The hand of humanoid robot AILA (artificial intelligence lightweight android) operates a switchboard during a demonstration by the German Research Center for Artificial Intelligence at the CeBit computer fair in Hanover, Germany, March, 5, 2013. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

Although the jury is still out on whether Artificial Intelligence (AI) would benefit humankind immensely or spell its eventual doom, it has not stopped enterprising researchers from exploring the possibilities. Now, in order to further encourage new breakthroughs in the field, IBM and XPrize — the nonprofit that held the competition to get the first privately funded spaceship off the ground — announced a $5 million competition for AI developers across the globe.

The winners of the competition, details of which will be announced in May, will be awarded at the TED conference in 2020, the XPrize Foundation said in a statement issued jointly with IBM.

“Every year leading up to TED2020, teams will go head-to-head at World of Watson, IBM’s annual conference, competing for interim prizes and the opportunity to advance to the next year’s competition. The three finalist teams will take the TED stage in 2020 to deliver jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring TED Talks demonstrating what they have achieved,” the foundation said in the statement, adding that the winners would be chosen based on the “audacity of their mission and the awe-inspiring nature of the teams’ TED Talks.”

Unlike past competitions held by the foundation — such as the Ansari X Prize, which challenged teams to build spacecraft capable of taking passengers to suborbital space — the latest competition allows teams to define their own challenge.

“IBM believes this competition can accelerate the creation of landmark breakthroughs that deliver new, positive impacts to peoples’ lives, and the transformation of industries and professions,” the XPrize Foundation said in the statement.

Working toward development machines imbued with human-level intelligence is an endeavor that has elicited contrasting opinions, with the likes of Elon Musk, Stephen Hawking and Bill Gates expressing serious concerns and terming AI humanity’s “biggest existential threat.”

However, XPrize founder Peter Diamandis on Wednesday dismissed what he called a “dystopian conversation” surrounding AI, and said the aim of the prize was to demonstrate to the world that technology was capable of being used for good.

“Our belief is that artificial intelligence is one of the most important inventions the human race will ever create to take on humanity’s grand challenges,” Diamandis reportedly said during a TED talk in Vancouver.