Disney Transforms Coloring Books into a 3D-Experience

October 9, 2015 | Kelly Tatera

Photo credit: Disney Research/Youtube

The creative experience for kids is about to become a whole new world.

If you’re old enough to remember what childhood was like before iPhones and tablets took over, you’d probably agree that a coloring book and assortment of Crayola crayons made for a good time. Now kids are sucked into their electronics, hardly setting aside time to get lost in the world of art and creativity. But leave it to Disney to undertake the difficult task of prying children away from their beloved video games.

Disney Research, an international network of research labs, has created an artistic virtual reality experience with new 3D coloring books. Imagine coloring in a picture of a purple cat, but the 2D picture coming to life in front of your very eyes. With the new app, called “Disney Color and Play,” the company has managed just that — the game engine renders drawings as they’re being colored in real-time and creates a 3D version of the character.

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Playing into Disney Research’s larger initiative called Augmented Creativity, the coloring app aims to maintain the creative aspect of traditional coloring, but add a layer of magical immersion through virtual reality.

"Augmented reality holds unique and promising potential to bridge between real-world activities and digital experiences, allowing users to engage their imagination and boost their creativity," Robert W. Sumner, a principal research scientist who leads the group on animation and interactive graphics at Disney Research, said in a press release.

Using customized software, the app applies the same color that the child is using on the static image to the virtual version of it — even to the areas that would be visible in 3D but not 2D, like the back of a character’s head. Essentially, the program copies the pixels of the original drawing and fills in the blanks for how to depict an accurate 3D rendering. All you have to do is point your device’s camera at your masterpiece, and you’ll get to meet the 3D version of your brainchild.

So far, Disney has only tested the coloring app on adults. But even 80 percent of grown-ups reported an increased motivation to draw in coloring books as well as an intensified connection to the drawn character. With such a successful reaction in adults, the feedback from kids would almost certainly be just as enthused about the product or more.

With virtual reality, perhaps Disney will revitalize the artistic spirit that has been overshadowed by the world of electronic devices. Creative play is a critical component of a child’s development, and Disney has the ability to inspire a modern-age renaissance with the help of Augmented Creativity.

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