Since Italian plumber Mario and his lanky brother Luigi first burst onto the gaming scene in arcades back in 1983, the Mario Bros have been updated over and over again - they’ve even appeared on the big screen.
But now computer scientists from the University of Tübingen in Germany have taken Mario one step further and brought him to life in his own world…sort of.
Known as the “Mario Lives!” project, the aim of the research is to build a living and conversing Mario Agent.
In the video above, created for an annual competition run by the Association for the Advancement of Artificial Intelligence (AAAI), one of the researchers explains that they’ve managed to create a Mario that can answer questions, be fed information, learn from his environment, and make plans based on his mood.
“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,” he narrates.
In the footage, we see the Nintendo hero come to terms with his environment and respond to bits of information fed to him by the researchers.
The narrator explains that Mario has a knowledge base and internal emotive states, both of which can be shaped by interactions with his environment or simple commands given in conversation. For example, when he’s told to not feel so happy he responds with an eerie: “Somehow, I feel less happy.”
And after he’s asked to jump on Goomba and report back on what he learns? “If I jump on Goomba, then it maybe dies,” Mario explains.
He’s also programmed to change his behaviour based on his current mood, knowledge and motivations. For example, when he’s hungry, he gorges himself on (delicious?) coins. But when he’s curious, he wants to explore his environment and find out as much as possible.
It’s the type of self-awareness that allows him to make his own decisions in the game, and form his own goals. Surprisingly though, he didn't even mention Peach.
Although the AI involved in the project isn’t groundbreakingly sophisticated - AI Mario actually functions in much the same way as other existing video game characters - the combination of Mario’s psychology into the program makes the research interesting, as Fabian Schrodt, one of the researchers involved in the project, told James Vincent from The Verge.
Schrodt told Vincent that the team is next planning to work on a follow-up project where Mario and Luigi are both self aware, and can communicate and share information, teaching each other as they go.
With Stephen Hawking recently announcing that he was genuinely scared of AI, we wonder if a duo of heavily moustached plumbers is what he had in mind. Don't forget, they once saved the world.
Source: The Verge