Steven Spielberg has committed to directing two science fiction tales starting immediately with A.I. an epic about artificial intelligence that had been a long-gestating pet project of Stanley Kubrick''s before his death in 1999.

A.I, which Kubrick had been actively developing before he suddenly shifted his attention to what would be his swansong film Eyes Wide Shut, will now start shooting under Spielberg''s direction on July 10 this year as a co-production between Warner Bros and Spielberg''s DreamWorks. The studios are envisioning a summer release in 2001.

Spielberg, who was a close friend of Kubrick, will also assume the writing credit on the project which was long assumed to have been derived from a short story by UK writer Brian Aldriss called Super-Toys Last All Summer Long. By all accounts, A.I. traces a child''s interaction with a new breed of computers that have become self-aware.

Just hours after the stunning A.I. announcement on Tuesday evening, 20th Century Fox then joined with DreamWorks in confirming an April 2001 production start for Minority Report, a Fox-developed sci-fi thriller that will mark the first collaboration between Spielberg and actor Tom Cruise.

Adapted by Scott Frank from a story by Philip K. Dick (the novelist who inspired both Blade Runner and Total Recall), Minority Report is set in a futuristic judicial system in which killers are arrested and convicted before they commit murder. It is one of four films to be jointly produced by Fox and DreamWorks.

The dual announcements end months of intense speculation regarding Spielberg''s next project following Saving Private Ryan for which he won the Oscar for Best Director last year. Among the other projects that had been jostling for Spielberg''s schedule have been an adaptation of Memoirs Of A Geisha, which Sony Pictures made a point of including on its showreel at ShoWest last week. Just recently Spielberg formally passed on directing Harry Potter And The Scorcerer''s Stone, also for Warner Bros.

A.I. was a project that had engaged Kubrick''s imagination for the best part of two decades. All Kubrick would allow about the film was that it was set in a 21st Century in which the Greenhouse Effect had melted the polar ice caps and submerged several coastal cities including New York under water. It is known however that he had frequent conversations with ILM special effects wizard Dennis Murren after seeing the ground-breaking computer generated imagery on Spielberg''s Jurassic Park films. During the early 90s, he also talked to both Brian Aldiss and Arthur C. Clarke about possible screenplays.

"Stanley had a vision for this project that was evolving over 18 years," said Spielberg this week. "I am intent on bringing to the screen as much of that vision as possible along with elements of my own."

Jan Harlan, Kubrick''s brother-in-law who produced all of Kubrick''s films since Barry Lyndon and has long been associated with A.I., serves as executive producer on the film alongside Walter Parkes co-head of DreamWorks Pictures. Said Harlan: "during preparations for A.I., Stanley came to realize that Steven would actually be the ideal director for the project, and I know they talked extensively about a collaboration."

Kathleen Kennedy, Bonnie Curtis and Spielberg produce the film, which will be billed as a Stanley Kubrick Production. Warner Bros will release the film in North America. DreamWorks will release the film internationally through UIP.

"There is only one person who can direct A.I. and we couldn''t be more excited and honoured that he has agreed to make it his next movie," said Lorenzo di Bonaventura, president of Warner Bros. Worldwide Theatrical Production. "Steven Spielberg is one of the greatest living directors and I am sure that he will bring his singular humanity and unique vision to this incredible story."

Kubrick''s fascination with artificial intelligence was well documented particularly after 2001: A Space Odyssey. In an interview he gave in 1971 for the book Stanley Kubrick Directs, he was quoted as saying: "one of the fascinating questions that arises in envisioning computers more intelligent than men is at what point machine intelligence deserves the same consideration as biological intelligence."