Will we see AI vs AI esports 'teams' play each other in the future? We ask researcher Dr Florian Block

We might not have had the singularity yet, Terminator T-1000s that can shapeshift with liquid metal or even HAL from A Space Odyssey, but we do have drones, Siri and little bots on Discord that make things easier for us, so er, maybe we’re slowly getting there.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is on the up, and it’s going to impact esports. Hell, it’s going to impact almost every industry, from online shopping to healthcare and even journalism. It already is, we now have automated articles. Will I even be typing an article like this in 10 years’ time or will a bot be doing a better job? (please don’t answer that).
More interestingly, we’ve seen AI making inroads into esports for some time now.
Google DeepMind struck a partnership with StarCraft II developer Blizzard Entertainment back in 2016 to develop smart AI bots in-game.
Last year, a bot from Elon Musk-backed startup OpenAI beat Dota 2 pro Danylo ‘Dendi’ Ishutin in a live 1v1 match. And earlier this year, DeepMind AlphaStar beat some more players, but lost to MaNa.
Dr Florian Block, Research Fellow/Lecturer in Interactive Media and Digital Creativity at the University of York, speaking at Esports Insider’s ESI Forum Series, said: “It’s safe to say that AI will transform industries. That’s a given. It will be there. And the one thing we’re really interested in is using AI to power content creation.
“So, using AI enabling technology in the creative space that doesn’t replace the human elements of the production, but enables entirely new ways to generate content. So for instance, with current human power you can’t create an interactive personalised recap in a game within ten seconds, but with technology that will be possible.”

“It’s safe to say that AI will transform industries. We want people who watch esports to be enriched through AI.”
Dr Florian Block, University of York

Will there be AI-controlled esports ‘teams’ in the future? How will AI impact esports in the long-term?
When asked by Esports News UK about this, Florian said: “I think it’s really interesting that it makes the news when bots beat humans.
“I think we’re trying a different thing. To put this in context, research is made to look at how AI can be used to solve real world problems.
“Gaming has an environment which is data-rich and good to test, but I think the exciting bit and the direction we’re going in is we’re saying, for us, the transfer between artificial intelligence and human intelligence is the key here.
“We want people who watch esports to be enriched through AI. I know this sounds complex but ultimately that transfer is the key design criteria. We don’t want to create better AIs or something like this, but you know, Robowars or something like that would probably work.”
Florian was speaking at the ESI event at London’s Grosvenor Casino on Edgware Road, along with ESL UK MD James Dean.
The pair spoke at the esports industry event about the Weavr deal which was announced last month.
Weavr is a new consortium led by ESL UK which has been awarded £4m of government funding to create new “immersive audience experiences” for esports fans. These experiences will feature technology including Artificial Intelligence (AI), 8K, Virtual Reality (VR), Augmented Reality (AR) and more.

“The UK has a unique opportunity to shape AI positively for the public’s benefit and to lead the international community in AI’s ethical development, rather than passively accept its consequences”
Lord Clement-Jones

AI cannot be ignored. Last year, the House of Lords Select Committee published a report on Artificial Intelligence, titled: ‘AI in the UK: Ready, Willing and Able?’
The Chairman of the Committee, Lord Clement-Jones, said the UK can lead the way in AI.
“The UK has a unique opportunity to shape AI positively for the public’s benefit and to lead the international community in AI’s ethical development, rather than passively accept its consequences,” he said.
“The UK contains leading AI companies, a dynamic academic research culture, and a vigorous start-up ecosystem as well as a host of legal, ethical, financial and linguistic strengths. We should make the most of this environment, but it is essential that ethics take centre stage in AI’s development and use.”
The Committee also published principles, stating that ‘AI should be developed for the common good and benefit of humanity, should operate on principles of intelligibility and fairness’, and that ‘the autonomous power to hurt, destroy or deceive human beings should never be vested in artificial intelligence’.
Well, hopefully that won’t happen. And in the meantime, AI is learning how to do creative things like play Pictionary. Beats making killer Terminators I suppose.

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