This is the first handout for the ``AI and Prolog'' practical. I'm going to talk about a small AI program - Popbeast - which ``lives'' in the computer-generated environment Eden. This program carries out actions in response to commands typed in English. As it does so, it displays the representations it is building up, so you can watch its ``mind'' in action. This handout will introduce Eden itself, and also some ideas from AI. Unfortunately, PopBeast is not robust enough for you to experiment with it. It's still a useful example, though.
So what is PopBeast? If we had unlimited resources, I could have considered a robot, complete with TV camera and other sensors. However, robot hardware is not cheap, and given the limited capabilities of today's robots, I would also have problems in designing a suitably limited environment. AI has found it much easier to make programs that indulge in ``rational thought'' - that play chess, translate languages, or prove theorems - than it has to make programs that, by perception and action, can link their thoughts to the real world. Most industrial robots, if they use vision at all, only do so in a very limited form; some robots are still guided by touch, and find it impossible to cope if the parts they're assembling aren't exactly where they should be.