Verizon Built A Cellphone In Minecraft And It Really Works

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If you thought ordering Dominos via the pizza emoji was mind blowing, get this: Now you can order a pizza through Minecraft.

Until now it was impossible to order takeout from Minecraft. In fact, you couldn’t make a phone call, send a text message or browse the web from the game even if you built a phone. Crazy, right? It’s 2015! We have self-driving cars but not Minecraft-ordering pizzas?!

In a quest to solve these first-world problems, Verizon has built a phone in Minecraft that can actually connect to the real world without leaving the game.

Before I go any further, if you don’t know what Minecraft is, think Super Mario. I’d say that’s probably my equivalent to today’s Minecraft, since I’m an early 90s baby. For more seasoned readers, you may relate more with Atari or Pong. Either way, Minecraft is today’s “cool” video game. Although, it’s really nothing like what we played, considering the major advancements that have been made since “our time.” Minecraft is everywhere, in fact, there’s a semiannual convention (“MineCon”) and it’s even been brought to schools with the new “MinecraftEDU” education initiative.

(Side note: I’m pretty sure I would have gotten detention for playing Super Mario in school, but clearly times (and video games) have changed since then.)

Minecraft enables players to build some incredible “worlds,” and some even explain the game as being sort of like virtual LEGO. You basically fit pieces together to build stuff. As the name suggests, players first “mine” for things (like wood by punching a tree) to then create a basic tool. Once you’ve “mined,” enough resources, you can begin to create things like items, tools, and eventually your Minecraft “world.” It’s actually quite complex. Add a web-browsing, video-chatting, fully functioning cellphone into the mix and you’ve got one advanced video game (that’s not just for kids).

So with the help of Wieden+Kennedy and BlockWorks, Verizon created a web application called Boxel that translates real web pages and streaming video into blocks so they can be built on a Minecraft server in real time. The server plugin uses Boxel-client to handle the communication between Minecraft and the real world as translated by the web application.

See how it works for yourself:

The browser connects directly to the Internet and translates real web pages into blocks that appear on the screen of your in-game phone (which is also made of blocks). You can load any page from the Internet and scroll to view the whole thing.

To send and receive video calls, faces are translated into Minecraft blocks in real time. Faces are still pretty distinguishable and kind of just look like pixelated headshots.

And want to send a selfie? Take it with a selfie stick. Yes, you can actually create a selfie stick by combining the in-game phone with a stick. By swinging the stick, you can take a selfie and send it to a real-world phone via MMS. Crazy.
If you can write code, you can try it out for yourself—Verizon has open-sourced the libraries which you can check out here.

Now the big question. What kind of pizza will you order?


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