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article imageSmartphone built in Minecraft can make actual video calls

By James Walker     Dec 3, 2015 in Entertainment
Representing one of the most ambitious projects ever created inside the constraints of sandbox game Minecraft, Verizon Mobile has teamed up with players to create a working smartphone inside the blocky world. The result can load webpages and video calls.
The finished creation, shown off by famed Minecraft YouTuber CaptainSparklez (real name Jordan Maron), is a large construction capable of displaying video calls and navigating the web. Actual video calls can be controlled from inside the game, letting you speak to your friends without keeping a dedicated messaging app open on your desktop.
To make it work, Verizon worked with YouTubers and Minecraft experts at BlockWorks to create a web application known as Boxel that can transform webpages into arrangements of Minecraft blocks. A client inside the game then receives this data and uses it to change the blocks that make up the phone's "screen" in real-time, creating the video feed. The Boxel server handles communication with real video calling apps, translating each frame of webcam input into Minecraft blocks.
The person you're communicating with will see a picture of your Minecraft avatar in their chat application. You can also send a selfie from within Minecraft which will again show off your player avatar.
The phone's web browser connects directly to the Internet and can load any page online. Scroll buttons let the player view the rest of the content. Finally, SMS and MMS messages can be sent from the Minecraft phone to physical devices in the real world.
The required components can be freely downloaded from the project's website. The whole thing was sponsored by Verizon as a massive PR stunt and has resulted in one of the most elaborate examples of interactivity in Minecraft to date.
Previous comparable projects have included an operable guitar and working hard drive. Cody Littley built the latter project a block at a time, eventually creating a system capable of storing 1 kilobyte of data. Retrieving that kilobyte could take between six and seven minutes and the data had to be entered by hand but the project ultimately succeeded.
Perhaps most notably of all, a working 16-bit computer was built using the game's electrically-conductive redstone "wires" as early as 2010. The arithmetic logic unit (ALU) could calculate the results of sums when the player lit torches and has since inspired several other similar projects. It was the original that helped to get people interested in the game though, proving Minecraft's worth as an introduction to electrical engineering.
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