Self-aware Mario generates excitement about artificial intelligence

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Artificial Intelligence has long been the cause of fascination and fear. In order to make AI a little less worrisome, the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI) created a video competition to document exciting artificial intelligence advances in research, education, and application. Which is really just a fancy way of saying they told computer scientists to put their research on hold, and find amusing uses for AI technology. Never let it be said that scientists don’t know how to have fun.

Now entering its ninth year, the AAAI video competition features an entry gamers will find particularly interesting. The project, titled “Mario Lives! An Adaptive Learning AI Approach for Generating a Living and Conversing Mario Agent” is the brainchild of a team of computer scientists from the University of Tübingen in Germany who taught Mario how to play his own game.

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As one of the researchers in the video explains, Mario begins with basic knowledge of his own bodily needs, then gathers information about the world he occupies. When Mario is hungry he’ll look for coins to “eat”. If Mario becomes curious about the Mushroom Kingdom, he will explore his surroundings and learn how to defeat enemies or unlock power-ups. Mario is even able to plan his moves using a complex algorithm (no more miscalculated jumps!). Letting Mario run off on his own isn’t the only way he learns either. Players can relay information about the game to Mario and he’ll store that knowledge. If for example, you tell Mario that jumping on a Goomba will kill it, the next time he sees a Goomba he’ll jump on it. Mario can even hold a conversation with players thanks to a syntax tree, which humans use unconsciously everyday,  rather than a series of scripted responses.

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Mario’s syntax tree.

According to Fabian Schrodt, one of the researchers behind Mario’s new independence, what sets this AI project apart is the combination of programming that learns and adapts with the addition of reafference principle psychology.

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The trio of computer scientists hope to include Luigi in the future so that he and Mario can converse with one another, gather information independently, share knowledge, and teach each other throughout the game.

This years winners will be announced on January 29. If you’re interested in learning more about the AAAI video competition entries you can follow the link here.

First Amiibo’s, now this. Pretty soon Mario isn’t going to need us anymore. Then again…how awesome would it be to hold a conversation with Mario?

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