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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On the surface, the Game Design class may look somewhat straightforward. But it’s much more than simply creating fun games with our students. In our classes, we also teach important programming concepts, which can be the foundation for a future programming career.
Game Building can be frustrating for somebody who has never done it before. As games become more and more complex, the instructors are there to help them understand how to build their games well. Programmers call it “extensibility.” Here’s an example of how students encounter this in DMA’s Adventures Game Design class:
A few days into the week, we usually start working on an RPG game. The player controls a character who interacts with bystanders in the game to get information or collect items. The students quickly discover how frustrating it is to program actions for every single bystander in the game individually. The same goes for other objects in the game, such as allies, enemies, keys, coins, and projectiles. It’s much easier to group them together, and make a rule saying, “Whenever the character talks to any bystander, run this action.”
Extensibility is not the only programming concept that we teach to the kids. They learn the importance of game planning, bug testing, and proper pacing to effectively meet deadlines. They also develop an understanding of variables, and an introductory understanding of object-oriented programming. Instead of lecturing to the students, we let them discover and understand the concepts by themselves, with guidance.
Most importantly, we teach the kids programming concepts without them even realizing it! If they pursue a career in computer science or game design, they will already understand the importance of extensibility, testing, planning, and pacing. Though it may seem like just another fun summer course, every student gets much more out of it – skills they can use for the rest of their lives.
See you in the Summer!
“Wow! That animation looks great! Ok. Now we’re going to take the animated Flash movie you just created and you are going to import it into Dreamweaver on your web page. Let’s all do this together! Ready?”
I am right in the middle of another great Digital Media Adventures course for kids at Stanford: Web Design and Flash. We are taking an in depth look at the Adobe Creative Suite applications: Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Dreamweaver, and Adobe Flash. We are on the third day of the five-day course at Stanford University. My class just got back into the classroom from playing a crazy game of Slaughter Ball. It sounds scary, but it’s a lot of fun. Sort of like Dodge Ball. The kids in my class are a little out of breath from playing ball, but that’s to be expected at a summer camp. They came running in and jumped (literally) in their seats excited about their Flash movies they created just before the break.
While the kids are experiencing all the fun of a summer camp, they are also getting an unbelievable learning experience. That’s what makes this the full summer computer camp experience. They are learning the same pro applications we are teaching across the Stanford campus in our adult web design courses. The professional Adobe applications like Photoshop, Dreamweaver, and Flash are the real deal! The kids pick up the technology so fast. That makes it really fun to teach. It’s interesting how much better kids interact with technology they have grown up with their whole life.
Earlier in the week, the kids in my class had already designed and created their own logo and company business card design. Their custom business card had their picture from a photograph taken in the class. The graphics and effects they created turned out amazing. They had learned the ins and outs of the Adobe software and were creating a matching website to go with their cards and logo. They were now adding an animated movie they created in Flash to spice up their website design.
In the next three classrooms I can faintly hear the other Adventures classes. The kids in 3d video Game Design course are screaming about some new level they created trying to destroy their enemy. From the Robotics and Programming class I can hear cheers of two robots racing. I see the Film, Digital Movie Making and Effects class go by with all their cameras, mics, lights, and scripts to go act, film, and direct their next scene. I wish I’d been exposed to this when I was this age! This computer camp is the real deal.