Minecraft players already know how to navigate worlds created in the popular sandbox game, but now Microsoft is working on a project that places AI characters in Minecraft. It's not just for fun; it's designed to also improve artificial intelligence in the real world.

Called "Project AIX", it was first created at Microsoft Research at the Cambridge lab in the UK. Microsoft says that Minecraft was picked for this project because of its open worlds.

"The Minecraft platform was especially appealing because it allows players to make really complex decisions that have consequences, and to add more and more difficult elements as they get better. It also lets users work together, which could help researchers experiment with how humans and artificially intelligent agents could work together."

Project AIX team members have been creating AI characters that can go uphill in Minecraft and also avoid obstacles in the world such as rivers or lava. It's available now to a small number of researchers, but the plan is to release their work to everyone later this summer as an open source project.

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