Microsoft, Elon Musk, OpenAI and Dota Walk Into a Bar

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It may sound like a strange meetup but at the intersection of artificial intelligence and video games, Elon Musk’s OpenAI with help from Microsoft’s Azure platform, has shown the world that AI is not a marketing gimmick. Last week at the DOTA international championship, a team powered only by AI made a surprise appearance and was able to take down a professional-level player and caused him to forfeit.

In a one-on-one match versus Danylo “Dendi” Ishutin and an AI bot, the bot was able to win two matches in what is being hailed as a big win for Musk’s Open AI organization. During the past week, the AI bot was able to beat several top rated players in the world and showed that the power of artificial intelligence can easily master a complex game like Dota.

The interesting part is that the bot did not study prior games to learn about Dota but instead, played itself over and over to learn the optimal way to navigate and win a match. Musk pointed out that this victory is more impressive than what Google’s DeepMind had done when it beat a world champion at Go.

Dota is a highly complex game that has 113 playable heroes that each have unique abilities. Combine that with in game upgrades and attacks, a bot simply can’t memorize a few scenarios but must understand the game and strategize against the opponent as the match evolves.

For Microsoft, who was providing the infrastructure and computational power for the Open AI bot, this is a big win for them as well as it shows that Azure is capable of powering the next generation of bots and intelligence-based services. Further, Microsoft has been touting that their platform is the best in the industry for AI computation and the Dota bot fits nicely into their narrative.

While consumer-facing bots have a long way to go, what Musk and Open AI have shown off is that AI is progressing rapidly and will one day live up to the promises that many have been making ever since this research began many decades ago.