Here's some great news for aspiring magicians looking for original illusions to launch their careers. Researchers at Queen Mary University of London have successfully taught an artificial intelligence computer program how to create new variants on existing magic tricks that are able to fool an audience, even if they're already familiar with the original trick.
Instead of uploading hours of Ricky Jay and David Copperfield footage, the researchers gave their software a basic understanding of how a magic jigsaw puzzle and a mind-reading card trick worked. They also provided data from real-life experiments that attempted to decipher how humans understand magic tricks, and using that information the software's AI was able to develop the variants of the tricks that use the existing principles to still confound an audience.
Don't expect Vegas to be taken over by robot illusionists just yet though. The tricks the AI developed rely on mathematical techniques, not smoke, mirrors or white tigers. And they're already a core part of most magicians' performances, so can't really be used as a crowd-drawing Vegas showstopper. But the maze trick is already available for sale at a local London magic shop, and the card trick, officially called Phoney, can currently be downloaded from the Google Play Store. Even Houdini had to start somewhere. [Queen Mary University of London via Phys.org]