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Big Hoot Colouring: Bringing drawings to life with the magic of AR (and AUT’s AppLab)

An augmented reality colouring app lets people draw, and then brings those drawings “to life” in the form of something interactive.

Alright, so that’s pretty cool, no? Who wouldn’t want to draw something and see it come to life? It’s every kid’s (and kid at heart’s) dream.

That’s precisely what the Haier Big Hoot Colouring mobile app does. A collaboration between Haier and AUT’s AppLab, it allows kids nationwide to see how their “Big Hoot” owl design would look in real life using augmented reality technology. After all, who doesn’t like owls? (well, folks with ornithophobia, but that’s a bird of a different feather – no pun intended – entirely)

“Colouring-in books have always been popular with kids as a way of creative expression,” says Kerri Hedley, from Haier’s sales and marketing department. “We wanted kids from all over the country to be able to take part in the Big Hoot so we collaborated with the AUT AppLab to develop an app that brings state of the art technology to this classic children’s activity. 

“The app empowers kids to become artists of the Big Hoot, making their own digital version of the sculptures seen around Auckland.”

The “Big Hoot” is also an event that brings storytelling to the streets of Auckland through 47 bespoke Owl sculptures, which will help raise money for the Child Cancer Foundation when they are auctioned off. Each of the 1.65-metre high owl sculptures are unique and have been designed by established or emerging artists, including Dick Frizzell and Mandii Pope.

Through the Haier Big Hoot Colouring app, kids can download and print a template, colour it in and then use the app to watch their design come to life as a flying and hooting owl. 

AUT’s AppLab developed the app in collaboration with Conical Studios and AUT School of Art & Design postgraduate students as part of a summer scholarship. AppLab led the project and worked on the user interface (UI) following Haier design concepts. 

“Augmented Reality, otherwise known as AR superimposes digital objects into the physical world. This app is unique because it captures the creativity of the children’s artwork, embedding its colours into an animated owl, which hoots and flies,” says Dr Claudio Aguayo, research and development director at AUT’s AppLab.   

The Big Hoot trail is open to the public until May 6. Dick Frizzell’s owl, “Tecolote The Messenger,” will be stationed at Khartoum Place in Auckland’s city centre, and Mandii Pope’s “BB-Owl” will sit in Jellicoe Plaza until they are both auctioned off.


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