Artificial Intelligence Learns to Play Super Mario World in 34 Tries

Robots have already come for our jobs, and now they are gunning for our video games. Developer Seth Bling created an AI called MarI/O that managed to beat the Donut Plains I level of Super Mario World in just 34 tries.  

Watching the AI run through the game, you will notice that the computer uses a lot of jumping and very little hesitation. Compare it to a human playing, and you’ll see it looks very different. MarI/O did not know how to play the game when it first started. The first few attempts involved a lot of standing still or walking in a straight line. With time, it learned to play the game through trial and error. This process is called neuroevolution.

The AI saw the Mario world in black and white: good things that could be stood on looked like white blocks, whereas enemies were black blocks. The program had a “fitness” level that increased when it progressed right and decreased when it went left. 

Quickly, the MarI/O learned that pressing the right directional button allows Mario to run right on the white blocks. From there, it learned each strategy one by one. Moves would either be kept or discarded depending on success. The most successful strategies were "bred" into the next generation, and it took 34 evolutionary steps, or generations, for the AI to complete the level. 

The algorithm is called NEAT (NeuroEvolution of Augmenting Topologies), but as Engadget points out, this is not the only program that has learned to play the game. Watch this impressive 2009 Mario AI competition winner demolish a level:

[h/t: Engadget.com]

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The Most Popular Netflix Show in Every Country
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most popular Netflix show in each country map
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most popular Netflix show in each country map key
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If you're bored with everything in your Netflix queue, why not look to the top shows around the world for a recommendation?

HighSpeedInternet.com recently used Google Trends data to create a map of the most popular show streaming on Netflix in every country in 2018. The best-loved show in the world is the dystopian thriller 3%, claiming the number one spot in eight nations. The show is the first Netflix original made in Portuguese, so it's no surprise that Portugal and Brazil are among the eight countries that helped put it at the top of the list.

Coming in second place is South Korea's My Love from the Star, which seven countries deemed their favorite show. The romantic drama revolves around an alien who lands on Earth and falls in love with a mortal. The English-language show with the most clout is 13 Reasons Why, coming in at number three around the world—which might be proof that getting addicted to soapy teen dramas is a universal experience.

Pot comedy Disjointed is Canada's favorite show, which probably isn't all that surprising given the nation's recent ruling to legalize marijuana. Perhaps coming as even less of a shock is the phenomenon of Stranger Things taking the top spot in the U.S. Favorites like Black Mirror, Sherlock, and The Walking Dead also secured the love of at least one country.

Out of the hundreds of shows on the streaming platform, only 47 are a favorite in at least one country in 2018. So no hard feelings, Gypsy.

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Roadside Bear Statue in Wales is So Lifelike That Safety Officials Want It Removed
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Wooden bear statue.

There are no real bears in the British Isles for residents to worry about, but a statue of one in the small Welsh town of Llanwrtyd Wells has become a cause of concern. As The Telegraph reports, the statue is so convincing that it's scaring drivers, causing at least one motorist to crash her car. Now road safety officials are demanding it be removed.

The 10-foot wooden statue has been a fixture on the roadside for at least 15 years. It made headlines in May of 2018 when a woman driving her car saw the landmark and took it to be the real thing. She was so startled that she veered off the road and into a street sign.

After the incident, she complained about the bear to highways officials who agreed that it poses a safety threat and should be removed. But the small town isn't giving in to the Welsh government's demands so quickly.

The bear statue was originally erected on the site of a now-defunct wool mill. Even though the mill has since closed, locals still see the statue as an important landmark. Llanwrtyd Wells councilor Peter James called it an "iconic gateway of the town," according to The Telegraph.

Another town resident, who wished to remain anonymous, told The Telegraph that the woman who crashed her car had been a tourist from Canada where bears are common. Bear were hunted to extinction in Britain about 1000 years ago, so local drivers have no reason to look out for the real animals on the side of the road.

The statue remains in its old spot, but Welsh government officials plan to remove it themselves if the town doesn't cooperate. For now, temporary traffic lights have been set up around the site of the accident to prevent any similar incidents.

[h/t The Telegraph]

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