Facebook today is demonstrating recent progress in its effort to have a computer program beat a human being at the ancient Chinese board game Go.

In an academic paper that Facebook published online today, Facebook documents the advancements of its Darkforest Go players, which draw on artificial intelligence (AI) in order to more effectively win games.

“Against human players, the newest versions, darkfores2, achieve a stable 3d level on KGS Go Server as a ranked bot, a substantial improvement upon the estimated 4k-5k ranks for DCNN reported in Clark & Storkey (2015) based on games against other machine players,” Facebook AI researchers Yuandong Tian and Yan Zhu wrote in the paper’s abstract. “Adding MCTS [Monte Carlo Tree Search] to darkfores2 creates a much stronger player named darkfmcts3: with 5,000 rollouts, it beats Pachi with 10k rollouts in all 250 games; with 75k rollouts it achieves a stable 5d level in KGS server, on par with state-of-the-art Go AIs (e.g., Zen, DolBaram, CrazyStone); with 110k rollouts, it won the 3rd place in January KGS Go Tournament.”

Facebook has been trying to make computers successfully beat humans at Go for just the past few months. But Go has actually been an area of focus for researchers for decades.

Facebook has been rapidly building up AI talent and technology, and it has open-sourced software and shared the designs of its AI hardware.

Baidu, Google, and Microsoft have been very active in the domain of AI research in the past few years, as well.

Recently, IBM has been the company to impress people by using technology to beat human beings at certain specific challenges — namely, Watson beating human beings on Jeopardy and, earlier, Deep Blue beating Garry Kasparov in chess. But the technology that Facebook is employing here is different.

Today’s developments from Facebook could help the company improve several of its services, such as its yet-to-be-launched M text-based personal digital assistant.

But Facebook can certainly go further with its machines’ Go playing. The bots still need to be able to reliably beat professional players, rather than mere amateurs who use the KGS Go Server.

See the full paper (PDF) for more detail. See also Facebook AI Research head Yann LeCun’s Facebook post on the work.