Going places: machine beats top Go player in win for artificial intelligence

Wed Mar 9, 2016 5:52am EST
 
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By Jee Heun Kahng and Se Young Lee

SEOUL (Reuters) - Google's AlphaGo computer program on Wednesday won the first of five matches against one of the world's top players of a complex board game, Go, marking a dramatic advance for the field of artificial intelligence (AI).

South Korean professional player Lee Sedol, the holder of 18 international titles, conceded defeat in a match broadcast live, with one YouTube stream drawing tens of thousands of spectators worldwide, while domestic television gave frequent updates.

"We landed on the moon," Demis Hassabis, chief executive and co-founder of Google subsidiary DeepMind, which built AlphaGo, said in a tweet after the victory. "So proud of the team!"

AlphaGo had made history in October, by becoming the first computer program ever to beat a human professional player at the ancient Asian game, which many experts consider to be the most fiendishly complicated of its kind.

But 33-year-old Lee, a much more challenging opponent, was considered a bigger hurdle for a machine to vanquish.

Lee expressed surprise at his loss.

"I didn't think AlphaGo would play the game in such a perfect manner," he told reporters after the match. "I would like to express my respect to the programmers for making such an amazing program."

Go, most popular in countries such as China, South Korea and Japan, involves two contestants moving black and white stones on a square grid, with the aim of seizing the most territory.   Continued...

 
South Korea's Lee Sedol, the world's top Go player, speaks during a news conference ahead of matches against Google's artificial intelligence program AlphaGo, in Seoul, South Korea, March 8, 2016.  REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji