Google has achieved something major in artificial intelligence (AI) research. A computer system it has built to play the ancient Chinese board game Go has managed to win a match against a professional Go player: the European champion Fan Hui. The research is documented in a paper in this week’s issue of the journal Nature.
The Google system, named AlphaGo, swept France’s Hui, who is ranked a 2-dan, in a five-game match at the Google DeepMind office in London in October. AlphaGo played against Hui on a full 19-by-19 Go board and received no handicap. Now, Google is preparing to put AlphaGo up against the highest-ranked Go player, South Korea’s Lee Sedol, at a match in Seoul in March.
“If we win the match in March, then that’s sort of the equivalent of beating [Garry] Kasparov in chess,” said Demis Hassabis, cofounder of Google-owned DeepMind, during a press briefing on the research earlier this week. “Lee Sedol is the greatest player of the past decade. I think that would mean AlphaGo would be better than any human at playing Go.”