Claim your Google Maps section and Build with Lego
- — 26 June, 2012 22:00
Google has been working for several months with Lego Australia to create Build with Chrome. The idea is simple - you build using Lego blocks onto a plot of land that you select from Google Maps.
There's no restriction on which plot of land you can choose, as long as someone else hasn't already claimed it. Having said that, Build is currently only available in Australia and New Zealand, so those are the only areas in which you can select land right now. You might want to choose your home address, for example, or a mountaintop. We're pretty sure someone will already be staking a claim to create a Lego Hobbiton in Matamata...
The Kiwi below was built in Christchurch.
We spoke to Sue Ann Barber, a prominent Australian Lego fan and coordinator of the team behind the hugely successful Australian Lego Fan display, Brickvention, about her experiences with Build. Barber is the president of Melbourne Lego User Group as well as a former Lego Ambassador - a role that provides links between the Lego Fan community and the Lego Group, so she's well-placed to talk about Build.
Barber says that, "Build with Chrome is similar to other virtual (online) Lego building experiences in that you are building and designing with Lego bricks without actually having to have the parts you are using. The difference with Build with Chrome is that you can build on a location of your choice anywhere in Australia or New Zealand. Imagine a lighthouse in the middle of Australia or a small micro-city where the casino normally sits."
One of the advantages of Build, for someone like Barber who is a Lego fan, is that "it gives you the opportunity to create buildings in fabulous colours that you may not otherwise be able to build." For example, Barber says, "I built a lime green house where my own house would normally stand. I'm pretty sure I wouldn't normally have enough bricks to build a real Lego house in that colour."
And the only real limit is your creativity, and finding a free plot of land, Barber told us. "The best bit is being able to populate a map of Australia and New Zealand with buildings of your own design. Kids can build a house where their house would be or a funky building on the site of their school. Australia is so big the possibilities are (almost) endless!"
Two of Barber's Build with Chrome creations are shown below:
Google developers created the Lego bricks using WebGL, and Google says that this wouldn't have been possible even a couple of years ago. Modern browser technology now means that these WebGL-based 3D Lego bricks can be used to build on a square plot of land you select using Google Maps.
Build is available now in Australia and New Zealand, but Google hopes to open it up for other countries soon.
How to start your Build
We asked Barber for any tips she had, and she said that you need to "Get in quick to claim your plot of land! One of my first buildings was on my house site, then the two locations for Melbourne Lego User Group. Later I built randomly - including one in Darling Harbour in Sydney."
Head to buildwithchrome.com and type in an address to home in on a Google Maps location. Select your plot of land, then click Build.
You'll be presented with a square Lego tile, on which you can build using bricks of 14 different types, in 10 different colours. Any features of your block of land - such as a road - may also appear.
You can rotate your bricks before placing them, zoom in and out and swivel your plot of land to see how your creation appears from all angles. Be warned, though: once you click Publish, you're done! There's no draft mode and no saving works in progress.