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How Sony AI used a former GT Academy finalist to train Gran Turismo Sophy

How Sony AI used a former GT Academy finalist to train Gran Turismo Sophy

In a new development video tracking the progress of the racing artificial intelligence programme, the team called on former GT Academy regional finalist Tim Grossenbacher.

The second ‘The Team Behind GT Sophy’ video has been released by Sony AI, and it showcases the early stages of development for the pioneering project.

Timothy Grossenbacher is a former GT Academy contestant – the competition offered opportunities for PlayStation 3 players to become works Nissan real-world motorsport competitors between 2008 and 2016.

He was enlisted by the Gran Turismo Sophy team to help set targets for what how artificial intelligence should race against human beings.

“Good luck with that, was the first thing I thought,” said Grossenbacher.

“[At first] they just went side to side all the time with the car. It wasn’t really that good, but it was very fast.”

With Tim’s feedback, the team at Sony AI set to work building upon the impressive one-lap speed and turning it into something that could race cleanly and fairly.

Grossenbacher reached the French and Swiss regional, in-person, finals for the 2011 GT Academy at Circuit Paul Ricard, Le Castellet. He finished in seventh, with the top two progressing into the final race camp at Silverstone, ultimately won by Jann Mardenborough.

Timothy Grossenbacher, GT Academy, Gran Turismo, 2011
Timothy Grossenbacher, GT Academy, 2011

“The whole overtaking challenge is so much more difficult than just driving on the track by itself,” said Florian Fuchs, Machine Learning Engineer at Sony AI.

After running several tests with Grossenbacher, sometimes with one Sophy agent ahead for him to catch and one behind with the hope it would catch him, over time things started to improve.

“It was just mind-blowing”, said the now-retired Gran Turismo competitor once Sophy had finally managed to overtake the past master.

The rest of the video, which is well worth a watch, focuses on the AI’s debut event against the best Gran Turismo racers in the world and how they aim to learn from that outing.

The plan for Sophy is still unclear and is still in development following another recent outing at the 2022 Gran Turismo 7 World Series Nations Cup event. Some form of Gran Turismo 7 implementation is believed to be the goal.

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