Virtual child passes mental milestone

Virtual child passes mental milestone

A virtual child controlled by artificially intelligent software has passed a cognitive test regarded as a major milestone in human development. It could lead to smarter computer games able to predict human players’ state of mind.

Children typically master the “false belief test” at age 4 or 5. It tests their ability to realise that the beliefs of others can differ from their own, and from reality.

The creators of the new character – which they called Eddie – say passing the test shows it can reason about the beliefs of others, using a rudimentary “theory of mind”.

“Today’s characters have no genuine autonomy or mental picture of who you are,” researcher Selmer Bringsjord of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York, told New Scientist.

He aims to change that with future games and virtual worlds populated by genuinely intelligent computer characters able to predict and understand players actions and motives.

Bringsjord’s colleague Andrew Shilliday adds that their work will have applications outside of gaming. For example, search engines able to reason about the beliefs of a user might allow them to better understand their search queries.

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