Minecraft Penn

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A month ago ("Real people in virtual worlds: a viral update?", 3/5/2020), I noted that

[T]he popular virtual-meeting applications don't yet have a way for a group to hold their discussion in a shared virtual space, as in current video games or applications like vrchat.

And when participants' avatars (realistic or otherwise) can sit or move in a shared space, with appropriate directional audio and so on, we'll be able to have virtual seminars, virtual workshops, virtual corridor conversations — and most important, virtual dinner parties!

One positive outcome of the growing panic over COVID-19 will be to hasten the deployment of these technologies.

So today I learned that some University off Pennsylvania students are creating a virtual Penn campus, with the idea of holding (a version of) events there like Hey Day and the Penn Relays — "UPenn students recreated their campus on 'Minecraft' in painstaking detail while stuck at home — take a look", Business Insider 4/5/2020.

The article has many screenshots — here's one of the exterior of the Fisher Library, as built in Minecraft by Michael Willhoit:

And the inside:

The project was started by Andrew Guo and Damian Owerko, and the article says that there are about eight students working on the construction now.

This is an old technology, but it's being put to a new use — and there are more modern world-creation systems that are probably being used in a similar way.

Update — more here: "Meet the Penn students recreating campus in Minecraft", Penn Today 4/13/2020.


  1. AntC said,

    April 5, 2020 @ 9:03 pm

    popular virtual-meeting applications don't yet have a way for a group to hold their discussion in a shared virtual space,

    I hear a lot of buzz about 'zoom', I thought precisely because that's what it aims to do. Disclaimer: I've made no attempt to verify the claims. I've found skype or similar good enough for group discussions. The usual limitation is lack of bandwidth to support too many participants, and I don't see any fancy app being able to get over that.

    Before anybody rushes to try 'zoom', I should also say I hear almost as much buzz that it is tantamount to a virus or Trojan horse that will pipe all your confidences straight to evil actors. Disclaimer: I've always acted on the assumption that even the Plain Old Telephone System and snail mail is doing that.

    [(myl) Many (most?) of the people reading this blog have been regularly using Zoom, Skype, Bluejeans, Webex, Whereby, Google Hangouts, etc. etc. etc. for several years, with a recent sharp uptick during the social-isolation period. We know that the just-named systems all have the property that each participant's video background is what their own device's camera sees (or in the case of Zoom, an individually-select virtual background image). That's very different from the shared virtual space of multi-user games.

    So please try to avoid commenting about things you have no experience with. Or maybe ask rather than assert…]

  2. Christian Weisgerber said,

    April 6, 2020 @ 10:06 am

    Has Second Life been completely forgotten already?

    [(myl) No, nor all the other games with shared virtual spaces, going back to the text-based versions in the 1970s. What we don't yet have, as far as I know, is an application aimed at running meetings (rather than games) in a shared virtual space.]

  3. david said,

    April 6, 2020 @ 12:57 pm

    There were many MOOs, and there still are a few.


    Some were for educational purposes. I was active on the Biomoo and later on Diversity University.

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