How kids can learn to code while designing their own metaverse

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Call it serendipity. 

Aidan Chopra and Scott Lininger are well-versed with the concept of a metaverse, but it was only when they started to develop Bluprint, an immersive, 3D world where children from ages 6 to 11 can learn to code, that they realized that they were giving kids the tools to develop their own version of the metaverse.  

If the future of our digital interactions is through the metaverse, where the basic content is no longer the webpage, children need to be more in control of authorship. Especially important for their parents, interactions need to be safe, says Chopra, cofounder and creative director of Bluprint. 

A kid-tested, parent-approved metaverse

Bluprint does both. The web-based portal, which is free to access, encourages children to learn how to code while their avatars are immersed in a world they develop. 

Such a metaverse can be populated by elements the kids choose and build using Minecraft-style modeling. Elements can include unicorns, desert terrain, buildings, bridges, various animals, and any product that is a byproduct of the child developer’s imagination. “When it comes down to it, Bluprint is really an authoring tool,” Chopra says, “it’s a platform for kids to create their own worlds.”

Built-in video chat allows real-time collaboration with friends and family the child chooses to invite through a custom link. Friends who join using the link show up as an avatar that can interact in the developed metaverse. Up to five invitees can play and collaborate at a time. 

The heart of Bluprint is its proprietary integrated Javascript-based coding environment, developed especially for kids. “Coding is an integral part of the experience,” Chopra says. Children enter the coding mode through a click at the bottom right of the screen. Doing so splits the screen into a picture of the metaverse alongside snippets of the code that populates it. Children learn how to code by studying the example code and registering what it does. 

Cutting and pasting snippets of code to make it do new things will enable kids to change their worlds in new ways. If a kid wants a unicorn to poop hearts, for example, they can simply code it. Changing the color of the sky can be as simple as changing the relevant lines of code and reloading the world. 

Plans are underway to compartmentalize the Bluprint world according to levels of coding difficulty. Beginners might start by playing with a few different controls — teaching a unicorn to answer simple questions or to like or dislike certain foods — before graduating to more complex programming. 

Bluprint continues to investigate the various ways in which the platform will teach code.

Built on Bitsbox

Chopra and Lininger are not new to the challenge of teaching kids how to code. In 2015, they launched Bitsbox, a subscription-based model – subscriptions start at $16.95 per month – that mails monthly coding projects to kids 6-11. They say they have taught millions of kids how to code. Subscription numbers for Bitsbox weren’t shared. 

Chopra says Bluprint builds on Minecraft’s capabilities by offering built–in video chat and easier-to-implement parental controls. Collaboration on Minecraft is not very straightforward, Chopra says. “We’re not looking to displace Minecraft, but we’ve built a number of features that we think are going to be really attractive to kids who are already into Minecraft,” Chopra says.

Bluprint aims to increase accessibility, and the number of kids that the team can reach, by offering a web-based portal. A public beta release is expected by late June. “The plan is to make a really sticky platform to develop a wider user base,” Chopra says. “We are focusing all our energy on making the stickiest, most fun and compelling game development platform we can, for kids, and hope that kids tell each other about it,” Chopra adds.

Bluprint’s revenue model will be through additional content that can be bought while playing in the metaverse. Parents might choose to give their kids a monthly allowance for spending on content development in Bluprint. 

Because Bluprint will be easily accessible for all kids who have an internet connection, Chopra hopes there will be broader authorship and a metaverse that more closely reflects the real world. “The metaverse will have the chance to be a place for everyone and a force for good if it’s created by everyone,” Chopra says.

Originally appeared on: TheSpuzz