/AlphaGo’s new rival? Tencent’s AI Go program won UEC in Japan

AlphaGo’s new rival? Tencent’s AI Go program won UEC in Japan

Tencent once again proved that the company is not messing around with its game in the Artificial Intelligence (AI) arena. The tech giant’s AI Go program “Fine Art” or “Jueyi” just won the championship title yesterday in the 10th UEC Cup Computer Go in Japan.

Fine Art performed exceptionally well in this match, winning all 11 games straight. The Go match, held in Japan every year, only invites AI competitors. Tencent was competing against a slew of famous AI Go-playing teams such as France’s Crazy Stone, Facebook’s Darkforest, and Japan’s DeepZenGo which ended up as runner-up this year. The tournament invited AlphaGo, but it declined the invitation.

It has been a year since Google’s AlphaGo surprised the world with its 4-1 victory over Lee Sedol, one of the top Go players in the world. As AI research has been going wild in the West, Chinese companies are gearing up to compete.

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AlphaGo defeated Lee Sedol, one of the world’s top players of the board game Go, in March 2016. (Photo from qq.com)

Following AlphaGo’s footsteps, Tencent joined the machine-learning club last April by establishing an AI lab. The tech company began to develop its own Go-playing program and algorithm. Later in August 2016, their developers put up the board game on the Chinese online game platform foxwq.com so that the machine could “learn” from professional players.

According to Tencent’s tech blog, Fine Art adopts a similar system to AlphaGo which primarily comprises of two computer systems including a human match database and the robot’s own processing system.

Consisting of 13 researchers, Tencent AI Lab focuses on research in speech recognition, deep learning, natural language processing, and computer vision. The company has already made use of machine learning in its products – giving news recommendations to its users for instance.

Tencent is not the only Chinese tech company that has been aggressively investing and developing AI programs. Baidu, the operator of the country’s major search engine, stepped up its game in AI research when the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) announced a plan to partner with the tech giant to set up a national engineering lab on deep learning technologies.

Baidu is leading the charge in the lab, working with China’s top research universities such as Tsinghua and Beihang universities, as well as other Chinese institutes. With millions of users, Baidu and Tencent have access to a humongous amount of data to further develop and train AI algorithm.

China has become a crucial hub in AI research. According to the Atlantic, the quantity of AI research has grown rapidly. And it’s not just the academic research. The Chinese tech companies are betting on AI as well. What’s the next thing to watch for in Chinese AI? Let’s first hope that AlphaGo would take on Fine Art. That will be fun to watch.

(Top photo from Baidu Images)

Timmy contributes at AllChinaTech. He's passionate about photography, education, food and all things tech. He holds a master's degree from Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.