The student team Fruitpunch AI of the Eindhoven University of Technology is organizing an E-sport event for artificial intelligence (AI) in 2019. Besides this being fun for the nerds and geeks among the university students, the team has a clear goal in mind: ‘building a community around the application of AI’.

“That community, a joint effort, is what we miss in the field”, explains Fruitpunch co-founder Buster Franken. “Then we started looking at how we could make that interesting for students. It had to be something that students know and that is also relevant to the application of AI.” This is how the data science student concluded it had to be AI E-sports. “Because a game is always a model of reality, think of chess or a video game. So it’s relatively easy to rewrite an AI that was originally meant for a game into one that covers real-world problems.”

According to Franken, artificial intelligence is the artificial variant of human cognition. “In a game, a person uses that cognition to solve a problem.” He mentions Open AI as an example. “At Open AI, they wrote an AI that could beat the best human team in a game. After that, they quickly converted that code to driving the fine motor skills of a robot hand,” says Franken. “That shows the power of developing an AI for games. The bridge to real-world applications is very short.”

So the AI E-sports competition has two goals for Fruitpunch AI. “Students learn to apply AI (machine learning) and also do research on AI through the competition”, Franken explains. “The challenges we set in the competition, are determined with the help of the professors of the TU Eindhoven. In this way, they directly connect to the biggest challenges in the cutting edge application of AI, such as the care robots.”

AI E-sports event

The AI E-sports competition is for all universities. It is a long-term competition that students work on all year round. “It’s actually a kind of RoboCup for AI, with Eindhoven as the epicentre. International teams from all kinds of universities can participate.” Franken has a sharp goal in mind. “With this, we can not only help the Netherlands in the field of AI. Much more than that,  Europe can also compete with China and America.”

The fact that AI is still in full development in Europe is also mentioned in this article: ‘Facebook AI boss calls for more research ambitions in Europe.’

Meanwhile, three Dutch teams from the University of Eindhoven, Tilburg and Utrecht, have signed up for the E-sports competition. With these teams, Fruitpunch AI wants to organize a pilot competition in March. Then they will work towards the big event in the summer. But before that happens, the infrastructure must be good. “We work together with computer company IBM and are allowed to use their servers. We don’t want the hardware to be a limiting factor. It’s about the quality of the code, not about who can buy the most graphics cards and therefore has the best hardware. If it appears during the pilot that the infrastructure is well organised, Franken will also invite international teams. “I am already working on the first contact with the universities of Vienna and Graz, for example.”

Community

Thanks to the AI E-sports event, Fruitpunch AI is building a community around the application of AI. According to Franken, artificial intelligence is multidisciplinary. “It is very essential for the progress in the field that people are connected to each other. Although this is often not the nature of a researcher.” Last month, the team organised an event to initiate collaboration between different faculties and research fields. “It was for students, researchers and the business community. Each group gave a presentation and could then network and discuss with each other.”

“AI is very interesting because it is likely to have a big impact on society as a whole.”

Fruitpunch AI works closely with Data Science Center Eindhoven. “They already saw a year and a half ago that there was too little connection between the different AI data science research branches of the different faculties”, Franken explains. “They now are really busy connecting research. While we are more on the student side. In my opinion, that is a match made in heaven.”

Internet culture

Artificial intelligence is still a young field of research at the TU Eindhoven. “It all started because we now have more computing power and better computers. According to Franken, this also means that it still has a playful character. “I was in Vienna recently, at a congress and there the world leaders in the field of AI simply made the same jokes, with memes, as we do,” he says laughingly. “But in the end, we do something that is very serious. AI is very interesting because it is likely to have a big impact on society as a whole.”