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DeepMind's AI agents conquer human pros at Starcraft II

Starcraft II – A first in the world of artificial intelligence. Streamed on YouTube and Twitch, AI players beat the humans 10 games in a row. In the final match, pro player Grzegorz "MaNa" Komincz was able to snatch a single victory for humanity.

"The history of AI has been marked by a number of significant benchmark victories in different games," David Silver, DeepMind's research co-lead, said after the matches. "And I hope – though there's clearly work to do – that in the future may look back at [today] and may consider this as another step forward for what AI systems can do."

Beating humans at video games might seem like a sideshow in AI development, but it's a significant research challenge. Games like Starcraft II are harder for computers to play board games like chess or go. In video games, AI agents can not watch each other move, and they have to react in real time.

A screenshot from the games in December, showing AlphaStar facing off against TLO.
Image: DeepMind

These factors did not seem like much of an impediment to DeepMind's AI system, dubbed AlphaStar. First, it beat pro player Dario "TLO" Wish, before moving to take on MaNa. The games were originally played in December last year at DeepMind's London HQ, but a final match against MaNa what streamed live today, providing humans with their single victory.

Professional Starcraft commentators AlphaStar's play as "phenomenal" and "superhuman." In Starcraft II players start on different sides of the same map before building a base, training an army, and invading the enemy's territory.