Sunday, March 18, 2007

Serious Games Revolutionizing Children's Reading

Serious Games applying augmented reality to children's literature

The eyeMagic project at the University of Canterbury's Human Interface Technology Laboratory New Zealand (HIT Lab NZ), is ongoing research to explore the application of augmented reality technology to children's literature.

Augmented Reality (AR) is a new computer interface technology that allows computer graphics to be overlaid on the real world, so that both the virtual images and the real objects can be seen at the same time. AR interfaces have been developed for medical, military and educational applications.
The eyeMagic project is one of these applications.

Gavin Bishop is a noted New Zealand children's book author and illustrator. In the eyeMagic project one of his stories, "Giant Jimmy Jones" was transformed from a normal printed book into one where three-dimensional animated virtual images appear to pop- from the real pages. When the reader looks through a handheld display at the pages, virtual scenes come to life and appear attached to the real book.

A child can flip through its pages and read it like a conventional book. But with a handheld display and computer vision tracking technology, the child can watch the story literally come to life.
"You can see animated virtual characters overlaid on the real book pages and hear the voice of Gavin Bishop reading the story," says Billinghurst, director of the HIT Lab NZ.

Aside from being a very new form of entertainment, the eyeMagic book is also an educational tool. Children can read the "Giant Jimmy Jones" book, and can also build their own versions of the book. After developing the eyeMagic book, the HIT Lab NZ produced a set of workshops that taught children how to create three dimensional virtual objects. In four days children could go from knowing nothing about Augmented Reality to seeing their own virtual models popping out of the pages of a real book.

In summary the opportunities created through this project are allowing children to go on and make their own projects for their own entertainment - surely the ultimate result where the user is creating and developing local stories, in diverse languages/cultures and simultaneously learning complex creative ICT skills.