About The Project

The final report is now available to view here or visit our Digital R&D Fund page.

Pop Up Play explored how immersive digital technology can be used to create learning opportunities for children and young people, in order to enhance their creativity, language and communication skills.

The project was been awarded £103,651 in funding from the Digital R&D Fund for the Arts in order to develop the research, which was a joint project between The Spark Arts for Children, De Montfort University and Dotlib Ltd.

The Pop Up Play product has been developed, tested and designed for use in schools, arts organisations, libraries and museums. The product takes images, which can relate to anything including museum exhibitions, theatre productions, children's books and national curriculum topics, and projects them. Video cameras and motion tracking then place participants into a projected world, which is ideal for encouraging and facilitating creative play and open-ended learning.

The idea of this product is that as play advances, the tracking systems within the Pop up Play software replace the participant's image with that of the thing being projected. Through carefully managed workshop activities, supported by robust Digital Creative Play Research, participants can become invested into an imaginary dimension and realise the possibilities that digital play holds.

About The Product

The Pop Up Play system is comprised of three parts - a video system, audio system and a lighting system. Each of these systems have a bank of selectable settings and media that can be linked together to provide one button scene changes. Accessible iPad controls enables the person using the technology to be mobile whilst running the session, and also for the young people themselves to be able to take control.

The visual system makes use of a 3D depth sensor, namely a Kinect camera, which can bring the participants into the screen, whilst cutting out the background. From here elements of the digital and real world can be mixed together and, due to the body tracking capabilities of the Kinect camera, it is also possible to track items onto a user's body or do full body digital puppetry. The video system can also make use of a USB camera or visualiser as input, enabling you to bring real world items into the digital environment.

The audio system gives a bank of ambient background sounds and two further banks of sound effects that can be used, as well as microphone input. As with all parts of the system, all that is required to change or add to media is to simply add or remove things from a folder structure. The system will simply pick up new files when re-started. For example, users of the system could create their own body parts for a digital puppet and just copy them into a folder.

The lighting system is designed to work with 4x6 channel RGB DMX fittings, though by setting up the DMX devices with the same addresses you could have any number with four individual output colours. The lighting system is very simple to use; using a single finger a user can scroll through all the colours of the rainbow effortlessly.

Immersive learning environments such as Pop Up Play do already exist, but at great expense, requiring technical know-how and controlled environments. This project will create a package that is open source, flexible, and maximizes engagement for teachers, arts practitioners, librarians and other educational professionals. It will do so in the following ways:

  • The system utilises technology that is already available in the home, classroom or library, such as laptops, home gaming and webcams.
  • The system will be packaged together with a full support programme.
  • Pop Up Play's Digital Creative Play Research will facilitate an acute experience for participants.