Everybody should have heard of or played with Mario at some point of their lives. After all, Mario has been around for more than 30 years. It has evolved from the simple pixelated Mario in arcades in the early 1980s whose sole purpose was to gain high scores by killing more and more enemies, to the 3D Mario with the multitude of purposes (the most famous one being to save Princess Peach) in different games that you can easily find today.
Scientists has transcended beyond that, programming the simple plumber that only takes orders from the player to a self-aware Artificial Intelligence capable of running its own gig.
Scientists from the University of Tubingen in Germany have created a Mario that is able to answer questions, be fed information, learn from his environment and make plans based on his mood. The “Mario Lives!” project is created for an annual competition hosted by the Association for Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI).
“As most of you know, this is Mario. But what you do not know is that this Mario has become aware of himself and his environment – at least to a certain extent,” the narrator introduces in the video. Mario responds to questions presented to him by the researchers. When asked, “Mario, how do you feel?”, he responds, “I feel very good.”
Since Mario is controlled by simple commands given in conversation, his good mood can be easily ruined by a simple, “Mario, don’t be so happy.”
When not dictated by the researchers, Mario is programmed to be hungry until he feeds himself with delicious coins. When he is curious about his environment, he will explore it and gather knowledge on his own. For example, Mario initially does not know anything about Goombas. However, once he jumps on a Goomba and kills it, he understands that if he jumps on a Goomba, then maybe it dies.
Similarly, this information can be fed to Mario by telling him that jumping on a Goomba kills it.
Unfortunately, we don’t get to see if Mario ever saves Princess Peach (in fact, it wasn’t mentioned at all), but we get to see Mario in action. The researchers can prompt Mario to go to certain points on the screen by clicking on it (and leaving a star on the point).
While this type of artificial intelligence is neither new nor sophisticated as it is found is more video game opponents, the ability of Mario to learn and adapt from its environment is interesting. One of the researchers in the project, Fabian Schrodt, told The Verge that they are working on a project that allows Mario and Luigi (both controlled via Artificial Intelligence) to speak to one another using computer-synthesized voices. This allows them to communicate and exchange information about their environment.
Fascinatingly creepy, isn’t it? Have a look at the video.