Augmented Reality- Kids Have a Blast at 3D Graphics Summer Camp!

By Geoff Beatty

Augmented Reality- Kids Have a Blast at 3D Summer Camp!

I’d like to share with you my experiences from Digital Media Academy summer camp for kids.  Last summer, I had the pleasure of teaching kids one of the game-oriented teen Maya courses (similar to this year’s Introduction to 3D Art, Modeling and Animation for Game Design).  We created our own environments and built our own characters, and then loaded them into the game engine.  We waited patiently to see if they would actually work.

When they did, there were squeals of delight as our custom characters showed up in our custom maps.  We enjoyed several rounds of networked gameplay, simultaneously battling and congratulating each other on this or that excellent feature of the current map.  The kids found it more thrilling than a normal game because they had made it.

As the summer camp instructor, I was really entertained and encouraged to see my students losing themselves in their own work.  But I also wanted the kids to understand that even though the summer camp class had ended, they had been equipped with some pretty useful skills, and not just for games.  In fact, I tried to get my students to forget about games.

Well, not all games, and not forever, but at least for the moment.  I pointed out how games are just a form of what are called “real-time” graphics.  In other words, these are not fixed images that have been burned to disc or rendered on film (like television or movies).  Rather, they are images that are created on-the-fly by a computer in response to some sort of interaction with a user.

The most commonly understood use of this technology is indeed games.  But there’s a whole world of uses for real-time 3D graphics, and my students in my DMA courses could use some of the same things they learned towards these ends.  For instance, my own experience with this technology has been in the creation of museum exhibits.  In particular, my most recently finished project involved creating animations for an exhibit on the human brain for the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago;.

This particular use of real-time 3D graphics is called “Augmented Reality,” and it’s becoming a very popular form of interaction.  In its most basic form, it’s the virtual markers appearing on the field of a televised football game or on the olympic ski slopes.  But it can be used for much more sophisticated applications.  One very popular recent example is the “We Are Autobots” site that was launched in conjunction with the release of Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen.  As you can see from the following youtube video, it can be combined with facial tracking to create a pretty cool interactive experience.

Augmented Reality- Kids Have a Blast at 3D Summer Camp!

The 3D models and animation in this interactive were created with the same tools and and followed the same recipe as the characters and environments that kids in the Digital Media Academy summer camp classes learn.  When I said this, I think it surprised and encouraged my students (and their parents).  They could take what they learned about 3D modeling in the course at Digital Media Academy and apply it to something beyond the first-person shooter that we were playing.

While talking with them about their experience, many kids expressed a hope that they would be able to pursue this beyond summer camp –  professionally as adults.  Some kids wanted to create character animation for films.  Some kids were intrigued by the artistic possibilities of creating 3D worlds.  And some kids dreamt of making the next great game.  What was great about the course is that they really could go in any of those directions.  It really was just the tip of the iceberg.

What plans do your kids have for summer camp?  Check out all the great kids summer camp courses

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