Researchers from Brown University are using Minecraft to help robots solve problems and be better robots. Before a robot can approach a task, it considers all possible actions before choosing the best one, which takes time and a lot of computing. For example, if you tell a robot to take out the trash in the kitchen, it first thinks about turning on the stove and opening the microwave before narrowing down the actions that are relevant only to taking out the trash. This isn't a huge deal for robots with limited capabilities operating in simple environments. But in order for robots to be useful in complex environments where there are a lot of different options, robots need to learn how to shrink the search space and plan better. Minecraft, apparently, is a great tool to model these types of robot problems in a cheap way.

"It's able to learn that if you're standing next to a trench and you're trying to walk across, you can place blocks in the trench. Otherwise don't place blocks," Professor Stefanie Tellex says. "If you're trying to mine some gold under some blocks, destroy the blocks. Otherwise don't destroy blocks."