As a developer, I have been hearing a lot of stories lately about how companies have solved their business problems using machine learning (ML), so one of my goals for 2021 is to learn more about it.
For the last few years I have been using artificial intelligence (AI) services such as, Amazon Rekognition, Amazon Comprehend, and others extensively. AI services provide a simple API to solve common ML problems such as image recognition, text to speech, and analysis of sentiment in a text. When using these high-level APIs, you don’t need to understand how the underlying ML model works, nor do you have to train it, or maintain it in any way.
Even though those services are great and I can solve most of my business cases with them, I want to understand how ML algorithms work, and that is how I started tinkering with AWS DeepRacer.
AWS DeepRacer, a service that helps you learn reinforcement learning (RL), has been around since 2018. RL is an advanced ML technique that takes a very different approach to training models than other ML methods. Basically, it can learn very complex behavior without requiring any labeled training data, and it can make short-term decisions while optimizing for a long-term goal.
AWS DeepRacer is an autonomous 1/18th scale race car designed to test RL models by racing virtually in the AWS DeepRacer console or physically on a track at AWS and customer events. AWS DeepRacer is for developers of all skill levels, even if you don’t have any ML experience. When learning RL using AWS DeepRacer, you can take part in the AWS DeepRacer League where you get experience with machine learning in a fun and competitive environment.
Over the past year, the AWS DeepRacer League’s races have gone completely virtual and participants have competed for different kinds of prizes. However, the competition has become dominated by experts and newcomers haven’t had much of a chance to win.
The 2021 season introduces new skill-based Open and Pro racing divisions, where racers of all skill levels have five times more opportunities to win rewards than in previous seasons.
How the New AWS DeepRacer Racing Divisions Work
The 2021 AWS DeepRacer league runs from March 1 through the end of October. When it kicks off, all participants will enter the Open division, a place to have fun and develop your RL knowledge with other community members.
At the end of every month, the top 10% of the Open division leaderboard will advance to the Pro division for the remainder of the season; they’ll also receive a Pro Welcome kit full of AWS DeepRacer swag. Pro division racers can win DeepRacer Evo cars and AWS DeepRacer merchandise such as hats and T-shirts.
At the end of every month, the top 16 racers in the Pro division will compete against each other in a live race console. That race will determine who will advance that month to the 2021 Championship Cup at re:Invent 2021.
The monthly Pro division winner gets an expenses-paid trip to re:Invent 2021 and participates in the Championship Cup to get a chance to win a Machine Learning education sponsorship worth $20k.
In both divisions, you can collect digital rewards, including vehicle customizations and accessories which will be released to participants once the winners are announced each month.
You can start racing in the Open division any time during the 2021 season. Get started here!
At the end of March, you will be able to create a new racer profile with an avatar and show the world which country you are representing.
I hope to see you in the new AWS DeepRacer season, where I’ll start in the Open division as MaVi.