Hey kids, annoyed that adults have gone and taken all the fun out of messing around with crayons with their weird grown-up colouring books craze? Worry no more, a team from Disney Research, no less, has been working on a way to make staying within in the lines fun again: by combining your drawings with an augmented reality app that makes them leap up off the page as a 3D model.

We’re not entirely certain that the central hypothesis of their paper, which was published in IEEE Transactions on Visualization and Computer Graphics. It starts with an odd discussion that apps and games mean some “real-world activities like colo[u]ring can seem unexciting” for children today and is possibly more of an indictment of parenting style than anything to with kids. In a totally unscientific test of this hypothesis we gave one nine-year-old Sims and Disney Infinity fan a pen and an unaugmented piece of paper: she drew, she coloured, she loved it.

But the core of it is still ace.

Using their app, the research team is able to scan a child’s drawing with a standard camera and turn into a “lookup map” – better known as texture maps. These maps are what wrap around a 3D model to give it surface detail. Think of a map as skin that wraps around a fruit and you get the general idea.

The process is explained graphically thus.

Disney

What this means is that when you look at the drawing through the live view of the tablet camera, it pops up from the page just as the child has completed it.

While this has been done before with other AR projects – and “real-world” things like websites that make terrifying toys from children’s sketches that parents oddly love – the team says that they’ve improved over the current programming with algorithms that outperform the current state-of-art systems. Sadly it only appears to work with predesigned drawings and models, however. You can’t just sketch any old Godzilla and see it come to life and trample the nursery.

The app was tested on 40 lucky participents who almost unanimously sang praise of it. Unfortunately for us, there’s no word as to when (or if) it will ever hit your favourite app store.

Still, at least there’s a video.

[Source – Disney Research]