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Gran Turismo 7's new AI might be able to beat the game's best players

Gran Turismo 7 developer Polyphony Digital, in partnership with Sony AI, has unleashed a new artificial intelligence named Sophy upon the game.

Gran Turismo 7's Sophy AI is designed to give even the most prolific racers a run for their money. Sophy has been trained to learn from the PS5 racing sim's playerbase in order to create an AI agent that feels like you're racing against real players (thanks, Venture Beat).

Sophy is available to race against in Gran Turismo 7 right now, albeit in a limited capacity. Players must access the new 'Race Together' mode from the main menu, and you're currently limited to just a handful of tracks at varying difficulty levels.

The mode is only available for a limited time, too, from now until the end of March. However, Polyphony has confirmed it'll take on feedback from this session to improve Sophy and will hold multiple trials in the game throughout the year.

A Ferrari F40 shown in Scapes photo mode in Gran Turismo 7

(Image credit: Sony / Polyphony Digital)

"Prior AI, which has been mostly the same for the last 20 years, tries to follow a line and a particular trajectory. So it’s trying to hit certain speeds at certain points," says Sophy project lead Peter Wurman. "And it’s very predictable. And it’s not nearly fast enough for really good (human) drivers."

There's much truth to Wurman's words here. The best racing games typically scale AI based on difficulty level. But eventually, the best players of any given racing game will know the AI from inside out. That makes them fairly manageable even at the hardest level, and knowing various quirks to exploit can make racing against more standard AI even easier.

The future of racing game AI?

Gran Turismo 7

(Image credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment)

Sophy is clearly a very ambitious project, and making use of a neural network-trained AI is certainly something new in the realm of racing games. The closest thing I can think of is Forza Motorsport's Drivatar system, which does its best to adapt to the racing behaviors of the players they're based on.

If Sophy does work as intended, it could be quite revolutionary to how future racing games design their computer-controlled drivers. As Wurman hints, there's only so much an AI can do with pre-defined behaviors and limits.

With Sophy, there's potential for the AI to adapt human-like behavior. That could be taking risks like braking for a corner later than usual, or figuring out the optimal time to hit the pit lane for a change of tires.

Though I worry that some bad habits could seep into Sophy's AI, too. GT7's online Sport mode, despite the game's pleas to sportsmanship, is rife with hyper-aggressive players who aim to disadvantage other players while skirting penalties. Often, this works in the aggressor's favor.

Time will tell if Sophy develops into Gran Turismo 7's model pro driver, or a Wacky Races-esque disaster on wheels. But either way, I think it's an interesting and productive use of AI technology that could lend a much-needed degree of unpredictability to GT7's single player modes.

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