Programme ‘masters video games’


Published: Wednesday 25th February 2015 by The News Editor

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An intelligent computer programme has been created that can play dozens of classic video games “right out of the box” with a human level of skill.

The “artificial agent”, known as DQN, was tested using 49 Atari 2600 games, including Space Invaders and Break Out.

Exploiting knowledge of each game’s reward structure, it interspersed predicted best action with random moves to explore uncharted territory.

In this way DQN managed to achieve 75% of the score of a professional human competitor while playing more than half the games, and in many instances came out on top.

The games were highly varied, ranging from boxing to 3D car racing.

Dr Demis Hassabis, a member of the team from the London-based artificial intelligence company Google DeepMind, said: “This work is the first time that anyone has built a single general learning system that can learn directly from experience to master a wide range of challenging tasks, in this case a set of Atari games, and perform at or better than human level.

“It can learn to play dozens of the games right out of the box. What that means is we don’t reprogramme it between each game. It has minimal sets of assumptions and all it gets access to is more pixel inputs and the game score.

“From there it has to figure out what it controls in the game world and how to get points and how to master the game, just by playing the game directly.”

The programme combines two different approaches to machine learning, one of which was inspired by the human brain and involves the “reinforcement” of rewards.

“The advantage of these systems is that they can learn to adapt to unexpected things,” said Dr Hassabis, who with colleagues describes DQN’s gaming skills in the journal Nature.

But he insists that the programme is not capable of human-like creativity.

“I wouldn’t call it creativity just yet,” he said. “It’s finding optimal trajectories through these games but its not creating something that literally didn’t exist before.

“That would be more like the machine coming up with its own computer game, and we’re certainly a long way from that.

“Maybe some day in the future computers will be capable of some kind of creativity.”

Published: Wednesday 25th February 2015 by The News Editor

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