Monday 22 January 2018

Super Mario just got smarter, but how smart?

The Mario AI project shows how Mario can plan moves himself
The Mario AI project shows how Mario can plan moves himself

Jake Burman

Mario just got a little more super thanks to team of German researchers who have programmed him to become self aware.

The Mario AI project has created an artificially intelligent version of Nintendo’s most prominent character, enabling him to acknowledge himself, his surrounding environment and even respond to spoken instructions.

The Cognitive Modelling Group, from the University of Tubingen, released a video showcasing the new Mario in a level of the renowned Super Mario World.

It shows how they have programmed him to retain internal emotive states that are affected by the player’s orders. At one point he is told, “don’t be so happy” and he subsequently reduces his happiness levels.

He is able to explore the level at his own will, gathering knowledge about items that are unknown to him, providing that his curiosity is high. Likewise when he becomes hungry he will gather coins in the world in order to feed his appetite.

Mario can even be taught that jumping on his infamous Goomba enemy will “most certainly” kill it. While he will proceed to kill the recurring mushroom with the simple instruction “kill enemy”.

The group added another impressive feature by programming Mario to calculate how many moves he must make to reach a self selected target.

Martin Butz, head of cognitive modelling at the university, believes the project demonstrate how psychological learning principles can be applied to an artificial environment.

 “Our motivation was to illustrate what cognitive science does research on and if these principles can be implemented and used to generate live agents that are autonomous, curious, interested about their world and then able to communicate this,” he said.

However transhumanist George Dvorsky dismissed the idea that Mario is now self-aware.

While Dvorsky, contributing editor of science fiction blog io9, credits the Mario AI project for its important work, he believes that Mario’s feelings are not caused by a consciousness similar to that of humans.

“Mario's human-like behaviors and feelings are programmed into him by brute force, and are not the result of a sophisticated human-like psychology,” he said.

Independent News Service

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