All posts in “Artificial Intelligence”

Elon Musk’s self-taught AI bot destroyed an esports pro in ‘Dota 2’

In many ways, esports represents the future. Like so many other parts of our modern lives, it’s built around the computer and the internet. Competitions like ‘Dota 2’s’ “The International” draw players from around the world, shrugging off the geopolitical and cultural boundaries that still define many traditional sports. And above all, it fully utilizes man’s most potent attribute: the mind.

So it should be just a little bit scary that in a relatively short period of time, man has been upstaged at his own game. An artificial intelligence (designed by the Elon Musk-funded OpenAI) has beaten the most skilled human players at their most complex video game. And it learned how to do so almost entirely on its own.

Andrew Ng is raising a $150M AI Fund


We knew that Andrew Ng had more than just a series of deep learning courses up his sleeve when he announced the first phase of his deeplearning.ai last week. It’s clear now that the turn of Ng’s three part act is a $150 million venture capital fund, first noted by PEHub, targeting AI investments.

Ng, who formerly founded Google’s Brain Team and served as chief scientist at Baidu has long evangelized the benefits AI could bring to the world. During an earlier conversation, Ng told me that his personal goal is to help bring about an AI-powered society. It would follow that education via his deep learning classes is one step of that and providing capital and other resources is another.

2017 has been a particularly active year for starting AI-focused venture capital funds. In the last few months we have seen Google roll out Gradient Ventures, Basis Set Ventures hall in $136 million, Element.AI raise $102 million, Microsoft Ventures start its own AI fund and Toyota corral $100 million for AI investment.

It’s unclear at this point how Ng’s AI Fund will differentiate from the pack. Many of these funds are putting time and resources into securing data sets, technical mentors and advanced simulation tools to support the unique needs of AI startups. Of course Ng’s name recognition and network should help ensure solid deal flow and enable Ng to poach and train talent for startups in need of scarce deep learning engineers.

I’ve sent a note to Andrew and we will update this post if and when we get more details.

Featured Image: Dawn Endico/Flickr UNDER A CC BY-SA 2.0 LICENSE

Allen-backed AI2 incubator aims to connect AI startups with world-class talent


You can’t swing a cat these days without hitting some incubator or accelerator, or a startup touting its artificial intelligence chops — but for some reason, there are few if any incubators focused just on the AI sector. Seattle’s Allen Institute for AI is doing just that, with the promise of connecting small classes of startups with the organization’s formidable brains (and 250 grand).

AI2, as the Paul Allen-backed nonprofit is more commonly called, already spun off two companies: XNOR.ai, which has made major advances in enabling AI tasks to run on edge devices, is operating independently and licensing its tech to eager customers. And Kitt.ai, a (profitable!) natural language processing platform, was bought by Baidu just last month.

“We’re two for two, and not in a small way,” said Jacob Colker, who has led several Seattle and Bay Area startups and incubators, and is currently the Entrepreneur-in-Residence charged with putting AI2’s program on the map. Until now the incubation program has kept a low profile.

Startups will get the expected mentorship and guidance on how to, you know, actually run a company — but the draw, Colker emphasized, is the people. A good AI-based startup might get good advice and fancy office space from just about anyone — but only AI2, he pointed out, is a major concentration of three core competencies in machine learning, natural language processing, and computer vision.

YOLO in action, from the paper presented at CVPR.

XNOR.ai, still partly run out of the AI2 office, is evidence of that. The company’s latest computer vision system, YOLO, performs the rather incredible feat of both detecting and classifying hundreds of object types — on the same network, locally and in real time. YOLO scored runner-up for Best Paper at this year’s CVPR, and that’s not the first time its authors have been honored. I’d spend more time on the system but it’s not what this article is about.

There are dozens more PhDs and published researchers; AI2 has plucked (or politely borrowed) high-profile academics from all over, but especially the University of Washington, a longstanding presence at the frontiers of tech. AI2 CEO Oren Etzioni is himself a veteran researcher and is clearly proud of the team he’s built.

“Obviously AI is hot right now,” he told me, “but we’re not jumping on the bandwagon here.”

The incubator will have just a handful of companies at a time, he and Colker explained, and the potential investment of up to $250K is more than most such organizations are willing to part with. And as a nonprofit, there are fewer worries about equity terms and ROI.

But the applications of supervised learning are innumerable, and machine learning has become a standard developer tool — so ambitious and unique applications of AI are encouraged.

