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A little competition

High school students create AI game for Two Sigma Investments

In the 2017 competition, the players programmed their bots for an outer space theme.

A online game platform developed by two high school student interns for internal use at Two Sigma Investments LLP captured the imagination of data scientists around the world in a recently ended competition.

The students, Benjamin Spector (coincidentally, son of Two Sigma's chief technology officer, Alfred Z. Spector) and Michael Truell, in 2016 created Halite, an online, open-source artificial intelligence competition that requires players to program their own bots for the game, said Harikrishna Menon, vice president and product manager.

Halite players can use any coding language to build the bots that then battle on a two-dimensional virtual gaming board.

In internal play, Two Sigma employees were "impressed by how elegant the game is. It's simple and open-ended," Mr. Menon said.

Two Sigma first invited the world to participate in the contest in 2016 and entertained 1,600 applicants.

Halite II, 2017's contest, was even more successful, attracting 5,832 players from 110 countries who sent their bots into virtual outer space to conquer planets, build more rocket ships and defeat enemies.

Top players won Two Sigma swag rather than cash prizes as well as the opportunity to skip the first round of Two Sigma's interview process for engineering and financial modeling jobs, Mr. Menon said.

Two Halite players were hired in 2016, and the company currently is working through interviews with a full pipeline of very talented potential employees, Mr. Menon said.

Two Sigma manages $52 billion in hedge funds, risk premium strategies and other alternative investments.