Artificial intelligence (AI), when referring to the computing world, is most often about realizing what activities are not intelligent rather than developing machines that mimicked true intelligence. Now, however, the San Francisco-based AI company, Novamente, is developing "virtual pets" that will learn from their virtual world environments.
Earlier AI machines were expert systems with knowledge in certain domains. Part of developing such systems was the knowledge entry phase, where the system was provided with information in the relevant domain. Systems with learning algorithms have been developed since, but they lacked the ideal environment to foster learning.
A quote from the article at ComputerWorld:
"If you want to make an AI [system] that has real self-understanding, that knows that it is there, that you are there and can generalize things from one context to another, [you should] give it some sort of body," Goertzel said "Giving an AI [application] a body seems to be the best way to get it to really learn and understand. Once you launch AI in a virtual world ... you can have a hundred thousand or a million teachers for it."
The product virtual pets will go about learning their own way or can be trained by people (BBC). Virtual worlds are bound to gain further prominence in the virtual social networking that is feasible today. The difference is the new perspective that AI is obtaining. After so many years of trying to get AI into the human world, now people are entering the world of machines, and this may well be catalyst for mimicking intelligence.