Microsoft gives first look at new Minecraft Earth mobile game during Apple’s WWDC event

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Amid a slew of updates to iPhones, Macs and iPads, another tech giant took to the stage at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference to show off the latest version of Minecraft. 

Microsoft gave WWDC attendees a first look at the new Minecraft Earth augmented reality game, which takes after Pokémon Go to let users create immersive virtual environments in the real world. 

Thanks to Apple’s ARKit, users can build 3D castles, fight off lifelike creepers that sneak up on them and feed virtual chickens through their iPhone.

 

Minecraft Earth re-imagines the popular sandbox game for environments other than just your computer screen. 

Microsoft first announced Minecraft Earth earlier this year, but the demo during WWDC on Monday marked the first in-depth look at the interactive game. 

Developers Lydia Winters and Saxs Persson from Mojang, Microsoft’s game development studio, came onstage to show how Minecraft Earth works. 

Like any other augmented reality game, Minecraft Earth renders virtual objects and environments into the real world, letting users interact with and modify them in real time.

Winters was able to build a realistic looking castle on top of a table using a pickaxe.

Then, using ‘stage mode,’ Winters and Persson showed how users are able to walk through virtual Minecraft environments that are life-sized. 

This feature is possible as a result of Apple’s new ‘people occlusion’ capability in ARKit 3, the latest version of Apple’s augmented reality platform for developers. 

People occlusion allows virtual objects to be placed in front and behind people in AR environments.  

This means people are able to step into digital environments with a more realistic flair. 

During the WWDC demo, a piece of dynamite was thrown, which opened up the floor below Winters, revealing skeletons and other monsters, showing just how realistic the new AR capabilities are. 

ARKit 3 also comes with more advanced motion tracking capabilities, wherein users point a camera at an object and it’ll be able to detect their movement in real time. 

Winters demoed this capability in Minecraft Earth when she waved her hand and her look-a-like character waved in unison. 

With ARKit 3, developers can now track up to three faces using the front camera, while new collaborative sessions let users share AR experiences more seamlessly than before. 

Microsoft expects to open up beta testing of Minecraft Earth this summer. Users can register to become part of the test on their site.   

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