Augmented Reality (AR) Brings our colourings and drawings to life

Drawing in a coloring book is a natural way for a child, or even adults these days, to express themselves.  But, these images are of course static.  Augmented reality is beginning to allow these cartoons to come to life on the screens in front of us by auto-capturing the colored image and rendering it with width, height and depth.   The cartoon character’s texture is synthesized in real time.    For further technical information, you can check out this YouTube video from The Disney Research Hub, where they detail how they build a static lookup map that assigns a pixel from the drawing, starting with a guess, and then going thorough a spring system. YAWN.

But, it is interesting if you want to be a part of these changes in our augmented age of computing.   For example, deformable surface tracking is implemented to factor the curve of the pages.   Well, by knowing this, we consider the challenges we can surmount in designing AR for other curved surfaces.  The curve of a a hallway, of a bathtub, of a woman’s ramp – whatever curve you fancy you can factor into your augmentation creation and have it mapped appropriately because of the innovations AR coloring tech allows.

Overall, the users found that this technique for live texturing and drawing/coloring cartoon characters enhanced their connection with the character and increased their motivation to draw.  The motivating factor is the real use-case as augmented reality for education is in the near future and will shape the next generation’s way of thinking about extended reality, during their most impressionable years.   By having drawings come to life on our pages/screens, we will begin to tell stories this way.   In this video here we can envision how safari animals and fairytales will draw us in.   You can find even more in the Disney Lab research page on “The Science Behind Magic” here.

Crayola is going as far as calling their app, Color Alive, a “4D experience!”.  However, counting non-geometric dimensions opens a can of words, because time, temperature and a myriad of other variables can be considered dimension, it’s just as much a 420D as it is 4D, but I supposed we can allow them this rather vapid marketing ploy.   Their crayon game provides interactive experiences by fusing the physical world with the creative imagination of anyone willing to digitally play.  (they call it real world, rather than physical world, but we changed it because the former implies too many fallacies, while the latter clear states without bias what their looking to convey).   You’ll start to notice that most of these apps have the same marketing lines and shticks.     Being one of the world’s leaders in coloring, it is no surprise that Crayola is teamed up with DAQRI, a world leader of digital information as far as infusing to the physical world goes.  Or in their exact words  “…focused on delivering technologies that redefine what is humanly possible.  Our powerful computer vision delivers best-in-class AR in the toughest of industrial environments.”

Other great apps to toy around with are AR Coloring Book from Fibrum, and Chromville, which are both designed for children and template pages that can be downloaded and printed for your coloring.   They have free pages and will be rolling out paid pages shortly.  By adding narrative to these pages we encourage story-telling.  These engagements make it exciting for those of us with limited art skills, and the make creating master pieces quicker.  These sort of technologies allow for the user to color just one side of an image, say the front of a character, and the artificially intelligence of the app, with reasonable accuracy, will color the rest, namel the back visuals of that same character.   With time and proper databasing this these guesses will become more and more accurate, and therefore the creation of content will become more and more automated, which will mean we can increase the complexity of our designs.  I wonder how soon this will be true for writing?  Where a bot writes most of the content by scanning the internet and then a human goes through and makes it all sound human.  Maybe this very article was written by a robot!

OK, so now you have a baseline understanding.  We can bring characters, we can color flat images and they will morph into animated 3d friends (but still on a flat surface, curiously), and we can let the computer take over and finish the drawing or enhance our work.  Great.  So what’s the use?  Ahha, before we get to that, we must consider what is next and that is the engagement of these characters we’ve made.     Of course, you can simply use apps that have nice and easy-to-use interfaces, but why not also know what those apps are actually doing behind the scenes?  Once we do, we can wrap our heads around engaging the characters we create.

If you’re interested in taking a real look under the hood, then consider deeper research into SDKs and the AR platforms that provide reliable computer vision.   From a topline perspective, the overall objective of the SDKs and AR platforms is usually to deliver robust experiences in a variety of environments.  Namely, your physical surroundings.   Which means that for those looking for creative empowerment, such as game developers, these platforms give creative freedom.  This is especially important when attempting to reflect a specific brand or business result.   If we have goals to achieve, we want the flexibility to get there as we choose to.    When shopping for these, it is key that the leading phones, tablets, eye ware and softwares are supported and that everyday images or environments can be recognized.   Otherwise, you’ll only have so many tools in the tool kit.  When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

OK, so back to what we do next with is “interface with our characters”.   That’s right, I brought you to life, now speak to me!  Love me! Give me attention, Pooh Bear, I MADE YOU!   The user interface of augmented reality, especially for eyewear, is being developed now, and is ot yet ready, so, sorry but Pooh is still too dumb to play.  The technicians and UI developers are working closer than ever as we enter an age of seamless integration between the game engines like Unity 3D or Unreal and SDKs like Vuforia.  The SDKs help you get started from developer portal to final product.  Check out tutorial here.  Additionally, you can download Augmented Reality User Interfaces here.

So now that we realize the user interface is critical, and why, the next step with our creations is to connect them to each other.   The internet of augmentations, if you will IoA.   What that means and how it will play is only happening now, so we do not have definite answers for, yet.   Will we have our creations across a variety of different platforms, like we do with our photos today?   Some of my pictures are on my phone, others on my laptop’s photo library, more still in the cloud and then, oh yeah, my old phone and that hard drive I left at work.    They hardly talk to each other, so I might have the same photo in multiple places and not know it.   I imagine we will find a way to connect all our drawings the same way MIT’s media lab realized we can use AR to use digital to digitally physically connect our physical objects in a digital environment.  I know, it sounds impossible to understand.  See The Verge’s full article here which has a very helpful GIF.  Isn’t it amazing what a gif can explain?    So, if we are storing our drawings like we store photos, then we can expect the management of these content files to evolve in synchrony.    Well, hopefully some smart college kids will answer this conundrum and get it to market before we are burdened by our AR designs being ununiformed.

Applications like Quiver Vision help you fashion creations with AR for a VR catwalk and intend to have an educational portal.  As the page is guarded by a form to receive further details, it is safe to assume the portal is not yet ready to ship, but they are on the right track, as by joining the game as an education brand, and not just fun colorful gaming.   They have an angle, that’s half the battle.  The other half of executing is the difficult half though.  The future of educating is likely rooted in fun, colorful, gamified digital experiences, and the more our creative input is reflected in the learning process, the more it will be embedded into our thinking and truly internalized.

So what is next for drawing and coloring in AR?  Well, we speculated to an extent on the applications, but what about the industry?   The virtual world art space has Quill and Tilt Brush which allow you to export OBJ files, which can then be easily viewed by eyewear.      A frictionless integration of our 3d art into our physical world through a holographic processing unity is surely on the horizon and once our characters are living in the world with us, we are Gods.

In the end, drawing and coloring are popping with vibrancy brighter than your 4k screen.  They are evolving, as are the machines and ideas that create them.   If your drawing can pop to life, then what life does it assume?  What does it do next?   The coloring and the drawing are only the beginning.  By giving the characters life we give life to new industries and possibilities.  Keep thinking, there is much yet to be figured out!