German University Creates ‘Self-Aware’ Mario

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Artificial Intelligent in video games is a concept that has enticed many. Developers often strive to have in-game characters that react in an organic and real way, from challenging enemies to realistic non-player allies. Creative Assembly, the developer of Alien: Isolation claimed that the xenomorph enemies of the survival horror title were "almost sentient," whilst developers of sports games like FIFA 15 strive for as realistic a sports experience as they can offer.

Some games and developers have even tried to push the boundaries of how sentient and interactive their characters are. The Toronto FanExpo demo of Project Spark offered players a fully integrated artificial intelligence system. Some choose to go even further. Lionhead Games showcased Project Milo, which featured a young boy who could interact with players via the Kinect. Although the project was apparently never meant as a commercial release, it was still an impressive look at how AI characters could interact with players.

However, these experiments in AI did not quite go far enough for a team of German researchers. The Cognitive Modelling Group at the University of Tubingen has announced that it has created an artificially intelligent Mario that can think for himself. The study, dubbed the Mario AI Project, has ended up generating a version of the Italian plumber that is aware of both his environment and himself, and even responds to spoken instructions.

As revealed in an article from BBC Newsbeat, the research group has released a short video showing how the artificial intelligence works. Mario will find and collect coins if he is ‘hungry’, and will explore his environment of his own accord. Gaming’s most famous plumber will also tell his audience when he is feeling happy. Overall, Mario has four impulses: curiosity, hunger, happiness and fear. These emotions act as responses to both Mario's environment and simple instructions given in conversation.

The Artificial Intelligence Mario also learns that jumping on a Goomba will kill it, and can even work out how many moves are needed to reach a certain position in the level. Mario makes decisions on what his next steps are based around what he has previously learned. These abilities are generated by a logic and grammar tree that allows Mario to respond to commands and have a level of independent functionality.

This AI Mario was a step in the Cognitive Modelling Group’s attempts to find out exactly how the human brain operates. The group claims that their project has created “an alive and somewhat intelligent artificial agent,” and that their Mario is “a fully functional program.” It remains to be seen whether the AI Mario can show the anger necessary to become a bonus character in the next iteration of Super Smash Bros., however.

Source: BBC Newsbeat

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