Minecraft’s Block by Block program is helping communities build thriving new public spaces around the world


As written by Thomas Kohnstamm on blogs.microsoft.com

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Earlier this spring, 45 schoolgirls in matching uniforms crowded into the computer room at the custard-colored North Thanglong Economic & Technical college on the outskirts of Hanoi, Vietnam. Beyond intermittent ripples of laughter and excitement, the 15- and 16-year-olds stayed focused throughout the day on the hard work at hand: playing Minecraft.
Together they built 3D models that reimagined the darker corners of their neighborhood as a safer, more functional and more beautiful place for them and their families to inhabit. But this wasn’t just an exercise in imagination. The girls were taking part in the newest project from Block by Block, a program from the United Nations and Mojang, the makers of Minecraft, that uses the power of Minecraft and designs sourced from local residents to improve public spaces around the world.
Thoughtful, inclusive approaches to urban development like this are increasingly critical as the world’s population increasingly moves to cities. Through a combination of birth rate and rural immigration, Hanoi has nearly doubled its population since the year 2000. And it’s not alone. Cities around the globe are swelling by a total of some 200,000 people per day.
Read the full story.


Gifts for the many varieties of gamer in your life

Gifts for the many varieties of gamer in your life

By Devin Coldewey as written on techcrunch.com

For the mainstream gamer

Does your gamer just want the latest AAA games in the coolest series, but maybe hasn’t had the chance or cash to pick them up?
Dishonored 2 has garnered nearly unanimous accolades as a worthy follow-up to the original: a highly enjoyable and well-crafted stealth action title with a lot of (optional) stabbing. (PC performance issues ought to be ironed out by the time this is received.)
Watch Dogs 2 improves on the original with a less-grimdark story, bigger world, and lots more options to create chaos using your choice of hacking tools and automatic weapons. Anybody who sunk a lot of time into the GTA series will find this right up their alley.

For the cerebral gamer

Does your gamer like to use their synapses instead of their reflexes? (Or would you rather they did?)
The Witness is at once one of the simplest and most sophisticated games I’ve played in years — it caused me to doubt my own brilliance constantly, and my own sanity more than once. Not for those easily deterred or frustrated.
Deus Ex: Mankind Divided may give you guns and fisticuffs, but you can also navigate its labyrinthine levels (and timely, if sometimes overreaching plot) with stealth and careful planning. It’s not a game to rush through, and the cerebral gamer will appreciate that.

For the competitive gamer

Do you often hear your gamer screaming “Oh my god! Get on the objective!” or “I need a heal!” or other strange utterances?
Battlefield 1 isn’t as different from the other war games as it would like you to think, but it’s still great fun and a nice break from the relentlessly modern multiplayer shooters we’ve had for years. The last time taking a zeppelin down was this much fun was probably Red Baron.
Titanfall 2 improves on the original’s combination of mechanized and on-foot combat in every way, with a tightly crafted single player campaign (a pleasant surprise) and Titanfall’s signature asymmetric multiplayer.

For the Overwatch gamer

Specifically, does your gamer say things like “We don’t need two Widowmakers!” or “Mei is bae”?
Millions play Blizzard’s mega-hit Overwatch, but comparatively few can bring themselves to pay for the “loot boxes” that contain cool skins for their favorite character and other bonus content, and come at an excruciatingly slow pace from in-game progress. You can’t gift boxes directly, but a Battle.net gift card will surely not go unappreciated.

For the intense gamer

Does your gamer like visceral experiences and in-depth combat?
DOOM is a fun and frantic return to form for the series, alternating between very fast-paced action and careful exploration. It doesn’t take itself seriously, instead focusing on the thrill and satisfaction of movement and power.
Shadow Warrior 2 combines slick combat with piles of loot, dozens of weapons, and levels that are different every time you play. It’s rough around the edges and the humor is juvenile to say the least, but the core gameplay is a blast. Fun for co-op, too, so buy a copy for yourself if it sounds fun.
Bonus: The inscrutable, terrifying, and bargain-priced Devil Daggers will take any overconfident intense gamer down a notch. Personal guarantee.


