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This article was published on July 8, 2021

New ML-based console cheat puts the AI in ‘aim assist’

Everything old is new again

New ML-based console cheat puts the AI in ‘aim assist’
Tristan Greene
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Tristan Greene

Editor, Neural by TNW

Tristan is a futurist covering human-centric artificial intelligence advances, quantum computing, STEM, physics, and space stuff. Pronouns: Tristan is a futurist covering human-centric artificial intelligence advances, quantum computing, STEM, physics, and space stuff. Pronouns: He/him

Aim bots are nothing new in the world of competitive online gaming. But the possible existence of a virtually undetectable new machine learning-powered cheat for consoles has the gaming community in a bit of a fervor as of late.

Up front: We can’t confirm its existence, but the Anti-Cheat Police Department Twitter account posted footage of what it says is a legitimate AI-powered cheating software.

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What makes this interesting is that it’s alleged to work on consoles. While consoles are typically more difficult to cheat on than PCs, due to the nature of their respective operating systems, it’s certainly not rare to come across people using aim assistance software (aim bots) or modified controllers.

However, it’s typically relatively easy to detect them. Whether you can see the modified interface in game replays from the cheater’s perspective (a feature common to FPS games) or the developers bake in methods for detecting non-human inputs and performances, there’s usually a way to squash cheats when they start propagating.

The big deal: In the above video, what we’re allegedly seeing is a player using a PC with a capture card to send real-time gaming data (ie: whatever’s on the TV screen) from their gaming console to a cheat program running on the PC.

The cheat program then uses what appears to be a fairly basic computer vision system to identify targets. It then sends spoofed commands to the player’s controller so that the console itself is fooled into thinking the player is controlling everything.

In game, the player just has to control their on-screen avatar’s movement and aim in the general direction of enemies. The software locks on to targets and automatically fires.

Quick take: This is an interesting modern twist on a classic gaming cheat. The existence of aim bots is, unfortunately, a common evil – even on consoles. But it’s typically more of a nuisance at the public lobbies level than it is on competitive circuits.

Fortunately, there’s almost nothing noteworthy about the machine learning used in a system like this. The only interesting thing here is that the PC program spoofs commands to the controller. This makes it virtually undetectable. At least by humans working alone.

Microsoft and Sony both have outstanding AI departments and they’re both heavily-invested in fighting cheating in video games – the esports market alone is expected to surpass $1 billion this year.

Microsoft’s developing AI systems to track and detect player skill evolution. This will allow them to determine with incredible accuracy when a player employs performance-enhancing software or devices. And Sony regularly patents new anti-cheat technology.

At the end of the day, this is just another round in the cat and mouse game between cheaters and developers.

H/t: Eurogamer

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