Can you hear me now in "Minecraft"? Verizon figured there wasn't enough to do in the massively popular crafting game, so the company partnered with an advertising agency and "Minecraft" architects to bring a bit of the real world to the virtual. The new features let players make video calls, send selfies and browse the Web. Best of all, Verizon made the libraries open to the public so everyone can make block-y calls.
It's an interesting way to add new functions to a game best known for fostering creativity. "Believe it or not, until recently it was impossible to order a pizza 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," Verizon wrote in its GitHub page.
To solve that problem, Verizon created a Web application, Boxel, and a server plug-in, Boxel-client, to create streaming video using blocks and to handle communication. Boxel turns images and websites into a near real-time stream of blocky pixels at a rate of 20 frames per second. During the video call, "Minecraft" players will see a pixelated view of the person they called. The receiver will see the caller's "Minecraft" avatar. Verizon also created a selfie stick that attaches to the "Minecraft" cell phone. Players can use that to take a selfie and send it as an MMS message to an actual phone.
To help bring the smartphone features to life, Verizon sought support from advertising agency Wieden+Kennedy and "Minecraft" architect and design firm BlockWorks. Expert crafters SethBling and CaptainSparklez were involved in beta-testing the technology. Despite the graphical limitations, the crafting game has led to a great amount of creativity.
"Minecraft" experts have crafted cities, landmarks, a working typewriter and even other games within the game. Mojang, developer of "Minecraft," was sold to Microsoft in 2014 for $2.5 billion. To date, 70 million total copies of "Minecraft" have been sold.