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A whole new world: Disney app renders coloring book pages as 3D images

Who said coloring was just for kids? Certainly not the creative team at Disney, which has successfully evolved a childhood (or adulthood, if that’s your thing) pastime into a high-tech innovation. Using technology provided by the Unity game engine, the Disney Research project has developed an app that will allow you to see what your drawings (or colorings, more precisely) look like as 3D animations. As researchers describe in a paper detailing their latest project, “The drawing is detected and tracked, and the video stream is augmented with an animated 3D version of the character that is textured according to the child’s coloring.”

While you can only color in 2D (for now), the app projects what your drawing would look like if you were able to actually complete your masterpiece. Furthermore, it retains the original texture of your coloring, so if you’re really into that grainy Crayon look, fret not — your 3D projection will sport the same aesthetic. You’ll need an iPad to view the rendering, but the process is simple enough. Simply point your camera at your artwork, and you’ll immediately be greeted by the 3D version of what you’re working on.

The technology is part of a broader push towards the realm of “augmented reality,” a field that a number of other companies and apps have breached before, but perhaps not so cleverly. The aspect of Disney’s project that really differentiates it from similar initiatives is its “virtual spring system,” which allows it to guess (albeit imperfectly) what an incomplete 2D drawing would look like if you were to add an extra dimension. Moreover, watching a character transform in realtime seems like a pretty magnificent experience, one that would’ve made the animation studios of decades past writhe with jealousy.

While much of today’s animating is done with computer modeling and simulation, it certainly feels like no coincidence that one of the largest animating studios in the world has given us mere mortals a chance to try our hand at the craft.

So color away, friends. Because now, you can literally make your drawings jump off the paper.