In Brief

'Sentient' Super Mario plays all by himself

German scientists build 'self-aware' Super Mario character who needs no guidance from human hands

Mario

A team of researchers from Germany has revisited the classic Japanese video game Super Mario World with an unusual intention: to remove the player from the equation. They've created a level of the game where the main character, Mario, is 'self-aware'.

The scientists, from University of Tubingen, have developed Mario AI as an experiment in artificial intelligence. They claim they've made Mario autonomous and able to learn - and even say he has emotional states.

Mario, one of the best-loved video game characters, is a creation of Japanese firm Nintendo. He is an Italian-American plumber who is eternally in search of a princess called Peach, often to be found "in another castle".

But now, reports The Independent, Mario can look for Peach all by himself. He can explore the level at his own will, learning about the environment he is in. At one point in a video released by the group, Mario says: "If I jump on Goomba [his famous enemy] then it certainly dies."

It is still possible to play the game - but now the player teaches Mario and gives him instructions, rather than moving him directly. Mario has also been programmed to have emotions, which are affected by orders from the player.

Told in the video to be less happy, he reduces his happiness level. Mario also discovers that he can jump on poisonous Goomba mushrooms to kill them: in the original game he had to be manually controlled but now will respond to the command "kill enemy".

So is Mario really self-aware? Does he have any chance of passing the Turing Test - convincing a human that he is conscious? No way, says 'transhumanist' George Dvorsky.

Dvorsky says the Mario AI project is impressive - but Mario is not genuinely self-aware, nor are his 'feelings' real.

He told the Independent: "Mario's human-like behaviours and feelings are programmed into him by brute force, and are not the result of a sophisticated human-like psychology."

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