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Minecraft Reality brings virtual blocks to the real world

A new app reveals how Minecraft designs look on our planet, but you'll need a powerful iOS device to use it.

I've always wanted a jungle biome on my desk. Screenshot by Christopher MacManus/CNET

After downloading Minecraft Reality for iOS, I channeled Queen's epic song "Bohemian Rhapsody" and asked myself, "Is this the real life? Is this just fantasy?"

Fortunately, the answer to both questions is "yes." The $1.99 app, released yesterday, gives gamers the opportunity to view their Minecraft creations in the real world -- through the lens of augmented reality.

After a brief install, the app essentially lets you anchor a virtual Minecraft creation at your location, sort of like a digital monument. When others visit the area, they can see whatever you placed there through the eyes of the app.

Some users might find the setup process a bit confusing at first, as it requires you to slowly move the camera left, right, in, and out before putting the virtual item or location down. I found it a lot easier to use when testing it on tables and desks instead of the floor.

Adventurers should keep an eye on the discover tab, which allows you to see if any other adventuresome Minecraftians left their digital mark on the world. To upload a Minecraft design to the app, simply visit the Minecraft Reality Web site and upload the relevant MCA file.

Minecraft developer Mojang teamed with 13th Lab to create the resource-hungry AR app, which only works fully with the iPhone 5, iPhone 4S, iPod Touch 5G, and newer iPads. Sadly, 13th Lab notes that the app doesn't work with the iPod Touch 4G (or earlier), and most functionality does not work on the iPhone 4.