BBC’s broadband learning service for children begins a storytelling trial

BBC jam (bbc.co.uk/jam) the UK pubcaster’s new broadband learning service for 5 to 16 year olds, has begun a three-month Augmented Reality (AR) storytelling trial. AR is a concept which allows users to interact with virtual 3D objects in real time, by using their own hands, rather than a mouse or a keyboard. The trial will enable users to see themselves on a computer screen, holding and moving the 3D characters as they explore the specially-created story (bbc.co.uk/jam/trial/ar). AR works by mixing the live video from a digital camera with animated 3D models, which are made to appear in the hands of the user. This is achieved by special software which tracks patterns, printed on paper, in each video image. AR technology allows learners to literally pick objects off the page and explore them in a highly rewarding way. The animated characters are able to interact with other objects and each other; they are even able to walk off the page. Building on technology developments that have led to BBC using AR in the broadcast of BBC News and BBC Sport, the BBC is now able to bring the same technologies to the homes and classrooms of the public. To be involved in the first trial all users will need is a standard PC, a webcam and a broadband internet connection. Free software access will be provided and users will be asked to fill in two short feedback forms during the three-month pilot. This first trial uses a brand-new story by the award-winning children’s author, Rob Lewis. Written especially for five to seven year olds, it supports shared reading, at home or at school. During the trials there will be user guides, teacher notes, tutorials and technical support available and a space to share personal experiences with other participants. The BBC has been working with the collaboration of an open source community called AR Toolkit, to explore the use of the technology in broadcasting. They would now like to see it used in classroom and homes. The team has recently carried out two projects with teachers and pupils in the BBC’s 21st Century Classroom (21CC) – a digital learning centre in central London, dedicated to exploring creative and cutting-edge uses of technology in teaching and learning; they are now looking to gauge the general public’s reaction. If the trial is successful then the BBC hopes to launch further subjects for different ages to explore, learn and create. The pubcaster believes that AR has the potential beyond purely learning as a fun and initiative way of interacting with digital content in collaborative ways for both children and adults. connect@animationxpress.com

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