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AI that bested shogi expert now wants to decide loans

Posted: 18 Jan 2016 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:computer program? Ponanza? Japan? chess?

A computer program that has once defeated a human Japanese chess expert is now setting its sights on the financial industry.

Several years ago, Issei Yamamoto developed a program called Ponanza, which in 2013, took down a man named Shinichi Sato in an event called Shogi Master versus Machine match. Technology news site CNET reported that Sato, a shogi or Japanese chess expert, had been doing well until he made several mistakes halfway into the game.

Now Heroz Inc., the Japanese start-up whose engineers developed the program, has figured out the next task for Ponanza: figure out payments on a new mortgage.

In an interview with Bloomberg, Heroz Chief Financial Officer Daisuke Asahara said they hope the lessons Ponanza learned during its shogi matches can be applied "to the crunching of data for banks deciding whether customers are creditworthy."

So far, computers using the program were already able to compute large amount of consumers' deposit and withdrawal information, as well as data from social networks, to help banks in making loan decisions, Asahara told the news outlet.

"There are times that computers can see as correct what humans perceive to be wrong," the executive said, according to the Bloomberg report.

IBM's Deep Blue went down in history as the first computer to defeat a chess master when it defeated world champion Garry Kasparov in 1997, but shogi's a bit more complex than chess, which was why it took more than a dozen years before Heroz's program was able to best a human player.

There are about 10 to the power of 120 possible moves in a game of conventional chess. In comparison, a game of shogi has about 10 to the power of 220 possible variations, according to Heroz's website.

Heroz was founded in 2009 by former NEC Corp. employees Takahiro Hayashi and Tomohiro Takahashi. The company, which has about 70 employees, develops "intellectual" products like shogi and chess games for smartphones.

Late last year, Heroz sold ?100 million ($837,000) worth of equity to Japanese start-up fund Hifumi Incubation Fund to help the company's foray into financial analysis. Asahara told Bloomberg the funding will pay for cloud servers and additional computer engineers they plan on hiring.

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