Before you know it, your video games could be playing themselves. Researchers in Germany are working on giving Nintendo's best-known character a form of artificial intelligence, the Verge reports. Their goal is a "Living and Conversing Mario Agent" that can act on commands given not with a gamepad but by simply talking to him. "Mario has become aware of himself and his environment—at least to a certain extent," a researcher says in a video entry for an artificial intelligence competition. This version of the character, it seems, learns as he plays through a standard Mario world—and researchers are also working on a project in which both Mario and Luigi are controlled by AI and are able to speak to each other, thus sharing information and teaching each other.
AI Mario's experience in his world can inform his actions, Newsweek reports. "We give him internal needs—what we call a constant homeostatic state—like hunger, and whenever this equilibrium becomes unbalanced Mario learns to respond based on his previous interactions with objects," a scientist says. Mario can, for instance, get "hungry"—and learn that collecting coins reduces this hunger. Meanwhile, the video shows a researcher informing Mario that if he jumps on a Goomba baddie, that baddie will be defeated; he "builds up knowledge rules" as he plays. And he can even formulate what he's learned into speech. But he's no genius, researchers note; so far, his "intelligence" is comparable to your standard gaming enemy. (That may come as a relief to Stephen Hawking.)