 by 19 grid, has long thwarted computer scientists due to the vast number of available moves. "The game of Go has long been viewed as the most challenging of classic games for artificial intelligence owing to its enormous search space and the difficulty of evaluating board positions and moves," says the abstract to a paper about AlphaGo published in Nature. "This is the first time that a computer program has defeated a human professional player in the full-sized game of Go, a feat previously thought to be at least a decade away."
Over the span of 20 days early this year, artificial intelligence encountered a major test of how well it can tackle problems in the real world. A program called Libratus took on four of the best poker players in the country, at a tournament at the Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. They were playing a form of poker called heads-up no-limit Texas hold'em, where two players face off, often online, in a long series of hands, testing each other's strategies, refining their own, and bluffing like mad. After 120,000 hands, Libratus emerged with an overwhelming victory over all four opponents, winning $1,776,250 of simulated money and, more importantly, bragging rights as arguably the best poker player on the planet. Just halfway through the competition, Dong Kim, the human player who fared best against the machine, all but admitted defeat.
IN 1996 IBM challenged Garry Kasparov to a game of chess against one of its computers, Deep Blue. Mr Kasparov, regarded as one of the best-ever players, won--but Deep Blue won the rematch. Two decades on, computers are much better than humans at chess but remain amateurs when it comes to the much tougher, ancient game of Go. Or at least, they did. Now a computer has managed to thrash a top-drawer human player.
A DOZEN men wearing dark green T-shirts and wide grins whoop, shake hands and high-five, while another group in navy blue baseball caps do their best to look magnanimous in defeat in front of several dozen onlookers. In most respects this was a low-key event, but the scene, at a nondescript booth of a Las Vegas convention centre in July this year, may to be a pivotal moment for the development of artificial intelligence. That's because at the Gaming Life Expo at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino, a computer program called Polaris became the first to beat a team of world-class poker players, each of whom had previously won more than $1 million. Some may see the victory as the latest dismal step in silicon's march towards superiority over humans. Others will view it as an exciting move forward in artificial intelligence – a foretaste of the sophisticated tasks computers should be able to perform for us in years to come.