Where science meets gaming

With high-power computational processing contained within the next-generation consoles, we’re increasingly celebrating the diversity of computing hardware and software to make contributions to the wider world beyond the game community. For example, in 2005 when the Wii console was unveiled by Nintendo, it heralded a breakthrough in motion-based gaming but the utility of the hardware extended well beyond gaming applications. Dr Johnny Lee (a researcher in computing-human interaction at Google) explored the utility of the Wii remote to serve as an interactive whiteboard and tracking device, something he presented in 2008 in his excellent TED talk.

In 2011, Microsoft responded by releasing their Kinect technology serving as a remote, motion-sensing input device for the Xbox 360 console. Whilst hugely impressive from a gaming perspective, enabling users to undertake live dancing, workout and interactive gaming experiences, it wasn’t long before the Kinect began to be explored from a scientific perspective. Robotics laboratories around the world began to explore the utility of the Kinect to train motion-based actions, fully utilising the high-powered infrared projector and camera technology with an inbuilt sensory system that detects motion. The Kinect was subsequently explored as a tool in 3D and LiDAR based applications, as well as being used to measure water levels and flow in hydrology and fluid-based research.

Adding to this wave of scientific validity is the immensely popular game, Minecraft. Researchers at the British Geological Survey have explored the utilities of Minecraft for creating an entire land-surface map of the United Kingdom. Now, they’ve gone one step further, utilising the software to fully create a scientifically accurate map of London’s underground, identifying infrastructure and geological features including fault-lines. Renowned geologist from Plymouth University, Professor Iain Stewart, lauded the utility of Minecraft in a scientific setting, identifying that “most scientists tend to think in Minecraft when seeking to envision processes and land-units across large areas. Some images from both the land survey models and London underground are included in the gallery below and I’m sure you’ll agree, they’re pretty spectacular! The BGS have setup and entire website dedicated to their use of the software in geological research, which you can explore here.

Are you a fan of Minecraft? What’s the most impressive thing you’ve managed to create and do you think this has genuine merit as a scientific tool? Share your comments below and join in the discussion over on our Facebook Group. Be sure to give our Facebook page a like and for all the latest Xbox One news, be sure to follow us on Twitter.

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