The University of Southampton

AI students clinch first prize in international automated negotiating league

Published: 10 September 2019
(l-r) Dr Enrico Gerding, Shaobo Xu, Peihao Ren and Professor Tim Norman

Two Artificial Intelligence students from the University of Southampton have won an International Automated Negotiating Agents Competition (ANAC) with an algorithmic strategy they fine-tuned during their degree.

Shaobo Xu and Peihao Ren developed the Agent GG software programme to autonomously negotiate the value of items such as apples and bananas by analysing up to thousands of rounds of data against rival participants.

The pair scooped first prize in the agent to agent league of the ANAC competition, held on August 15th at the International Joint Conference on AI (IJCAI) in Macau, China.

The success was one of two accolades for Southampton's School of Electronics and Computer Science at IJCAI 2019, with lecturer Dr Long Tran-Thanh delivering a prestigious Early Career Spotlight talk recognising his potential as a future leader in his field.

Southampton's expertise in computer vision, robotics and machine learning techniques has been delivered in over 10 years of teaching in its research-led MSc Artificial Intelligence programme. Shaobo and Peihao developed Agent GG as part of their Intelligent Agents module, with the creation finishing second in an in-class competition.

"We are excited to have ranked so highly in the competition and want to thank Module Lead Dr Enrico Gerding for all his support this past year," Peihao says. "We adapted our coursework according to the latest rules, adjusting just a few parameters, and we never expected our agent to outperform such impressive participants.

"Our agent assumes the opponent will always offer its best bid at first and then compromise, estimating the utility of a mid-point bid using both sides' best bids. Our method of compromising was key to our success, with offered bids always more favourable to our agent and the offers slowly compromised to the mid-point bid."

The Southampton students received €250 prize money, as well as a €750 scholarship from the organisers.

This summer's event was the 10th edition of the annual contest, with challengers divided into agent-agent, human-agent, supply chain management, diplomacy and werewolf leagues. Southampton students Meng Wan and Hui Cui finished second in last year's competition.

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