For the indie gamer

Does your gamer disdain the biggest releases, opting instead for titles created by a handful of people in Denmark?
Inside is a haunting, beautiful, and incredibly well made puzzler/platformer that tells a powerful story without speaking a single word. Warning: Despite appearances, it can be quite quite brutal!
Owlboy, ten years in the making, is a loving throwback to the days of the wide-ranging retro action-adventures like Super Metroid and Symphony of the Night. Anyone looking for a throwback will be well served by this passion project.
Bonus: If they didn’t already get it, Stardew Valley is a must-have.

For the world-dominating gamer

Does your gamer like to think about ways to take over the planet?
Civilization 6 is the only thing such a gamer needs right now. If they already have it, buy a copy for yourself and play with them. Beware: Civ games are notorious time sinks, so be ready to squander hours at a time.

For the disaffected Minecraft gamer

Does your gamer love to dig and build, but is getting tired of digging and building in the world of Minecraft?
Dragon Quest Builders is a surprisingly successful marriage of the blocky construction gameplay of Minecraft with the usual Dragon Quest adventuring. It hits a note Minecraft clones often fail to, and makes harvesting and building things its own reward.
Terraria and Starbound started as very Minecraft-like games in 2D, but have each evolved into their own unique experiences with loot, bosses, and secrets — though you’ll definitely be doing a lot of digging and building too. They’re both excellent games with active communities, so pick whether you like to go far above or deep below the surface, buy a couple copies, and go exploring.

For the role-playing gamer

Does your gamer appreciate stories that take upwards of 30 hours to complete?
Final Fantaxy XV is — apart from the remake of FFVII — probably the most anticipated title yet in the long-lived JPRG series. Whether it can live up to its years of hype we’ll soon find out, but we’re sure it’s going to be epic and at least pretty awesome, and everyone will want to play it anyway.
Tyranny is in the “Western” style of RPG, but brings freshness to the venerable genre with an unusual story that makes the player’s actions more than trivial. Hard moral decisions ahead, but for people who like playing evil or chaotic characters, this game will be a
Bonus: Persona 5 is… not coming out until April. But people are already going nuts and early reviews of the Japanese version are effusive. It’s going to be amazing. Full disclosure, I’m mainly putting this here so someone in my family will see it and buy it for me.

Minecraft: Education Edition officially launches


Minecraft: Education Edition officially launches

By Sarah Perez as written on techcrunch.com
Following months of testing and free trials for early adopters, Microsoft announced this morning that its learning-focused version of the popular Minecraft game, Minecraft: Education Edition, is now available for purchase. The game is available in 50 countries and in 11 different languages, the company said, and will include the Classroom Mode companion app that lets teachers manage settings and interact with students in the game.
Microsoft had first announced its plans to develop a version of the game for educators at the beginning of the year, after acquiring the learning game MinecraftEdu for an undisclosed sum. The company then built upon that library of lessons and activities to develop programs for teachers across a variety of subjects, including STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), history, language, and art, for example.
At the time of the deal, Microsoft had said it made sense to move in this direction given that Minecraft was already being using in over 7,000 classrooms in over 40 countries worldwide, even without Minecraft’s official involvement.
With that market in mind, Minecraft: Education Edition got off the ground, and now offers lessons for kids as young as five up to teens and even college students.
Teachers were given free trials during the testing period, ahead of today’s official launch, in order to offer feedback and try Minecraft in their classrooms. The company in September said that, during these trials, over 35,000 students and teachers have used the software.
The companion app Classroom Mode was previously announced, along with the November launch date. This new app lets teachers change the variables for the world, offer up items to students, communicate with students, and transport students virtually from a central interface.
Now live, Minecraft: Education Edition is no longer free, but will instead cost $5 per user. Volume pricing will be available for larger institutions.
The software will also continue to be updated over time, notes the company, to include new game features from other editions of Minecraft. At launch, the official version includes all the latest updates previously available in the Minecraft: Windows 10 Edition beta, says Microsoft.
In addition to the software, Microsoft offers a dedicated website for educators at education.minecraft.net, where they’ll find lesson plans, tutorials, starter worlds, and collaborate with others. There’s also a more structured program called Minecraft Mentors available, which will team a teacher new to Minecraft with others with experience to learn how to use it in the classroom.


