Facebook’s StarCraft AI lost to three lone developers in a recent tournament

StarCraft Brood War

Despite having hundreds of billions of dollars at its disposal, Facebook seems to be a long way off becoming market leaders in the (admittedly niche) StarCraft AI markey. In an annual tournament hosted last week, the social network’s offering could only make it to sixth place.

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The AI for Interactive Digital Entertainment conference (AIIDE) sponsors an annual StarCraft AI competition held at Memorial University Newfoundland. The tournament pits the AIs against each other in games of StarCraft: Broodwar. The aim of the contest is to help further AI development, as using real-time strategy games like StarCraft mean a system has to work around hidden information and quick reactions.

Big companies like Facebook and Google are starting to throw their hat into the AI research ring, as they hope it’ll help them improve their advertising strategy. But despite the billions of dollars and dozens of researchers Facebook used to develop their AI, which is called CherryPi, they weren’t ultimately particularly successful. Coming sixth out of 28 doesn’t sound too bad, the top three spots in the tournament were claimed by lone, amateur developers, not multinationals that are wealthier than many countries.

The eventual winner of the competition was ZZZKBot, and was developed by Chris Coxe, a software developer from Australia. The StarCraft AI scene is still reasonably basic – the complexity of the game means that the vast majority of human players could still beat even the best AIs in the tournament. But with companies like Facebook and Google pushing development forward, that might not be the case for much longer.