Super Mario, arguably the most iconic video-game character of all time, is developing a mind of his own thanks to a team of artificial-intelligence researchers at the University of Tubingen, Germany. Those researchers took a copy of Super Mario Advance, a Mario adventure for the Game Boy Advance, and integrated it with CMUSphinx speech-recognition software developed by Carnegie Mellon. According to CNET, Mario will not only listen and respond to a human controller’s instructions, but will act on his own according to preset moods. To find artificial-intelligence jobs, click here. In terms of those moods, Mario can be varying degrees of hungry, happy, curious, and fearful. If Mario is highly curious, for example, he will rapidly explore his environment; if he is hungry, he will focus on collecting coins. AI-enhanced Mario can also plan jump sequences as he navigates levels, which makes him far more skilled at his own simulated life than those newbie players who drop him into bottomless pits over and over again. While this hacked version of Mario won’t challenge IBM’s Watson for the artificial-intelligence crown anytime soon, the experiment does show how a small team with the right tools can imbue a video-game character (which ordinarily has no autonomy) with rudimentary AI. If Mario gets any smarter, he might begin to challenge the player’s decisions—and wouldn’t that be interesting?

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Image/video: Nintendo/University of Tubingen, Germany