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When it comes to competitive games, AI systems have already shown they can easily mop the floor with the best humanity has to offer. But life in the real world isn't a zero sum game like poker or Starcraft and we need AI to work with us, not against us. That's why a research team from Facebook taught an AI how to play the cooperative card game Hanabi (the Japanese word for fireworks), to gain a better understanding of how humans think.
Specifically, the Facebook team set out to instill upon its AI system the theory of mind. "Theory of mind is this idea of understanding the beliefs and intentions of other agents or other players or humans," Noam Brown, a researcher at Facebook AI, told Engadget. "It's something that humans developed from a very early age. But one AIs have struggled with for a very long time."
"It's trying to put itself in the shoes of the other players and ask why are they taking these actions," Brown continued, "and being able to infer something about the state of the world that it can't directly observe."
So what better way to teach an AI to play nice and empathize with other players than through a game that's basically cooperative group solitaire? Created by French game designer Antoine Bauza in 2010, Hanabi charges its two to five players to construct five, 5-card stacks. Each stack is color coded (like solitaire's suits) and must be ordered numerically from one to five. The goal is to complete all the stacks or get as close to 25 points (five points per stack/five stacks) as possible once the team has run out of moves. The wrinkle to Hanabi is that none of the players know what's in their hands. They have to hold their cards facing away from themselves so while they don't know what they hold, their teammates do and vice versa.
Players can share information with their teammates by telling them either the color or number of cards in their hands. That information is limited to either "you have X number of blue cards" or "you have X number of 2 cards" while pointing to the specific cards. Furthermore, sharing information comes at the cost of one "information token." The number of these tokens is limited, which prevents the team from using all of the tokens at the start of the game to fully inform themselves of what everybody is holding. Instead, players have to infer what they're holding based on what their teammates are telling them and why they think their teammates are telling them at that point of the game. Basically it forces players to get into the headspace of their teammates and try to figure out the reasoning behind their actions.
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