Tencent’s AI advantage: gaming AI isn’t all that difficult

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Tencent is finally jumping into artificial intelligence (AI), and while experience and time matter when developing meaningful AI, Tencent’s advantage is that it’s not very difficult to create good algorithms for the vast majority of the games that it offers.

Tencent has created AI Lab, which now has more than 250 employees whose task it is to create algorithms that create more sophisticated game opponents, as well as chatbots for companies that use WeChat and QQ to talk to their customers.

The general impression of AI seems to be that as soon as one has created an AI group, superb, hyper-intelligent algorithms will come rolling out of the door. But in reality, this is very far from the truth.

RFM research has found that single biggest determinate of AI excellence to date is time, and those that have been doing it the longest tend to have the best AI. This is also why RFM has found that it is the search engines that are the most advanced, even though some of the biggest brains in the field are employed elsewhere.

With Tencent just getting into this field, it will be a very long time before it will be in a position to roll out algorithms that are capable of making its services meaningfully more intelligent. In the long run, this will be crucial to maintaining its dominance in the Digital Life segments where it is present, as competition will become much tougher as the market matures.

The good news is that it is unlikely to prove very difficult for Tencent to create algorithms that are more than good enough to play the games that it offers to a very high standard. This is because most games are either based on hand-eye coordination or can be solved by an algorithm using a brute-force approach. Brute force involves evaluating every possible outcome from a given position and choosing the best one. With today’s improvements in memory and processing power, this is not very difficult to achieve.

The most well-known exception is Go, which has so many possible combinations that brute force becomes impossible. This is why DeepMind’s AlphaGo was such a breakthrough, as it uses AI to work out which options should be searched, much like a human would.

Tencent has produced an AI Go player called Jueyi, which has been able to play to a very high standard, but I think that the design has been copied from AlphaGo. AI is a cooperative field, and DeepMind has published most of its methodology and results for the creation of AlphaGo in the scientific magazine Nature.

Consequently, I do not view this as a good example of Tencent coming up with an innovation of its own, and I think we will not be seeing hyper-intelligent AIs appearing in Tencent’s services anytime soon.

However, Tencent has time, as its core markets are still seeing steady growth, and it should be reasonably easy to improve the AI opponents in its core segment: gaming.

I still like Tencent, as there remains substantial upside should it really begin to monetize the ecosystem that it has created – but it has a very long way to go before it can be considered a force in AI.

This article was originally published on RadioFreeMobile

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