Manhattan in Minecraft

March 6, 2014 | Andy Cush

Christopher Mitchell, a computer science PhD student, is making it his quest to build a 1:1 scale model of Manhattan in Minecraft. So far, he’s only been able to replicate landmarks using models from Google’s 3D Warehouse and the U.S. Geological Survey, but eventually, he’d like to make a software copy of every single structure on the island.

It’s part of a larger project called SparseWorld, which aims to algorithmically recreate other cities and real-world locations based on the vast wealth of data available online. “Computers have the memory and CPU horsepower to drive more expansive, immersive worlds, but the human effort necessary to build game worlds has only grown as graphical realism increases,” Mitchell wrote on a forum post introducing the concept last year. “We believe that data exists to machine-generate accurate game worlds from real-world locations. SparseWorld is a proof-of-concept project to harness distributed computing and large datasets to build expansive, recognizable game worlds with minimal human effort.”

For now, SparseWorld’s version of Manhattan is, well, sparse. Mitchell’s models of individual landmarks, however, look pretty great. See them in the gallery.