SenseRobot plays against Xie Jing, a world champion, during a recent livestreamed event. (CHINA DAILY)
SenseRobot, a physical artificial intelligence-powered robot, made Chinese chess history recently when it beat two professional human rivals, during a livestreamed event to an audience of 850,000.
The SenseRobot AI Xiangqi Championship, which was held in Shanghai, was the first Chinese chess competition that has featured an AI-powered robot that plays Chinese chess face to face with human grandmasters.
Co-hosted by leading artificial intelligence software company SenseTime, developer of SenseRobot, and Shanghai Chess Academy, the championship had the robot play against Xie Jing, a world champion, and Gu Bowen, a national youth champion.
SenseRobot beat Gu at a level-16 game, while Xie failed in his challenge against the robot in a game at level 26, the most difficult level of the game.
"Unlike traditional AI Chinese chess software, I was most impressed with SenseRobot's agility and steady operation, as well as its ability to calmly play the game, just like a real player," said Xie, who is an apprentice of legendary grandmaster Hu Ronghua and currently serves as a coach and player for the Shanghai Chinese Chess Team.
"There is no doubt that SenseRobot can serve as an assistant coach for people who want to learn Chinese chess and train their skills," he added.
Hu, who has won the national singles' championship 14 times and was awarded an international grandmaster of Chinese chess by the Asian Xiangqi Federation in 1988, spoke highly of the various techniques and wonderful performances from both the human players and the robot.
"This was not only an exciting competition between humans and artificial intelligence technology, but also a powerful step forward for both Chinese chess and Chinese culture," Hu said.
"As a traditional sport, Chinese chess should not be confined to current limitations, it should also be entertaining to attract a wider audience. A human-machine match can inspire the young generations to see the charm of Chinese chess, participate in the game, and hopefully bring Chinese chess more into the spotlight," he added.
SenseRobot has an appealing, simple, high-tech design and an appearance of a small astronaut. As one of SenseTime's latest additions to its smart life product offerings, SenseRobot features the company's leading industrial-grade robotic arm technology.
As the company's first product facing consumers, SenseRobot has been certified by the Chinese Xiangqi Association. It offers players different playing modes, including AI Chinese chess learning, endgame challenge, Chinese chess breakthrough and final challenge, as well as multiple skill levels to choose from, starting with the basics to explain Chinese chess to more than 100 endgame settings and 26 levels of matches.
"Our goal is to create a robot that can physically 'think' and 'act' with our leading AI technology, bring industrial-grade AI technology to every family, and carry out real interactions with children and elderly family members," Xu Li, executive chairman of the board and CEO of SenseTime, told China Daily in a previous interview.
Shen Hui, dean of the Innovative Engineering Institute of Sense-Time, said they hope through SenseRobot people can further promote traditional Chinese chess culture with technology.
"We will host a series of exhilarating AI Chinese chess championships as we continue to generate new excitement for Chinese chess."