I think we’ve got an early candidate for futurist talking-point of the week right here: researchers from New York’s Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute have developed artificial intelligence software that appears to possess a rudimentary “theory of mind” – a cognitive ability not manifest in human children until the age of four or five. [image from NewWorldNotes]
The researchers are using the software to control a Second Life avatar called Eddie:
“Two avatars controlled by humans stand with Eddie next to one red and one green suitcase. One human avatar then leaves and while they are gone the remaining human avatar moves the gun from the red suitcase into the green one.
Eddie is then asked where the character that left would look for the gun. The AI software correctly realises they will look in the red suitcase.”
Doesn’t sound too impressive at first, but it’s being hailed as a significant advance in the capabilities of artificially intelligent software by some – though others are less impressed, as Eddie’s reasoning engine has to be seeded with a simple logical statement before he can pass the test.
Even so, the Rensselaer guys reckon it’ll be great for making games with more realistic computer-controlled enemies … but I imagine there’s a number of people in the assorted military-industrial complexes of the globe thinking waaaay bigger than that right now.
Despite being used for nefarious purposes, “worm” viruses are clever little bits of self-distributing code. Microsoft researchers here in the UK are considering fighting fire with fire, and using the same replication methods deployed by malicious viruses to spread software patches.
It’s an interesting approach – using the weapons of the enemy against them, so to speak. But one wonders whether the effort wouldn’t be just as well spent on, y’know, making sure the software had less holes in need of patching before it got released?
Just a thought.
[Guess who’s been helping a friend clean viruses off their computer this week …]
A group of UK based psychology researchers were interested in seeing how Second Life users reacted to invasions of personal space within the virtual world. So, they developed a way around the built-in limitations that Linden Lab put in place to prevent software-controlled avatars being deployed, enabling them to send an avatar on autopilot to interact with other residents and record their reactions.
To which your response might be "so what?" – especially if you’re skeptical about Second Life to start with, which is not an uncommon stance. But as the heads-up on SlashDot points out, what can be done by psychology researchers in the name of science could just as easily be done by spammers seeking a automated method of advertising in the metaverse … which would seem to reinforce the adage that no platform will ever remain completely immune to spam techniques. Still, at least in SL you can always teleport away from an annoying avatar, which is more than you can do when confronted by a Scientologist or insurance hawker in the high street … [Image by PsychoAl]
[tags]metaverse, Second Life, spam, software, psychology[/tags]
Ah, dammit … there’s a song on my hard-drive that I really want to listen to, but I can’t remember what it’s called or who it’s by. It’d be so much easier if I could just sing a few bars and have a program search the tune out for me.
If there’s one thing that everyone (even the most enthusiastic) has to say about Second Life, it’s that the software is ferociously resource-hungry and more bug-ridden than a hobo’s sleeping bag. Numerous projects are running toward the goal of a more user-friendly interface based on open source code, and one of them has just become the darling of the SL blogosphere by creating an AJAX-based text-only version of the client software – in non-geek language, that means it can run in your web browser. Which is pretty good going for a fifteen year old.