In the world of video gaming, a few titles stand out with more prominence than others. The incredibly addicting and simple nature of Minecraft has shown the world continuous and exuberant milestones in just about every form. In the most recent weeks and months, there have been large amounts of updates, user made additions, and modulations made within the game. Surprisingly enough, Verizon Wireless has just entered the ring as a contender. The major mobile communications company has just created an in game communications device, that looks and behaves just like a cell phone. They have just teamed up with the advertising agency Wieden + Kennedy and the Minecraft design agency Blockworks to build a working cell phone within the boundaries of the game. You are able to use this in game device to browse the internet and make video calls; In real time. Yes, you did read that correctly. In real time.
As you may have noticed by the picture above, the famous YouTuber is showing a demonstration of the in game video chat feature. The video calling feature is probably the coolest aspect of this new project. This is able to be accomplished just by building a cell phone in the games editing tools, and then creating a cell phone tower to ensure network capabilities within the game.
In order to tell if you are fully connected to the internet, there is a visual representation of streaming blocks that tells when there is a connection to the cell phone and its tower. Considering the resolution limitations within the game, the display on the block built cell phone is mirroring the exact web page you look up, or video chat you engage in, but in the form of the familiar minecraft block structure. When making a video call to someone else from within the the game, the individual you video call is seeing your avatar on their screen. As an expansion to this, players can create a selfie stick by combining their in-game phone with a stick. By swinging the stick, they can take a selfie and send it to a real-world phone via MMS. Pretty impressive right?
A capture of CaptainSparklez demonstrating a comparison of his YouTube page video thumbnails.
What makes this so incredible is the amount of time and software modification that had to go into making this a reality. As shown by the image above, this is a fully functional web browser, on a phone, within the minecraft world that is actually connected to the internet. Due to the amount of size the webpage text holds, they don’t really translate quite clearly, but they are quite recognizable.
Creating a fully functional cell phone in minecraft took quite a bit of work to accomplish, and credit must be given where it is due. Verizon and the partners they teamed up with, built an entirely custom application called Boxel. This is the application that takes web pages and turns them into blocks. Your web browser sends each frame from your camera, and the application pixelates them by averaging the colors in every square region. It then maps each color in the frame to its closest match in Minecraft’s palette of 48 blocks.
Experienced Minecraft players with some coding chops can toy with the open-source libraries and create new experiences that involve turning video into blocks. The project code is available through software site GitHub. You won’t be conducting crucial video conferences or studying the minutiae of “The Matrix” with this capability, but it is quite a nifty addition to Minecraft’s box of tricks.