Future Tech

Disney’s augmented reality coloring book brings characters to life

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  • October 12, 2015

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Real talk: Now that we have the internet and stuff, coloring is boring. Disney has developed a way to make it not boring by incorporating new technology to live map color from a 2D coloring book onto a animated 3D model. It looks pretty sweet.

Compared to the animated characters being rendered in family movies and television these days, putting some greasy, in-real-life coloring stick to paper produces only color on paper for a flat representation of characters kids love. Considering most tablet operating systems rely so much on a tap and swipe interface, that means that babies can operate our media devices. The intersection between these two ideas is Disney’s new software (PDF), which takes the image of the character in the coloring book and maps the colors applied by the user (a child, or yourself because this is really cool) to a pre-made 3D animation of the character.

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The developers conducted tests where you can view the coloring book page through an app and watch the character you colored move around in augmented reality three-dimensional space on top of the page. This is showcasing two cool technologies in the app’s code that are leaps forward in this type of augmented reality application.

First, like other augmented reality apps, the magic happens once the app recognizes an image that it uses to define the boundaries of the pre-rendered image in 3D space. This app has developed a new way of reading the entire recognized image on a curved surface, like the interior pages of a coloring book. The app not only has to recognize the boundaries of an object outside rigid shapes like rectangles and squares (think QR code readers), but it has to accurately recognize the boundaries of the drawing itself and the colors the crayons apply to it even if the page is moving around.

Disney_AR_coloringbook_02-590x330Second, the actual application of the color from a 2D image to a 3D object presents a novel new way of image mapping that works in real time. The still image on the page doesn’t show the character from all angles, but your app-enabled device can move 360 degrees around the animated character. Each of the characters from the coloring book were created in 3D modeling software and animated, then, each surface pixel on the model was assigned a corresponding pixel space on the 2D image in the coloring book. Color the front of your elephant’s pants blue and the app makes the back of his pants blue as well. Presumably polka dots and the like would be mirrored to make a full, polka-dotted pants pattern.

You can boot up your app and watch your character get colored in real time. The results of the two studies Disney has done thus far aren’t 100% accurate as to the intentions of the artist, but has gotten glowing reviews from the limited test subjects who have gotten to try it out.

Disney_AR_coloringbook-590x330Real world applications of this probably don’t vary much from the demo app, except instead of these non-branded animated characters it would be Mickey and Minne Mouse on a Cruise, Elsa making a rainbow colored castle out of ice before your eyes, or a yellow Hulk fighting a purple Iron Man.

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