The 8-puzzle - also
known as the sliding-block puzzle or tile-puzzle - is one of the most popular
instruments in the artificial intelligence (AI) studies. It belongs to AI exercises
commonly referred as toy-problems.
Toy problems - as the name implies -
are somewhat fun (and surely it will be good if all science are fun and games). Toy problems are not real-world problems, but they're
useful because they are simple to define and runs in a confined/controlled enviroment (the game board). It means that an exact
description of the problems are possible, and all the factors that affects the problem are
known (there is no need to worry about unpredictable factors such as weather or terrain). Such toy puzzles are perfect for software simulations.
The 8-puzzle, along with chess,
tic-tac-toe, and backgammon, travelling-salesman, has been used to study new search algorithms, neural-network,
and path-finding. It's usually one of the first instrument that
computer-scientists use to test a new search algorithm.