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Technology recently developed at the University of Canterbury’s Human Interface Technology Laboratory New Zealand (HIT Lab NZ) allows coloured-in pictures to come alive in 3D, and could be a new tool to help improve children’s reading skills.
Dr Adrian Clark has designed colAR, an augmented reality computer program that turns children’s coloured-in pictures into 3D animations, allowing the users to see a real-life image of their own artwork.
The project recently received a funding boost after being named one of three Tech Jumpstart competition winners by UC's Research & Innovation unit.
Dr Clark said the concept worked like a virtual pop-up book and had the potential to not only entertain children, but also improve their reading skills.
“This is an on-going project that’s part of our research into how education can be improved by using augmented reality. We are very interested in combining education and technology,” Dr Clark said.
“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.”
The program 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.
The program and the pictures can be downloaded free from the HIT Lab NZ’s website. Once the child has finished colouring-in, a camera attached to a computer is simply held over the picture and their personally coloured bird pops up like a hologram on the screen in 3D.
“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,” he said.
“With traditional colouring-in books, once you have finished drawing that’s the end of it, but with this program that’s just the beginning of the adventure.”
Dr 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.
“These are early ideas on how we can take this technology and apply it to different styles in education and learning,” he said.
“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. There are many possibilities and practical uses for this program.”