The world of Minecraft is to be opened up for computer scientists and researchers to run artificial intelligence experiments.
The game’s owner Microsoft has announced users will be able to try out AI software using its virtual landscapes from July.
Microsoft researchers in Cambridge believe Minecraft offers a more sophisticated testing ground than current AI software and is much cheaper than having to build robots.
In a Microsoft blog, one of the firm’s New York-based researchers, Fernando Diaz, said his team was trying to develop a character capable of learning and improving itself, rather than just performing a specified task.
Katja Hoffman led the team behind the AIX platform, which has already been made available within Microsoft and to a small number of academic researchers.
She said: “Minecraft is the perfect platform for this kind of research because it’s this very open world.
“You can do survival mode, you can do ‘build battles’ with your friends, you can do courses, you can implement our own games.
“This is really exciting for artificial intelligence because it allows us to create games that stretch beyond current abilities.”
Using Minecraft means a character can endure trial and error – such as falling into rivers and lava pits – without researchers incurring the huge cost of replacing a damaged robot.
To start experimenting with Minecraft later this year, users will need to install the open source AIX platform – costing the same price as a standard licence for the game.