Disney is about to make coloring books far more technologically advanced than you remember. Predictably, this involves an iPad, but it’s cooler than you might think.
Disney Research, the international network of Mickey Mouse skunkworks labs, has developed an app that shows you what the character you’re coloring looks like in 3D, in real time, as you color it.
As you can see in the video above, all you have to do is point your iPad camera at the coloring book, and the coloring book app will show you how the texture of the 3D model changes as you go. as you draw. There are plenty of apps that can pull out a specific 3D model based on what the camera sees and overlay it on the image, but Disney’s coloring book app is a bit more advanced.
It is able to both take a colored 2D drawing and map it onto a 3D model, as well as use that information to color in parts of the character that you can see in 3D, but cannot color in 2D. According to Disney’s research paper, to do this, the app creates an initial estimate based on available information, which it then slowly releases to fill the rest of the 3D model via “a virtual spring system.” You can see this happening at 0:50 in the video.
I’ve seen a lot of children’s toys with augmented reality gadgets over the years. Usually this involved pointing an iPad at a game board to get more information that could easily have been included in a booklet. Crayola even has a similar app that will animate your character after you finish coloring, but there’s something truly mesmerizing about watching the character come to life in real time.
“Coloring books capture children’s imaginations and provide them with one of their first opportunities for creative expression,” the research paper explains. “However, given the proliferation and popularity of television and digital devices, traditional activities like coloring may seem uninspiring by comparison.”
I do not agree! Coloring books are pretty cool and fun, but if it makes it popular again, I’m into it.