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Is Gran Turismo 7’s Best Driver Its Sophy AI System?

Recent hands-on demos showcase a deeper level understanding compared to other AI systems

Gran Turismo Sophy is a superhuman racing AI that was created to challenge even the best of players – and it would seem it’s doing exactly that.

Racing against AI in games is nothing new, be it in Gran Turismo, Forza, or even street racing in Need For Speed. However, the level of these AI drivers tends to vary, and upping the difficulty doesn’t always feel like the AI got smarter, but instead sometimes feels like they simply gain unfair advantages such as near endless super speed or they become aggressive and continuously crash into you like you’re not there.

This isn’t to say the AI is bad; for the most part, the big-name racing games deliver us AI that is fun to race against. In saying that, there’s always room for improvement though, and the best players out there are looking for bigger and better challenges, that feel intense where there is a sense of tactical manoeuvring, rather than just simply going around a track as fast as possible. These experiences are often only found when we play against other real players, but maybe not for much longer with the Sophy AI.

Faster, smarter and more fun to play against

We reported on the new superhuman AI earlier this year, which was made in partnership between Sony AI and Polyphony Digital. Rather than just going through the motions of getting around the track, the Sophy AI learns from its experience, getting around the track cleanly is the goal and when it leaves the track or causes collisions, this results in a penalty that the AI learns from to become a formidable opponent without being unnecessarily aggressive and frustrating to drive against.

Sophy AI can make split-second decisions, calculating when to pass an opponent or when to perform defensive manoeuvring to ensure they themselves can’t be passed. The AI’s ability to showcase a deep understanding of not only the track but also its own capabilities all in real-time is helping to create the next level of AI.

The future of racing AI

At the recent Gran Turismo World Series Finals in Monaco, gtplanet was able to grab a hands-on experience to race against the super AI and it didn’t disappoint. Racing a super AI is probably slightly daunting and AI doesn’t feel the same pressures we do, which means it won’t make human errors.

However as players, we’re used to adapting to AI and learning how they like to work, so we can out-manoeuvre them. So when Jordan Greer took to the track and made a mistake on the first corner the expectation was that Sophy would swoop in and try to slip by, most likely crashing into the player in the process, but this wasn’t the case. Greer noted that, “Watching Sophy in the mirror, I could see it contemplating the move, then explicitly making the choice not to take it.”

Facing an AI that is more unpredictable instantly ups the ante, and smart decision-making gives the player a more immersive experience. Not only is Sophy an impressive opponent, but also a worthy driver to learn from. Players can’t always guarantee a good race against real people but Sophy is always ready for the next race and can be a useful tool for players to learn from.

Greer commented that the experience was a positive one and that, “It was a blast to drive with, and absolutely nothing like the tedious experience of racing against Gran Turismo 7’s current AI drivers.” Unfortunately, Sophy is not yet available to the public and full integration with the game is still a work in progress, but it’s great news for fans knowing they can look forward to facing a more formidable AI opponent in the future.

Written By

Paige Cook is a writer with a multi-media background. She has experience covering video games and technology and also has freelance experience in video editing, graphic design, and photography. Paige is a massive fan of the movie industry and loves a good TV show, if she is not watching something interesting then she's probably playing video games or buried in a good book. Her latest addiction is virtual photography and currently spends far too much time taking pretty pictures in games rather than actually finishing them.

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