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China To Face Off Against AlphaGo With Own AI Team

March 31, 2016 - Written By Daniel Fuller

Not long ago, an artificial intelligence called AlphaGO, developed by a unit within Alphabet known as DeepMind, did what was previously thought impossible and beat the world champion human player of the ancient Chinese game of Go. The game’s insanely complex nature, rife with nearly infinite possibilities, presented a seemingly insurmountable challenge for A.I.s, given their limited nature. With the help of neural networking and machine learning, however, AlphaGO managed to prevail, beating world champ Lee Sedol in four out of five rounds. This impressive performance left a great many A.I. researchers and tech enthusiasts in shock; it represented a huge shift for A.I.’s possible power and application range. Facebook had previously announced that they were working on an A.I. that might rival AlphaGo, but DeepMind was the first to bring what was thought impossible into the realm of reality.

An A.I. development team out of China, called China Computer Go Team, has announced that they have their own Go-playing A.I. in development. While an A.I. capable of playing Go at all is an accomplishment, this team has decided that’s not quite enough. Instead, they intend to develop their A.I. with the goal of challenging AlphaGO at its own native game. On top of that, they plan to issue the official challenge to AlphaGO before the end of 2016. Other elements, such as Baidu, are working on their own A.I. projects, but China Computer Go Team are the only ones thus far to step forward and formally lay down the gauntlet.

Google’s current CEO, Sundar Pichai, also paid a visit to China on Thursday. In order to gain a better understanding of the game of Go and of the Chinese culture that spawned it, he went to one of the top Go training centers in the country. It’s unclear whether this means that Google and DeepMind plan to accept China Computer Go Team’s challenge, but it’s unlikely that they’ll back down after successfully defeating Sedol. As of now, there has been no announcement of when exactly the challenge and subsequent duel may happen, aside from the rough guideline of “before the end of the year”.