The sandbox world of Minecraft allows you build practically anything. Soon though, it won't be used simply to create spatial objects, but artificial intelligence systems. At least, that's Microsoft's plan, taking an project aiming to teach AI to make its own decisions and launching it as an open-source testbed. Currently, Microsoft's internal study sees a small team of computer scientists trying to teach a virtual player how to navigate Mojang's blocky world. The AI has only the same available resources a flesh and blood player would have access to, and must learn from its mistakes.
Minecraft, the hit block-building videogame that's taken over the best minds of a generation, is now available to play on the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset, as parent company Mojang announced today. You'll need an Oculus Rift headset ( 599, powerful gaming computer sold separately), as well as a copy of the Minecraft for Windows 10 beta ( 9.99). We've got at least one of those things here at the Popular Science offices, so if you see productivity plummet in the afternoon hours today here, you'll know why. This isn't actually the first virtual reality manifestation of Minecraft: Mojang released a version for the Samsung's cheaper 99 Gear VR earlier this year. But the Oculus version has some features optimized for the PC (mouse, keyboard, and Xbox controller support), and a "virtual living room" that lets you toggle out of the VR view to get a more traditional "flat" screen for times when you don't want to feel like a Creeper is breathing down your neck.
If your child is a Minecraft fan, you may be concerned about how much time they're spending in the blocky onscreen world. Fear not: While it can let kids spell dirty words in 10-foot-tall letters, the game can also develop problem- solving skills, spatial reasoning, and more. There's even a classroom- optimized version, MinecraftEdu (recently acquired by Microsoft). The best way to learn about Egyptian pyramids, Saturn rockets, and rain forests is by clambering all over them. Thanks to its tweakable construction interface, kids can use Minecraft to set up and run experiments.
Minecraft doesn't stand up very well under the scrutiny of rational thought. This is a game where the smartest thing you can do when you're first starting out is punch a bunch of trees until they shatter. This IRL Minecraft treatment from Nukazooka looks at the good, the bad and the terrifying in a two-minute montage. The early tree-punching levity quickly gives way to abject horror as zombies, skeletons and, yes, even a creeper swarm in to cause trouble.
3D construction sandbox games such as Minecraft have provided new opportunities for people to express their creativity. However, individual players have few tools to help them learn about architectural style or how to improve the structure they are building. Ideally, players could utilize tools that capitalize on the large numbers of 3D models built by others to offer guidance for their particular project. We trained a neural network to classify a large collection of Minecraft models from various websites in terms of style (Ancient, Asian, Medieval, or Modern). We present experimental results demonstrating that our model can classify the user-indicated style of a structure with 55% accuracy. We further demonstrate use of this model to highlight nearest neighbors to a specific query structure. We have integrated these tools into a Minecraft Mod that allows players to classify their structure's style and view nearest neighbors in real-time.