22 Jan 2015   |   News

Self-aware Super Mario gives artificial intelligence a boost

A group of German researchers give limited intelligence to a well-known computer figure

Does Mario, the famous Italian plumber, really feel “super”?

For a quirky project entitled, "An Adaptive Learning Artificial Intelligence Approach for Generating a Living and Conversing Mario Agent," a team of German cognitive modelling researchers gave the Nintendo character the ability to respond to this, and other questions.

An artificially intelligent Mario can understand verbal commands from humans spoken in both English and German. He is capable of being aware of his own motivations and his environment, "at least to a certain extent," the researchers at the University of Tübingen say.

“The Mario character can generate responses on the fly,” Martin Butz, a cognitive scientist and father of the artificially intelligent Mario, told Science|Business. For example, when Mario receives the command, “Don’t be so happy,” he responds, “Somehow, I feel less happy.”

“His happiness increases when he collects coins and decreases when he gets injured,” Butz adds.

The scientists involved in the project have not discussed the work with Mario’s owner, Nintendo, but Butz believes artificial intelligence could provide a boost for computer games as a whole. “So far, there’s not been much research by games industries into artificial intelligence, but it makes sense to me to have more intelligent agents in games,” he said.

“It’s not crazy technology,” he added. “There’s nothing mysterious or obscure about it.” What is novel is that it is presented in the mould of a well-known character who is approachable and understandable, he explained.

The video was created as an entry for an annual video competition organised by the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI), which is convening in the US next week.

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