Minecraft comes to VR today with Windows 10 Edition beta


Minecraft comes to VR today with Windows 10 Edition beta

By Darrell Etherington as written on techcrunch.com
Minecraft is now ready for its virtual reality debut: The update for the Minecraft Windows 10 Beta that adds VR support is available today. It’s a free update for people who already own the Windows 10 Edition Beta version of the game, but you can also get on board if you purchase the beta edition now.
There’s support for windows and mice, if you’re good enough at operating those without being able to see them, but there’s also support for the Xbox One controller, which you can use either plugged in via micro USB on Windows 10, or in tandem with the wireless Xbox One Controller for Windows adapter.
Microsoft says they’ve done a lot to ensure a range of players with a range of systems can get the most out of their VR experience, thanks to VR-specific customization options designed to maximize performance or help increase player comfort. Early impressions from people with preview access seem to enjoy what Mojang and Microsoft have put together for this, however, so go check it out if you have the necessary kit.


Microsoft announces teacher-inspired updates for Windows, Office, ‘Minecraft’

Microsoft announces teacher-inspired updates for Windows, Office, ‘Minecraft’ - managed solution

Microsoft announces teacher-inspired updates for Windows, Office, ‘Minecraft’

By Tony Prophet as written on blogs.microsoft.com
At Microsoft, we’re all in on education!
Our company mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more. In education, it’s to empower every student. Today, we’re proud to share the latest on what’s coming for Back-to-School 2016/2017.
Introducing Microsoft Classroom and Microsoft Forms, OneNote Class Notebook now with Learning Management System (LMS) integration, new experiences for Windows 10 and the dawn of “Minecraft: Education Edition” – Get ready!

First, we are announcing all new education features coming in the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, features specifically inspired by teachers and focused on students.

Faster, easier set-up:

Shared devices in the classroom are the norm – in the U.S., nearly 90 percent of schools report using shared devices. We also know that nearly 50 percent of teachers serve as their own tech support in their classroom. Until now, setting these devices up has been complex and getting students productive often takes too long.
With the Windows 10 Anniversary Update we are introducing a ”Set Up School PCs” app that allows teachers to set up a device themselves in a simple three-step process – in minutes. We’ve also made significant performance improvements for affordable devices. We expect the average first login to take 26 seconds, with subsequent logins of 6 seconds when the student uses that machine again.

Secure assessments:

Testing is going digital — teachers consistently tell us they want a simple way to set up quizzes or standardized tests digitally. The Windows 10 Anniversary Update brings a new ‘Take a Test’ app – simple and more secure standardized testing for the whole classroom or the whole school, where teachers or IT can lock down the testing environment, or enable simple quizzing.

Education-ready Windows Store:

Nearly 60 percent of teachers purchase and load apps themselves. With the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, the Windows Store will enable teachers to access thousands of apps, and schools can purchase and deploy them in bulk.

Free upgrade and affordable devices:

More and more, educators are asking us about affordable devices. We have a great portfolio of affordable, durable and innovative Windows 10 devices starting at $199, designed for the demands of education.
So you can see, the Windows 10 Anniversary Update brings a huge range of education-specific features that teachers and students are going to love. Learn even more about these new updates, and more, over on the Windows blog!

microsoft announces teacher 2 - managed solution

Second, we are announcing some big improvements to Office 365 Education.

