Brief:

Bliss-IT an educational technology supplier, who is a client of our digital partners IFX Media asked if we could together create a prototype for a ‘holographic’ 3D character that could assist and help teach children in a fun and engaging way. It would be a fully 2 way interactive system that would be a combination of our two companies technologies and we would approach it as a collaborative project.

We were asked by Bliss-IT to create a ‘cute’ teddy bear style character which would appear on a small stage inside a box and that it would be appear and also able to convey information through the use of video hologram technology. This bear would be animated and operated by a teacher.

Acting Digital LTD would be responsible for providing the software and content and IFX Media, with our assistance would provide a full hardware solution for the interactive installation. The prototype would be used and tested at a number of schools to gauge its effectiveness within a learning environment, a resulting study would be made by the staff involved to give an overview of the systems potential.

Production process :

We handled the modelling, texturing, rigging and implementation of the character along with preparing the content to work correctly with the display system. We provided the software and addressing any pre production needs of the client. IFX built the prototype system using high spec displays and we worked together to fine tune the end proto-product. It needed to be easy to transport, fast and easy to setup and easy to operate. The first iteration works very well with obvious room for improvement which will be addressed in the design of the final product if the proto product is fully approved after testing.

Delivery:

We took the system to 3 different UK primary schools.

The first was the Veritas primary academy in Stafford, we attended and successfully installed the system in a standard classroom within a few hours for an open day event which was attended by teachers, children, fire safety education, child protection services, police and also the press and local mayor. We created quite a splash as the bear entertained everybody from 3 years and up in comedic style. All of the organisations mentioned expressed interest in the technology as it grabbed the attention and seemed to have the children enthralled and highly enthusiastic to interact with ‘Sam’ the Bear.

The second was the Sea Mills Primary School in Bristol, where we installed the system in the gym hall and this gave us 20 or 30 meters between the concealed actor and the holographic display. Again we were setup within 2 hours and had around 10 groups of children covering all infant and primary age ranges from 3-10 from children of all abilities including those with SEN. All the children who saw it were highly engaged and entertained. To much amazement through the use of video holograms Sam the Bear introduced the concept of DNA to children and adults of all ages.

The third school was Coedpenmaen Primary School in Wales, where we would not only install the setup but also train a teacher to use the system and then let them use it for a week whilst making a study. This would allow us to see any user difficulties that might arise and also get a more in depth study of the effects of our software and its effectiveness within the educational environment.

The training took all of 15 mins, we demo’d how we would do it with a group of children, then we gave the the teacher a brief training and let them try it with a group of their students, which was totally successful. We then left them to it and returned in a week to remove the installation.

Short-term professional test study:

The concept working prototype was very well received by all who experienced and used it over these 3 dates and this was a very positive experience for all 3 companies involved. The resulting study made by Mrs J Loveridge, Headteacher of Coedpenmaen Primary School in Wales was very surprising for us. Until we had a professional perspective to gauge its effectiveness in the classroom we can only see that its working very well to entertain but we have no way to understand its true educational potential. Here are a few excerpts from the study she made :

“As you are already aware, the children responded wonderfully to ‘Sam’ and he certainly has the ‘Wow Factor’. The children’s responses were wonderful, to see the look on their faces when he knew their names and information about their family/siblings, likes and dislikes was a joy.”

“In a number of year groups, when Sam shared some information on any number of subjects, the children were able to recall that information more readily than when basic facts were shared in class during ‘carpet time’ type activities. They excitedly shared their ‘new’ information with adults at school.”

“In Foundation Phase, children sat and listened for a more extended period when Sam told them an assembly story and responded to their questions about the story. Again, these younger children appeared to recall facts related to the story – and could recall them the following week when questioned again!”

“We were very pleased with the higher level of enthusiasm shown by the children who had the task set by ‘Sam the Bear’. We found that Sam had a very positive impact on motivation and reluctant emergent writers responded more effectively to Sam than the class-based session. They eagerly put pen to paper and confidently ‘read’ their work back to Sam Bear to let him know what they had written.”

“The training session we had at the beginning was thorough – it was very useful to watch how the Bear worked first and then to try it out on a small group knowing that support was available if needed. The teacher was also able to share this easily with another teacher who picked up the controls quickly and effectively. This allowed us to ensure more children could experience ‘Sam the Bear’.

Mrs J Loveridge
Headteacher

Next step

As a group of companies we look forward to see how this project will move forward as it seems to have strong potential within this sector. We will shortly be attending an educational technology trade show in Bristol at the end of June where we will demonstrate the final production product to the public attendees. Watch this space.