Microsoft has announced plans to use Minecraft as a platform for artificial intelligence (AI) experiments.
An AI machine will be taught to play Minecraft as an add-on for the game, allowing interested home users and academics to evaluate the AI engine it is working on.
The company, which bought the game's designer in 2014 for $2.5bn, has always had ideas for the platform beyond simple gaming, of which this is just the latest.
The project, known as AIX, will be looking to see if the machine can learn how to play freely rather than being tied to specific tasks it is instructed to do.
It is hoped the machine will also be able to collaborate with other players in constructions and solving problems.
AIX will be an open source add-on requiring no extra payment, but users will be sandboxed from other Minecraft players.
"People build amazing structures that do amazing things in Minecraft, and this allows experimenters to put in tasks that will stretch AI technology beyond its current capacity," said Katja Hofmann, project leader at Microsoft Research UK.
The company believes that this mass rollout of AI interaction will bring with it the possibility of accelerating the speed at which computers reach human-level intelligence, that is to say all-round intelligence rather than intelligence at management of specific programming.
AIX is already up and running in a private beta test, but is expected to be available to anyone who wants it by the summer.
It comes at a pivotal time for AI after arch-rival Google demonstrated that its AlphaGo machine has learnt enough to repeatedly beat a world champion at board game Go, which involves far more subtle nuances of intelligence and forward thinking than something like chess, which computers have been playing since the sixties.
The use of AI in business is also growing, with RBS recently unveiling its Luvo chat tool that can interact with staff and maybe one day customers too.
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