Google AI program masters classic Atari video games

By remembering and learning, the DeepMind algorithm excels at retro games such as Breakout

In this screenshot of a Google DeepMind artificial intelligence program playing the Atari game Breakout, the program has learned to create a tunnel through the wall of blocks and send a ball through it to destroy more blocks, improving its score.

In this screenshot of a Google DeepMind artificial intelligence program playing the Atari game Breakout, the program has learned to create a tunnel through the wall of blocks and send a ball through it to destroy more blocks, improving its score.

Scientists at Google have produced an artificial intelligence program that can ace classic Atari video games.

The Deep Q-network (DQN) developed at London-based AI firm DeepMind, which was acquired by Google last year, can teach itself to play Atari 2600 video games using only the score and the pixel display as input information.

In a study published in the journal Nature, Demis Hassabis and other Google DeepMind collaborators said the program was able to surpass the performance of previous algorithms on most of the 49 games it tested on. It was also able to match the skill of a professional human games tester.

The program did not know the rules beforehand and was armed only with the motivation to maximize its score and the ability to learn from previous gaming sessions. It was able to excel at games including Video Pinball and Breakout, through the use of an algorithm that aims to imitate aspects of human thinking and learning.

The scientists used an approach known as reinforcement learning, which involves offering rewards as motivation for an AI system to learn. They combined that with a kind of artificial neural network, called a deep neural network, which makes use of various computational layers to represent increasingly abstract representations of data.

The team focused on a biologically inspired architecture known as a deep convolutional network, an approach similar to that taken by University of Maryland scientists who have been getting robots to teach themselves to cook by watching videos on YouTube.

The DQN algorithm did well on a variety of games, including side-scrolling shooter games, boxing matches and 3D car racing. It was also able to achieve more than 75 percent of the human score in 29 of the 49 games.

More significantly, however, it was able to learn strategy over many sessions. After 600 sessions playing Breakout, it learned the winning strategy of tunneling behind a wall of bricks that the player must destroy. It repeatedly sent the ball into the tunnel so it bounced around, destroying many bricks.

It's not the first time algorithms have been trained to play video games with minimal input, and DQN fared poorly on games such as Montezuma's Revenge, which requires a long-term planning strategy.

But the researchers said a single architecture has been shown to be able to learn and adapt when faced with various gaming challenges. They view it as another step in building effective, general-purpose AI programs.

"Taken together, our work illustrates the power of harnessing state-of-the-art machine learning techniques with biologically inspired mechanisms to create agents that are capable of learning to master a diverse array of challenging tasks," the authors wrote.

Tim Hornyak covers Japan and emerging technologies for The IDG News Service. Follow Tim on Twitter at @robotopia.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags popular scienceGooglegamesDeepMindinternetsearch engines

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Tim Hornyak

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?