Cannes Lions

Google DeepMind AlphaGo in U.K. Wins Innovation Grand Prix

Artifical Intelligence Computer System Beats Grandmaster at Game of Go

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Google DeepMind won the Innovation Lions Grand Prix for AlphaGo, a computing system that for the first time beat the best human player at Go, an ancient game that is much more complex than chess. The Artificial Intelligence system was developed in the U.K. by DeepMind, a company acquired by Google in 2014.

WHAT IT IS: The game of Go is the ultimate challenge, with more than 200 possible moves for every turn, making it impossible for a machine to calculate all options within a reasonable period of time. AlphaGo narrows the choices without having to consider every option, said jury president Emad Tahtouh, director, applied technology, at Finch in Australia. Google described it as "more akin to intuition," he said.

WHY IT WON: "AlphaGo by any measure -- complexity, simplicity, potential use, success -- is incredible," he said. "I'm sure we'll see more machine-learning projects over the next few years. Awarding this, much in the same way as [The Next Rembrandt, which has won multiple Grand Prix] is the future."

Mr. Tahtouh said everyone has a slightly different definition of innovation. For him, it's not necessarily about high tech, or even doing something for the first time.

"Innovation for me is about improvement," he said. "We're looking for attempts that make things better. A computer that plays games has been around for years. [The difference is] it's about switching from brute force to deep learning."

THE JURY: In an insight into the judging process, Mr. Tahtouh said that he asked judges, whether they loved or hated a piece, to try to remain neutral until they had seen the finalists' presentations, and started to discuss them. He applied the same process to the Grand Prix selection. The nine judges were unanimous on awarding Lions to five of the entries. Mr. Tahtouh then asked them to look at the five and pick two as their Grand Prix choices, or choose one twice if they had only one Grand Prix favorite. The result: 18 votes for Google DeepMind AlphaGo.

LIONS AWARDED: The three-year-old Innovation category is still small but growing fast. With entries up to 381 this year from 226 in 2015, the jury shortlisted 39, and those finalists each made brief in-person presentations to the jury at the beginning of the week. In addition to the Grand Prix, the jury awarded eight Innovation Lions. The category was dominated by the U.S. and Europe, with the U.S. and the U.K. each winning two Innovation Lions (in addition to the U.K.'s Grand Prix), and one each for Israel, Germany, the Netherlands and Australia.