A major research project into virtual reality known as "New and Emergent World models Through Individual, Evolutionary and Social Learning"—or NEW-TIES—has begun.
The project will consist of 1,000 agents (simple AI programs) which will interact together in a simulated world networked on 50 computers.
Agents will be able to move around, build things, communicate and even "reproduce."
Scientists speculate that the agents might create virtual languages and cultures.
The project is backed by a consortium of European universities and is expected to run until 2007.
There is a full New Scientist report.