Gran Turismo Sophy AI was initially a skunkworks project

Thomas Harrison-Lord
You can now learn more about the people behind the GT Sophy AI that isn’t a person. Turns out, the Gran Turismo artificial intelligence was initially an under-the-desk side project.
Gran Turismo Sophy AI project was initially a skunkworks project

A new video has highlighted the team behind the Gran Turismo Sophy artificial intelligence project, and with it how the project initially came to light.

The Sony AI company has two physical offices, one in Tokyo, Japan and one in Zurich, Switzerland, but then relies on a remote network to form a global team.

That helped Senior AI Engineer, Kenta Kawamoto, to form a special, small, project on the side.

“So, Kenta Kawamoto-san started this as an under-the-desk kind of project,” said Sony AI’s Chief Operating Officer Michael Spranger.

“Essentially, by himself with a few interns, building racing agents for Gran Turismo. I was always wondering whether we could scale that project.”

“Could we build an AI that is able to beat the best Gran Turismo drivers in the world?”

At the start of 2020, Florian Fuchs moved to Tokyo to start an internship with Kawamoto-san, but then COVID-19 hit. So, he took his PlayStation 4s and his research to his apartment.

There, he ran GT Sport on nine PS4s, 24/7, checking them at least once every hour to see if they were still running.

GT Sophy overtakes

“HR sends me an email,” says Kawamoto-san

“The electricity bill goes up six-fold.”

After Fuchs’s initial experiments, these were used as a basis to then kick off the project in a ‘serious’ way in the Autumn of that same year.

The team was then split into four main tasks for the AI to improve on:

  • Speed – Single car time trial pace
  • Skills – Racecraft against other rivals
  • Architecture – Working out what it takes to race against opponents
  • Sportsmanship – Racing fairly
Gran Turismo Sophy beats the best GT players in the world… then loses

As it stands, GT Sophy is still in development. At the recent Gran Turismo 7 World Series Nations Cup event, it was used to race against the best Gran Turismo drivers in the world, winning one race but losing a second.

“We want to deliver Gran Turismo Sophy to all players through a future Gran Turismo 7,” stated the game’s producer Kazunori Yamauchi back in February, but if that is possible and what form it would take remains to be seen.

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