[evol-psych] Surviving jaws: virtual merman 'thinks' his way to safety
- FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 29 FEBRUARY 2000 (29 FEBRUARY 2000 GMT)
University of Toronto
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.