Alberta Innovators Develop Minecraft Project and Facebook App with Free Cloud

A Minecraft world that lets students simulate the life of pioneers and a tool that measures video and photo views on social media are just two innovative projects that have made use of  Alberta’s not-for-profit cloud resource.

The Rapid Access Cloud provides a free resource for Albertans to test and play on the cloud.

It was developed by Cybera, a not-for-profit technology-neutral agency responsible for accelerating technology adoption in Alberta.

Aaron Tuckwood, an innovation consultant for Elk Island Public Schools, used the cloud to build a Minecraft environment for a grade two class learning about life in the pioneering days.

“It was hard for them to identify with the struggles of people who were trying to make a new start in the Canadian wilderness,” says Tuckwood. “We set up a Minecraft world set in 19th century Western Canada and gave the students different tasks: clear their land for farming, build a home with the materials available, and plant crops. The students explored this world for four days and really seemed to enjoy themselves. They also gained a new appreciation of the hardships suffered by early Canadians.”

Tuckwood needed a cloud environment with enough power to run the Minecraft server effectively, and a colleague suggested the Rapid Access Cloud. He created an account and was able to get the server set up in a single morning, before working with teachers to create individual environments for their classes.

By the end of 2014, five classes had used the Minecraft pioneering environment, and another 10 teachers have asked for it to be set up in their classes in 2015.

At the University of Calgary, Professor Mea Wang and her MSc student, Brad Rougeau, used the pre-commercial cloud to develop Viewcount, a Facebook application that offers an interface for analyzing views of photos and videos shared on Facebook. Viewcount will be launched this week on the Facebook app suite. Wang’s group will use the data drawn from it to study the behaviour and influence of users who share multimedia, and to identify sharing patterns of multimedia content on social media.

“We began developing Viewcount on our department’s server, but we had no control over whether it went down or not,” says Wang. “With the Rapid Access Cloud, we have full control, and have enough computing power and the proper infrastructure to keep it online all the time.”

Other users of the Rapid Access Cloud have included academics and professionals testing out video games and network monitoring ideas, and a group of students in Calgary who developed and sold a cloud-hosted vending machine payment service.

Any Alberta innovator interested in testing their ideas in a free local cloud environment are invited to sign up here, or contact the Rapid Access Cloud team for more details.