Today we are announcing Microsoft Classroom

– a new experience in Office 365 Education. Microsoft Classroom is designed to be the one place students and teachers come to manage their day – from Class Notebooks, assignments and grades to conversations, calendars and to announcements!
We’re piloting this with Omaha Public Schools in Nebraska. Let me just share with you what they had to say . . .
“It simplifies our digital classroom management and frees up our teachers so they can spend more time with students and less time managing administrative access to class materials.” – Rob Dickson, Executive Director, Information Management Services of Omaha Public Schools.

Today we are also announcing Microsoft School Data Sync (SDS)

– a powerful complement for Microsoft Classroom. SDS connects Microsoft Classroom to a School Information System (SIS), so teacher, student and classes information is automatically populated in Microsoft Classroom and OneNote Class Notebooks. School Data Sync will be included in Office 365 Education. Think of it as a super simple process that quickly provisions a set of classes and rosters from many School Information Systems already used.

Also being announced: Microsoft Forms

– a simple way to quickly assess student progress and get feedback with easy-to-create surveys and quizzes. It’s in public preview starting today for Office 365 Education here.
OneNote Class Notebooks are the heart of our education experience and they just keep getting better and better. We have seen incredible momentum – with millions of student notebooks created just this school year. On top of the millions, we are currently seeing an additional new 10,000 student notebooks created per day!
To hear one educator describe it: “It’s your whole classroom (lesson plans, materials, assignments and student work) in a digital binder with tools for communication and collaboration!”

We’re also announcing Class Notebook assignment and grading integration is now available with more than 25 Learning Management System partners

– including leaders like Canvas, Edmodo, Schoology, Brightspace and Moodle. Learn more here.
We’re really excited about all of these improvements for Office 365 Education coming for the new school year! Learn more about all of the updates to Office happening for education – check out the Office blog here.

microsoft announces teacher 3 - managed solution

Finally, we’ve got some great news about “Minecraft: Education Edition”! June begins an early access program of “Minecraft: Education Edition.” It will be available for any educator to download and try for free on Windows 10 and OS X El Capitan.
This program is a great way for educators and administrators who are interested in “Minecraft: Education Edition” to give it a test run in the summer months and give us more feedback and suggestions.
If you are new to “Minecraft” in the classroom, check out education.minecraft.net for resources to help prepare, including lesson plans and a new “Minecraft” mentors program to connect with amazing teachers already using “Minecraft.”
What’s the next step? Upgrade your devices to Windows 10 or OS X El Capitan, and sign up for an Office 365 Education account.

minecraft education - managed solution

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Minecraft is coming to the Oculus Rift in 2016

minecraft managed solution

Minecraft is coming to the Oculus Rift in 2016

At Oculus Connect 2, Oculus co-founder, Palmer Luckey revealed that Minecraft is coming to the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset soon. The game will be available in 2016, via the Windows Store in Windows 10, as well as the Oculus Store.

This, is indeed, pretty big news for Minecraft, as well as Oculus. The game is coming to the HoloLens in the near-future, too. Now you just have to decide if you want to play Minecraft on a virtual reality headset or a augmented reality headset.

Source: http://microsoft-news.com/minecraft-is-coming-to-the-oculus-rift-in-2016/

Piper Lets Kids Design Circuits Using Minecraft And Electricity

Piper Lets Kids Design Circuits Using Minecraft And Electricity managed solution

Piper Lets Kids Design Circuits Using Minecraft And Electricity

As written by John Biggs on Techcrunch.com
There is a disease destroying our young people. It is silent, malignant, and fatal. It is called Minecraft and something must be done. If you have children of a certain age chances are they have made a giant Pikachu out of yellow blocks or put up a signpost that says “Poop Here” next to a chicken pen. It is truly terrible.
But there is hope. With Piper, we can turn Minecraft into something more exciting. The kit lets kids create circuits in real life and then see how they interact in Minecraft. It lets you, for example, add a battery and a button to a breadboard and see those parts pop up on the screen. Electricity flowing through virtual wires simulates what is happening in real life. In short, what you make on screen happens in real life and vice versa – sort of. Watch the video to really understand it.

