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Ordnance Survey uses OS OpenData to create a Minecraft map of Great Britain

24 September 2013

A team developing ideas for future products and services at Ordnance Survey has created a map of Great Britain in the popular Minecraft video game, featuring 22 billion blocks, using their freely available digital map products in OS OpenData, and made it available for download as a new Minecraft world.

The national mapping authority have created a Minecraft world representing over 224,000 square kilometres of Great Britain using two of their OS OpenData products. The Minecraft GB terrain was created using OS Terrain 50, a three-dimensional model of the bare earth surface known as a Digital Terrain Model delivered as a grid with a resolution of 50 metres. The raster version of OS VectorMap District, a mid-scale contextual or backdrop map product, was then used to extract surface features – for example water, woodland and roads – based on pixel colours and densities. This information was then used to modify the material of individual blocks in the Minecraft GB world.

Explaining how the project started, Graham Dunlop, Innovation Lab Manager at Ordnance Survey, said, “The purpose of our Labs team is to explore and assess ideas for new products and services. When Joseph Braybrook joined the team as part of Ordnance Survey’s summer internship programme, we discovered he was an avid Minecraft fan and we decided to explore the potential educational benefits of the popular video game. We decided to build a Minecraft world using free-to-use OS OpenData products to display the landscape and terrain of Great Britain.”

The new Minecraft GB world, which consists of over 22 billion Minecraft blocks, is now available to download by any of Minecraft’s 33 million active users with a license. Players can use the new world to fly across the country and see different environments such as Snowdonia, Poole Harbour and central London. All players will enter the virtual 3D world at our head office in Southampton and from there can add their own recreations of real-life features – such as landmarks like Stonehenge or add imagined environments such as Hogwarts castle.

Graham continues, “We think we may have created the largest Minecraft world ever built based on real-world data. It’s impressive to know that despite never having used Java programming previously, Joseph took just two weeks to create the Minecraft GB world. The resulting map shows the massive potential, not just for using Minecraft for computer technology and geography purposes in schools, but also the huge scope of applications for OS OpenData too.”

Recognising the need to scale the world, the team used coding to take the raw heights in Ordnance Survey’s data and scaled it down to fit within the 256 block height limit in Minecraft. A maximum height of 2,500 metres was chosen, which means Ben Nevis appears just over 128 blocks high. Although this exaggerates the real-world height, it preserves low-lying coastal features such as Bournemouth's cliffs, adding interest to the landscape.

Ordnance Survey has also linked the world to their popular OS getamap service to enable players to navigate to some familiar places. Players can use the service to search for a location and capture the grid reference displayed on the screen. Using this, a conversion tool can then generate the Minecraft teleport command with the correct world coordinates.

Visit Ordnance Survey’s website for more information and to download the data: http://www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/innovate/developers/minecraft-map-britain.html

Read the BBC article.


Notes to editors:

  1. Ordnance Survey is Great Britain’s national mapping authority, providing the most accurate and up-to-date geographic data, relied on by government, business and individuals.
  2. To download this news release visit: www.ordnancesurvey.co.uk/media. There you can also subscribe to our RSS feed.

Contact us

For more information:

Contact: Robert Andrews, Head of Corporate Communications

Email: robert.andrews@ordnancesurvey.co.uk

Phone: (+44) 023­ 8005 5563

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