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Qualcomm Technologies has announced that it is joining the video game AI race. In a joint effort with mobile phone company Vivo and tech giant Tencent, it will be developing an AI-based esports team called Supex. Supex will be facing humans in Tencent’s MOBA Honor of Kings, known as Arena of Valor in the West.

At an event that it had organized in China last week, the company showcased several applications of its new artificial intelligence technology. What makes it special is the chip maker’s claim that it does not use cloud-based processing power. Instead, all of the reasoning is done on the device side, in this case Vivo’s iQOO phone. Traditionally this is the most resource-intensive part of such applications.

Supex will also be using many of the same interfaces that players do, instead of interacting with the game engine directly. This will allow it to more fully simulate human behavior.

Beating humans all the rage

The latter is significant as projects like these are not just about bruising human egos in the game of their choice. Instead they are, at least in part, about better understanding how our minds work.

Given the same information, computers will always be able to process it faster than humans. Just increasing this speed will not make a system more intelligent, however. Much of machine learning research is centered around having the system make not faster, but better and more human decisions. If the company’s claims turn out to be true, it might be able to make a big step in that direction.

According to senior vice president Steven Ma, Tencent is also pursuing the project for more practical reasons. In a recent interview with GamesBeat, he referred to it as a way to improve both player experience as well as the game development process as a whole. Sure, an AI could provide players with a greater challenge. Its possible applications in gaming are much wider though, from testing patch changes to creating wholly new game content on its own.

“Project Imagination,” as the whole endeavor has been dubbed, will be joining a busy field. In January DeepMind’s AlphaStar went 10-1 versus an assortment of StarCraft II pros, and OpenAI’s Five handily beat Dota 2 champions OG last week. The Five are currently facing the internet in a public test, having won 3,960 matches and losing only 30 at the time of writing.

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