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Minecraft innovation

Minecraft: innovation in the blurry space between pixels and reality

I tend to believe that while innovation happens in times of crises, it happens best when having fun. A great example of this is the fun and interesting ways developers are using sandbox game Minecraft.

These guys aren’t just messing about, their projects allow for more potential innovation in areas far beyond the scope of the game. When you hear Minecraft you probably think of a digital recreation of Legos. It has evolved from a brick-building, survival and exploration game using colorful pixels on your PC, Xbox or smart device over the one year or so since its release.

The game, which is played by over eight-million people around the world, has thousands of experimental mods that you can download and use to enhance gameplay by giving each selected mod more character and unique experiences. We have seen Lego Minecraft for instance, which is actual physical Lego sized bricks in Minecraft style of course.

We are seeing more and more people actually printing their Minecraft creations using 3D printers. Whether they are printing their colorfully created landscapes or interesting objects like a mini Eiffel Tower replica, they never fail to impress.

By using software like Printcraft, you are allowed to upload your Minecraft creations which are then converted into 3D-printable files. If you are not among the fortunate one percenters who own a 3D printer at this point, you can send your designed file to Shapeways. It will, at some extra cost, send your physical printed object back to your doorstep with options for different materials and various colors.

Now Minecraft has not only crept from computer screen into reality. It’s also starting to appear in augmented reality programs. What Minecraft Reality lets you do is digitally ‘place’ one of your creations in the real world. These creations can then be viewed using your smart device’s camera (at this point only iOS) to gain a 3D perception of your creation. So basically you view your 3D object through the lens of a camera which has been inserted into real life via augmented reality. You can take pictures of you pixel-friendly crafts and share designs with your friends.

The creators of Minecraft Reality are doing much more than providing entertaining gimmicks for you to mess around with. The company 13th Lab, which won the Guldmobilen Innovation Award of 2012 in Stockholm last week, is also behind PointCloud SDK and PointCloud Browser. PointCloud’s software development kit allows you much more possibilities concerning augmented reality. Check out the video below for some examples of the software in action (it’s pretty amazing).

As the company puts it, “the camera will replace the GPS as the most important sensor to interpret and make sense of the world around you.” PointCloud has the potential to allow you to create an augmented browsing experience by using both camera and GPS technology. They call this SLAM (Simultaneous Localization and Mapping).

Now with all of these cool innovations, imagine how they would change architecture, interior decoration or maybe more significantly just fun games, tricks and projects. Check out the first SLAM’s game for your iPad (2 or better) called Ball Invasion where you shoot balls bouncing around in your room (or wherever you prefer), only visible through your iPad screen. Other entertaining augmented reality apps include ARDefender which is a survival game and Sky Siege. And if those experiences seem too boring to you, you can create your own using the PointCloud SDK.

Author | Jacques Coetzee: Staff Reporter

Jacques Coetzee: Staff Reporter
Jacques grew up in Stellenbosch, South Africa. Keen to take over the world, one word at a time, he has always been interested in both politics and development and studied International Relations (BA) at Stellenbosch University. With an interest in innovation and social change, he seeks to tell the... More