Posts Tagged ‘contest’

The Next AI Challenge

Thursday, April 29th, 2010

In the last day or so, I have started seriously working on the next AI Challenge, which I hope to launch in early May. The first step is to choose a game to use for the contest. This morning I came up with a short list of decent two-player strategy games, and created a Google Form to allow people to vote for their favorites. After posting the form on Reddit, I managed to get almost 600 votes in a fairly short period of time. Here are the results.

Clearly, Chess is a terrible idea. Aside from that, all the other games are completely tied. Go seems to be slightly ahead, but that could just be a fluke. Overall, these results don’t seem to be very helpful. How should I decide which game to pick?

More Addictive than Nicotine

Saturday, February 27th, 2010

When I set out to design this year’s Google AI Challenge, one of my priorities was the make the contest as addictive as possible. I didn’t have to look far for inspiration. All I had to do was borrow a few tricks from the Big Tobacco marketing playbook.

  1. Get them hooked early. In order to deliver the first fix as quickly as possible, I posted a five-minute quickstart guide with instructions on how to get your name onto the global leaderboard in less than five minutes. I posted some simple working entries on the website which could be directly re-submitted without any modifications. Cigarette companies use Joe Camel to advertise to children, drug dealers offer free doses to lure first-time users, and the contest has Starter Packages.
  2. Instant gratification. In last year’s Google AI Challenge, people would have to wait between one and two hours to see their latest submission’s ranking. This means that if it’s 3:00 AM and you just submitted your code, there is a fairly large incentive to go to bed. This is clearly unacceptable. This year, participants were able to see their new ranking within at most five minutes. By shortening the feedback loop to almost nothing, we set up a situation that is very similar to a gambling addict at a blackjack table. Just one more hand…
  3. Lace it with addictive chemicals. Despite much effort, I was not able to figure out how to lace the contest with addictive chemicals. That being said, I am fairly sure that time spent working on the contest is highly correlated with intake of caffeine and MSG.

Cigarette companies use Joe Camel to advertise to children, drug dealers offer free doses to lure first-time users, and the contest has Starter Packages.

After all was said and done, I believe that my efforts paid off. Here are a few quotes from contestants, taken the day after the submission deadline:

“I’m glad the deadline wasn’t extended, i was sleeping better last night than the previous dozens of night. i was constantly working on it, that is finally over :)

“actually I dreaded the deadline getting extended. I am really happy it’s over. my obsessive-compulsive behaviour would have continued for some time”

“I am glad that this is finally finished too, or wife is going to get grumpy. (unrecognizable yelling at the background)”

The Contest Codebase

Saturday, January 23rd, 2010

There are currently six people working on the software that runs the Google AI Challenge.  As it happens, pieces of it are written in six different programming languages.  This software is quite an eclectic beast!  Here is the breakdown of programming languages in use, by number of lines of code.

  • Java: 3000 lines
  • C: 1500 lines
  • PHP: 1200 lines
  • Ruby: 1000 lines
  • Bash: 140 lines
  • Python: 130 lines

The grand total is about 7000 lines of code, and still growing.