“We’re not looking for a doohickey,” Etzioni said. “We want to make big bets and big companies.”

AI2 is hoping to get just 2-5 companies for its first batch. Makes it a lot easier for me to keep eyes on them, that’s for sure. Interested startups can apply at the AI2 site.

Featured Image: Getty Images

OpenAI bot remains undefeated against world’s greatest Dota 2 players


Last night, OpenAI’s Dota 2 bot beat the world’s most celebrated professional players in one-on-one battles, showing just how advanced these machine learning systems are getting.

The bot beat Danil “Dendi” Ishutin rather easily at The International, one of the biggest eSports events in the world, and remains undefeated against the world’s top Dota 2 players.

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Elon Musk’s OpenAI trained the bot by simply copying the AI and letting the two play each other for weeks on end.

“We’ve coached it to learn just from playing against itself,” said OpenAI researcher Jakub Pachoki. “So we didn’t hard-code in any strategy, we didn’t have it learn from human experts, just from the very beginning, it just keeps playing against a copy of itself. It starts from complete randomness and then it makes very small improvements, and eventually it’s just pro level.”

To be clear, a 1v1 battle in Dota 2 is far less complex than an actual professional battle, which includes two teams of five players completing a variety of tasks simultaneously to achieve victory. But OpenAI said that’s working on another bot that could play against and alongside humans in a larger 5v5 battle.

Not shockingly, Elon Musk was watching along and had some thoughts of his own, calling unregulated AI vastly more dangerous than North Korea:

This isn’t the first time Elon Musk has spoken up about the dangers of AI without regulation. He said that the process of setting up a government body to regulate AI should start in the immediate future, speaking at the International Space Station R&D conference a few weeks ago.

Musk has also thrown shade at Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Twitter, saying that Zuck’s understanding of AI is limited.

Speaking at TC Sessions: Robotics, Rodney Brooks, founder of iRobot and Rethink Robotics, disagreed with Musk saying that, currently, there isn’t much to regulate.

If you’re going to have a regulation now, either it applies to something and changes something in the world, or it doesn’t apply to anything. If it doesn’t apply to anything, what the hell do you have the regulation for? Tell me, what behavior do you want to change, Elon? By the way, let’s talk about regulation on self-driving Teslas, because that’s a real issue.

At the same event, head of Amazon Robotics Tye Brady said the following:

I’m not really a fan of regulation. I’m a fan of doing whatever the customer seeks. We have a mission in mind to do order fulfillment in the best way possible. So, yeah, I’m not a fan of regulation.

Obviously, some of the world’s greatest minds in the fields of robotics/AI/ML are at an impasse, but the maturation of AI waits for no man.

‘Dota 2’ pro destroyed by AI player from an Elon Musk start-up

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Elon Musk, noted artificial intelligence worrywart, backs the tech firm behind a robot brain that was smart enough to take down a Dota 2 pro this week.

The showdown took the form of an exhibition match staged on Friday at The International 2017, an annual esports tournament. OpenAI’s Dota 2 bot faced off in a series of 1v1 matches against Danil “Dendi” Ishutin, a member of the top-tier team Natus Vincere (Na’Vi) since 2015.

It wasn’t even close.

The AI raced its way to two dominant victories before the exhibition ended. It was supposed to be a best-of-five series, but Dendi didn’t wait that long to admit defeat.

“I’m giving up,” he said with a faint smile before the final moments of the second match had fully played out. “I don’t think I’m getting it back. It’s over.”

Dendi later admitted that while the AI competitor felt distinctly human in the way it played, “at the same time, it’s something else.” 

Chilling.

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It’s important to note that 1v1 matches operate a little differently than the team-based fights in which Dendi normally participates. Though there’s a flip-side to that: OpenAI’s bot picked up enough knowledge about Dota 2 to best the game’s built-in AI after one hour.

Its debut at The International 2017? That came after two weeks of non-stop training. Compare that to Dendi’s years of experience against a variety of players and skill levels in live competitions.

OpenAI robo-brain clearly came out of the exhibition looking like the stronger player, but the tech company isn’t quite finished. An accompanying video notes that the bot is still a work-in-progress. The goal is to eventually assemble a full team of AI bots for 5v5 matches and, further down the road, to mix AI players in with human players on a single team.

As you weigh all of this, remember again: Elon Musk, AI fearmonger extraordinaire, is an OpenAI founder. 

Teaching a robot brain to play battle-oriented strategy games… what could go wrong?

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