We’ve all played at least one version of the traditional, 2D style Mario games from Nintendo, running towards the right, jumping on baddies and collecting gold coins. Well, a group of scientists are taking the game a step further and trying to develop an artificial intelligence that will have our favorite Italian plumber navigating levels all on its own. Dubbed the Mario AI Project, its aim is to have the character make its own decisions and be aware of itself and the environment.
At the core of the project is actually speech-recognition, as users still interact with Mario by giving him verbal instructions or asking him questions. In a new video from the developers, it is explained that their Mario AI can understand a growing number of English sentences, and thanks to a logic and grammar tree, can learn and adapt based on what users have said.
For example, the Mario AI can be told that jumping on a Goomba guaranties it will be defeated without damage to itself, and from then on knows how to encounter the enemy. Among the other decisions Mario can make are whether to chase to coins or to just explore the level in order to learn more about the environment.
The project comes from researchers in the Cognitive Modeling Group at the University of Tubingen, in Germany. They admit that they still have a long ways to go in their work, but we can certainly hope they progress enough that one day Mario would be able to take on an encounter with boss Bowser, all without our thumbs having to touch a controller.