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Southampton web specialist develops software that creates Minecraft images of English towns using open data

Published: 
21 December 2015
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Minecraft enthusiasts can recreate virtual versions of their home towns by combining publicly-available open data with a new tool developed by a web specialist at the University of Southampton.

Christopher Gutteridge, from the University’s Web and Data Innovation and Development Team, came up with the idea for the Magic Minecraft Map Maker after spending eight months of his own time painstakingly building a model of his home town Ventnor on the popular computer game.

“To create the model I had to painstakingly measure everything from maps and aerial photography and do my best to guess the height of the cliffs and buildings,” said Chris. “I thought, there must be a better way to do this with all the open data that is now available. So I started work on combining OpenStreetMap with LIDAR - 3D data published by the government. I developed a software tool that when you put this data into Minecraft you can automatically create a lifelike model of any place in England within a very short time. The first time I saw what I had produced I was really excited, it looked so accurate.”

Users of Chris’ new software can even turn their towns into netherworlds or winter scenes by using alternative configurations, or come up with their own weird and wonderful creations such as making the sea out of stone and land out of water.

Mark Braggins, of Open Data Aha, said: “Automatically combining 3D LIDAR data with Open StreetMap to recreate Ventnor in Minecraft was ingenious. This is a really impressive demonstration of what can be done with skill, determination, and open data from multiple sources.”

The Magic Minecraft Map Maker software can be downloaded for Mac and Linux from:
https://github.com/cgutteridge/geocraft
https://codeload.github.com/cgutteridge/geocraft/zip/master

By giving the software a region to generate it goes to the LIDAR site to work out the shapes of things, and to OpenStreetMap to work out what is a building, grass, roads or water.

Chris, who graduated in Computer Science from the University of Southampton, believes the new software that he developed in his spare time, could be very useful as well as entertaining.

He said: “This is an excellent demonstrator of the open data that the government and community are making available, and the power of combining them.

“It could be used by schools to base projects on such as rebuilding a ruin like Netley Abbey, or improving their town by designing and building new things in their local area and seeing how buildings such as a new block of flats can change things.”

To find out more about the Magic Minecraft Map Maker visit:
www.facebook.com/magic.minecraft.map.maker/
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WUXi8SK39_Q

Demonstrations are available on servers at:
Southampton server: 159.8.141.198:56086
London Server: 159.8.141.199:52664

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