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colAR brings children's drawings to life through augmented reality

colAR brings children's drawings to life through augmented reality
Dr Adrian Clark of the University of Canterbury’s Human Interface Technology Laboratory is the mastermind behind colAR, an augmented reality computer programme that turns children’s coloured-in pictures into 3D animations, allowing the users to see a real-life image of their own artwork.

New technology out of Canterbury that brings pictures to life in 3D could be developed into a tool to help improve children’s reading skills.

Dr Adrian Clark of the University of Canterbury’s Human Interface Technology Laboratory is the mastermind behind colAR, an augmented reality computer programme that turns children’s coloured-in pictures into 3D animations, allowing the users to see a real-life image of their own artwork.

colAR has been designed using two pictures of a Kiwi and a yellow-eyed penguin from a book about native birds being used in some schools, Amazing Animals of New Zealand. These can be downloaded here.

Once the child has finished colouring in, a camera attached to a computer is held over the picture and their personally coloured bird pops up like a hologram on the screen in 3D.

colAR augmented reality canterburyThe project recently received a funding boost after being named one of three Tech Jumpstart competition winners by UC's Research & Innovation unit.

“It’s incredibly popular with kids. They all want to see their art come alive as though the bird is standing right there in front of them coloured in their own unique designs,” Clark said.

“With traditional colouring-in books, once you have finished drawing that’s the end of it, but with this programme that’s just the beginning of the adventure.”

Clark said colAR worked like a virtual pop-up book and had the potential to not only entertain children, but also improve their reading skills.

“We have done numerous studies on the effect of adding technology like this to a book and it does improve recall of information in the children who use it because it’s so engaging, and decreases the reading comprehension gap between high and low level readers so children who struggled with reading retain the information that is being portrayed.”

Clark said the technology could be applied in different ways, including helping students learn te reo Maori. He hoped it could be incorporated into the national school curriculum. 

“We are planning on meeting with teachers to talk about how this could benefit them. The book is a minor case study about what we can do. We are interested in how we can use similar tools to enhance storytelling and teach te reo by asking the children to colour in certain objects named in te reo Maori before the story can continue.

“It could also be used to customise a story with objects being coloured in as the story progresses, or for children to select items to be used in the story."