Results of the 2018 Man vs Machine Challenge

Every year, the Angry Birds AI Competition is followed by a Man vs Machine Challenge, where humans can challenge the four best AI agents. The purpose of this challenge is to see if we have reached the goal of the AIBIRDS competition to outperform the best human players in playing new Angry Birds levels. A recent survey among AI researchers found that AIBIRDS was considered the AI Milestone where AI will beat humans next, so the pressure was on for AI to perform well. 

This year, quite a few members of the Rovio Stockholm office attended our Man vs Machine Challenge, and these were clearly some of the very best Angry Birds players around. So the challenge was definitely on. But surprisingly (or maybe not so surprisingly), the IJCAI participants who normally form the majority of challenge participants did very well. After many years of Angry Birds challenges at IJCAI, they are now so experienced at playing Angry Birds that they are probably among the best Angry Birds players in the world. 

For the Challenge, we designed a set of 4 new and very hard levels and both humans and AI had only 10 minutes to solve them. Humans played first. After all humans played, only 11 participants were able to solve all 4 levels. One of the Rovio members had the highest score and an an IJCAI participant the second highest score.

Now it was up to the AI agents to show how good they are and if they can beat the best humans already. The four semi-finalists from the day before qualified for the Challenge: the winner Eagle's Wings, the second placed agent BamBirds, the third placed agent Eagle's Wings Sim and IHSEV.

We ran our agents at the nearby World Computer Chess competition, as they had a nice set up with a large screen and chairs for the audience (thank you!). The Chess matches were professionally commented by a Chess Grand Master, who also commented on how the agents played Angry Birds (and was very impressed by our competition). 

Unfortunately, the agents were not so impressive. The best performing AI agent, BamBirds, solved only 2 of the 4 levels in 10 minutes. 

Therefore, the winner of our 2018 AIBIRDS Man vs Machine Challenge is Lucas Bourneuf, a PhD student from the University of Rennes, who said he played Angry Birds for the first time. Congratulations Lucas! 

Note, Mark Baxter from the Rovio Stockholm office actually had the highest score overall, but since he is a Rovio employee he said it feels a bit like cheating if he wins and wanted Lucas to be declared the winner. We respect Mark's decision, but also say congratulations to Mark, well done! 

Humans still beat AI at Angry Birds and it seems AI is not getting any closer. AI still has a long way to go to master this very hard problem that is much closer to real world problems than seemingly difficult games like Chess or Go. Let's see how well we can do in 2019.