What is Piper? from With Piper on Vimeo.
Mark Pavlyukovskyy and his partners created the project as a way to help kids learn electronics and they even got a plug from Steve Wozniak who said “I love Piper because it represents what enabled me to do all the great technology things in my life.” It is, in short, a popular project that looks like it could change the way our kids think about electronics.
The team has sold 1,500 units through Kickstarter and raised $50,000 from Co.lab. They are looking for more seed funding to expand the idea.
The kit includes a Raspberry Pi 2 and a laser cut case as well as wires, buttons, lights, switches, sensors, tiny breadboards, and everything else you need to start building right away!” In other words, it’s great fun and really useful. The kit costs $199 with a Raspberry Pi 2.
While many kids will remain enslaved by the evils of Minecraft if only one escapes and makes a little robot that buzzes and spits out pieces of paper that say “Poop Here,” I think we’ll be in good shape.

Microsoft HoloLens shown off at E3 2015 with Minecraft: Still no release date or price

With Minecraft being shown off at E3 2015 on the Microsoft HoloLens VR headset, we take a look a the possible release date, price and the specs and games - by Chris Martin
With virtual reality headsets such as the Oculus Rift and Sony's Project Morpheus looking like the future of gaming, we investigate the Microsoft HoloLens including release date and price with it making an appearance at E3 2015.
Microsoft said: "Our vision for holographic computing is to transform the world with holograms – seamlessly connecting the digital world with real life. With the ability to design and shape holograms, you will have a new medium to express your creativity, a more efficient way to teach and learn, and a more effective way to visualize your work and share ideas. This means your digital content and creations will be more relevant when they come to life in your world."

Microsoft HoloLens: Release date and price

Although the HoloLens was announced earlier this year at the firm's January event and we've just seen it again at E3 2015, there is still no release date or price to speak of. We expect it to be expensive, of course, and the fact that Microsoft isn't saying when we'll be able to buy it suggests a 2016 arrival at the earliest.
We'll keep this article up to date when more details on the HoloLens release date and price become available.

Microsoft HoloLens: Specs, features and games

Despite the lack of availability information, we do know that Minecraft will be the first game to work with the HoloLens, following Microsoft's Xbox Media Briefing at E3 2015. Minecraft for HoloLens isn't a recreation of the Minecraft game. Instead of a first-person perspective, players get a god-like perspective that allows them to view other players from above, or dive down into the scenery to explore below the surface of the game world.
"Microsoft HoloLens introduces all new ways to game with mixed reality, including “Minecraft” on HoloLens, a fully-featured version of “Minecraft” that allows players to explore the game world in full 3-D," said the firm.
The demonstration at E3 2015 was similar to the one in January but the HoloLens headset mapped out the room including a table and chairs bringing them into the Minecraft world. At E3, Microsoft used a table-top to simulate the Minecraft environment (see the video below).
As you would expect, the HoloLens is compatible with Windows 10 and will come with three processors: CPU, GPU and HPU. The latter is the Holographic Processing Unit which will handle the data from sensors. In real-time it will recognise your gestures, know where you're looking and spatially map the world around you. It uses augmented reality rather than blocking out the world around you.
"The advanced sensors in HoloLens capture information about what you’re doing and the environment you’re in," Todd Holmdahl explained on the Lumia Conversations blog. "This is done through the inertial measurement unit (IMU) which includes an accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer. It’s this IMU, coupled with head tracking cameras, which enables HoloLens to understand where your head is and how it’s moving."
The HoloLens has spatial sound so you can hear holograms even when they're behind you. It doesn't have a surround sound system so instead synthesizes a binaural sound which simply tricks your ears and brain.
Microsoft said there is a microphone array to capture your voice commands, a depth sensor that is used to spatially map your environment and interpret your hand gestures and a camera so you can share what you're doing with others.
Source: http://www.pcadvisor.co.uk/new-product/wearable-tech/microsoft-hololens-release-date-price-specs-rumours-3616014/