Gran Turismo Sophy AI Development Detailed in New Video Series

Sony AI has published a new video which will be the first in a series detailing the development process and people behind the machine-learning Gran Turismo Sophy AI driver.

The initial nine-minute video, “Start Your Engines”, covers some of the people behind the original idea of teaching an AI — or rather letting it teach itself — how to drive a car in Gran Turismo, and eventually getting faster than human players could manage.

That story starts with an intern, Florian Fuchs, who worked with Kenta Kawamoto on the “under-the-desk” project in 2020. Fuchs essentially generated the first version of Sophy, with the AI “agent” learning the fastest way around a track on its own.

Due to various travel and social restrictions at the time, Fuchs had to run most of the work in a tiny apartment in Tokyo, running nine PlayStation 4s non-stop. This apparently caused a 500% increase in the electricity bill, and we’re sure it wouldn’t have been a pleasant experience with all that heat and noise.

The first versions of Gran Turismo Sophy found general racecraft a bit tricky

The project’s success in developing an AI with superhuman pace resulted in Sony AI taking it to the next level, and trying to create something that could compete with the best human Gran Turismo players in the world.

That essentially put the full force of Sony AI behind the project, as well as bringing Polypony Digital more directly into play.

During the video we’re introduced to Michael Spranger, chief operating officer of Sony AI, as well as Peter Stone and Peter Wurman who are executive directors of the Sony AI America branch. Stone founded Cogitai, for which Wurman worked prior to the company’s acquisition by Sony in 2019.

In the clip, Wurman explains the four different research paths for the Sophy AI. That covers the raw pace, racecraft, the AI’s internal architecture, and finally the all-important sportsmanship.

Of course we’ve already seen the first results of GT Sophy’s performance against the best drivers in the world, but we also learn during the clip that it was something of a steep learning curve.

While this is the first part of a video series, at the moment we don’t know how many videos there’ll be or when they’ll arrive. Stay tuned for the next episode!

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