AI Will Take on 'Dota 2's' Top Human Players at The International 2018

OpenAI research group has announced plans to show off just how smart its AI has grown by having it compete with top Dota 2 players during The International 2018 this summer.

Dota 2 is one of the world's most popular esports. Professional teams battle every year at The International, a global competition where 18 teams battle each other for the industry's largest prize pool, which totaled more than $24 million in 2017.

OpenAI, a non-profit organization with backing from the likes of Elon Musk and Peter Thiel, as well as companies such as Microsoft and Amazon Web Services, says its goal is to "to build safe AGI," or Artificial General Intelligence, and "ensure AGI's benefits are as widely and evenly distributed as possible." One of the ways it teaches its AI (we can forget the "G") is by having it play games against itself.

Here's what the OpenAI team said about the importance of video games to AI in its announcement:

"One AI milestone is to exceed human capabilities in a complex video game like StarCraft or Dota. Relative to previous AI milestones like Chess or Go, complex video games start to capture the messiness and continuous nature of the real world. The hope is that systems which solve complex video games will be highly general, with applications outside of games."

Dota 2 is particularly useful in this regard. The game is famously complex--players must worry about the game's micro (scoring the last hit on minions or properly aiming their abilities) and macro (what's happening in each of the game's three lanes or the team's bases) all the time. Unlike classic games like Chess, Dota 2 is also regularly updated, which means its players have to constantly relearn the meta to stay on top.

All of this makes the game perfect for testing how AI compares to human players. OpenAI set five of its neural networks, or OpenAI Five, to work on mastering Dota 2 by playing 180 years' worth of matches against itself every single day. No human data is used; the neural network instead learns how to play Dota 2 by devoting a Long Short Term Memory network (LSTM) to each of the 10 heroes in a match and grinding.

OpenAI Five: Dota Gameplay

So far the approach seems to have worked: OpenAI claims OpenAI Five won two of three matches played against an amateur team as well as a semi-pro team. Those measly humans are within the 93rd and 99th percentile of Dota 2 players, respectively, which means OpenAI Five is better than almost every Dota 2 player in the world. Not bad for a network of 256 GPUs and 128,000 CPU cores that's only played against itself.

Now the group wants to show that OpenAI Five can compete with the best of the best. It said it plans to win against "top professionals" at The International 2018, though it hasn't released details about the match, so we aren't sure if it's an official part of the competition or not.

OpenAI will also host a match against "top players" in July; you can watch it via livestream or in-person if you manage to snag an invitation

The International 2018 will run from August 20-25 in Vancouver. Open qualifiers closed on June 17, and regional qualifiers are ongoing. You can learn more about which teams made the cut, how to buy tickets and where to watch the competition on The International 2018 website.

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