Google has launched Build with Chrome, a web application that allows users to build their own Lego inventions across the South Pacific. Essentially, Chrome has introduced Google Maps to the world of Lego, and the two are getting along swimmingly. It's a lot like Minecraft, but uses Lego bricks as the building blocks.
Google Australia has been developing the 3D experiment in urban planning in Sydney for several months, and claims to have a nifty collection of bricks any child would envy -- eight trillion. The project marks 50 years of Lego in Australia.
"We made the bricks with WebGL, which enables powerful 3D graphics right in the browser and demonstrates the upper limit of current WebGL graphics performance," said Lockey McGrath, marketing manager at Google Australia and New Zealand.
"We then mixed in Google Maps (another Aussie invention) so you can put your creation in a Lego world alongside everyone else's."
Currently, the browser only allows users to select land to build on in Australia and New Zealand, and the plots are rapidly being snapped up. From the giant banana erected at 96 Sandy Place in New South Wales to the pint of beer sitting appealingly along Wiradjuri Walking Track in Wagga Wagga, the creations are getting more inventive by the minute. Over in New Zealand there's what looks like a T-rex by Franz Josef Glacier, and Christchurch is populated by a few terrifying hybrid animals that we hope the users are yet to finish.
If you want to join in, just click "Build" on the left hand side of the page and the program will select a plot at random. You will then be supplied with a variety of Lego bricks in different sizes and colours, as well as a few optional extras like windows and doors -- though from the selection of Lego plots already completed, it seems house-building is a little too pedestrian for most users who are instead using the program to stretch their creative muscles.
Chrome has installed a few features, including a Google+ share button (Google will repost the most bizarre and unusual offerings) and a "flag as inappropriate" tab. It lacks many of the gaming elements that make Minecraft so compelling -- such as the hostile cave spiders, creepers and zombies -- but it is engaging enough to waste several hours of your working day.
Google says it hopes to expand the project to other countries -- neighbouring Southeast Asia is looking relatively bland and sparse by comparison at the moment. In the meantime, users will be working to give the huge expanse of central Australian bush land a new lease of life.