Minecraft Reality is an AR app created by 13th Lab in Conjunction with Minecraft developer Mojang. The app, which is currently only available for iOS devices, allows users to place Minecraft creations in the real world as augmented reality objects. Minecraft Reality uses PointCloud, a free software engine for iOS which is capable of simultaneous localization and mapping (also known as SLAM), also developed by 13th Lab.
With over over 8.2 million copies sold, Minecraft is the epitome of a successful indie game. Created by developer Mojang, the game features a randomly generated world that is made entirely of small square blocks that can be picked up and then placed elsewhere. While exploration and survival in the often awe-inspiring randomly generated worlds is a major draw, so too is building using the game’s many different blocks — kind of like Legos. A creative mode allows players to ignore limitations and threats, like a health bar and monsters, and build to their heart’s content. Players have taken to the creative mode and have made incredible structures.
Minecraft Reality Brings Player Creations to Life as Augmented Reality Objects
Players can upload their creations to Minecraft Reality’s website and then ‘place’ them in the real world. A camera, combined with the PointCloud SLAM engine, provides accurate optical tracking (if conditionals are optimal).
Of course, placing augmented reality objects isn’t anything new. There are many augmented reality apps out there that do something similar. I’m highlighting Minecraft Reality because it goes further by allowing the user to place their own creations into the world, rather than giving them a list of obscure items to place. Minecraft Reality gives players a very user-friendly way to augment the space around them — no complex 3D modeling skills necessary — which is a very powerful idea.
The PointCloud SLAM engine is impressively fast, responsive, and very user friendly. It can get tripped up from time to time, like any SLAM implementation, but the ease of use is certainly an achievement. Tracking is top notch so long as enough of the scene is recognized.
To place an object you simply select one, pick the space, then move your phone left and right as PointCloud begins to identify unique features for optical tracking (these are shown as little + signs). Then you’ll be asked to move slowly in a circle around your location to continue building up a 3D map of the space. You’ll then see a handy circular guide which shows you what angles you’ve covered. Once you are satisfied you can move your iOS device around to inspect the object up close and from different angles.
Unfortunately that’s where the fun ends. I commend Minecraft Reality for allowing anyone to easily make their augmented mark on the world, but like almost every other AR app on the market today, it provides little more than a novel experience.
It would be awesome if you could share an augmented world with other users; invite some friends, build some structures and place them around your town, and allow your friends to walk around and look at your creations.
I’ll definitely keep my eye on Minecraft AR, but my stance on AR continues to be that we need more compelling and useful implementations of AR technology before we’ll see any widespread adoption.
What do you think?