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[evol-psych] Surviving jaws: virtual merman 'thinks' his way to safety

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  • Ian Pitchford
    FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 29 FEBRUARY 2000 (29 FEBRUARY 2000 GMT) University of Toronto http://www.utoronto.ca/ Surviving jaws: virtual merman thinks his way to
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 29, 2000
      FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 29 FEBRUARY 2000 (29 FEBRUARY 2000 GMT)
      University of Toronto
      http://www.utoronto.ca/

      Surviving jaws: virtual merman 'thinks' his way to safety

      Using a mythical merman and hungry sharks, a University of Toronto computer
      science professor and two former graduate students have pushed the notion of
      artificial intelligence and virtual life to a new level.

      In his creation of a virtual underwater world, Professor Demetri Terzopoulos
      has fashioned more than just a cool screen saver -- he has given his animated
      characters the ability to think. A hungry shark circles ominously, looking
      for a nice meal, while a nervous merman searches for a place to hide. When
      the shark swims away, the merman dashes from behind large rocks to open water
      with the shark in hot pursuit. Will his cleverly devised plan allow him to
      reach safety or not?

      "This is more than artificial intelligence," says Terzopoulos. "It's
      artificial life. Computer graphics, animation and virtual reality have
      advanced dramatically over the past decade. We are now able to create
      characters that are self-animating with functional bodies and brains that
      have behaviour, perception, learning and cognition centres."

      Terzopoulos and his former students have developed the cognitive modelling
      language that enables animated characters to reason. For example, it enabled
      the virtual merman to formulate a plan of action by reasoning about his
      situation given certain knowledge, such as the fact that he cannot outrun
      sharks but can use underwater rocks to hide. "With cognitively empowered
      graphical characters, the animator need only specify a behaviour outline and,
      through reasoning, the character will automatically work out a detailed
      sequence of actions."

      The potential for future applications are immense, Terzopoulos says.
      Cognitive modelling and the cognitive modelling language can become powerful
      tools for scientists, animators and game developers. His paper, co-authored
      with John Funge and Xiaoyuan Tu, was published at the 1999 ACM SIGGRAPH
      conference, the premier forum for research in computer graphics.
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