Thanks to Augmented Reality, These Coloring Books Come to Life

The new technology takes 2D pictures and turns them into 3D magic

Coloring book in 3D
Screenshot from "Live Texturing of Augmented Reality Characters from Colored Drawings" video DisneyResearchHub via

Compared to the flashy iPad, a humble coloring book might not grab a child's attention the way it used to. Unless, that is, the drawings could be brought to life with a little augmented reality

That’s the draw behind a new coloring book from researchers at Disney, ETH Zurich and the Swiss university EPFL, reports Kristin Hohenadel for Slate. "Disney Color and Play" takes two-dimensional drawings and crafts them into "three-dimensional" characters that appear to stand and even move when viewed through a tablet computer. 

When someone holds the tablet above the drawing as the child colors, Hohenadel writes, the computer-generated model gains color and texture — based on algorithms that interpret the colored lines. The program can also guess what the "back" of a drawing of, say, a cartoon elephant, might look like based on a kid’s choices for the front, explains John Brownlee for Fast Company

video from the team, who presented their research at the IEEE International Symposium on Mixed and Augmented Reality, explains the technical details behind the magical effects.

Alicia Marie Tan for Mashable points out some other companies have enhanced traditional coloring book experiences with augmented reality, including QuiverCrayola Color Alive and Paint My Cat. While the "Color and Play" project is still in the research phase, it's easy to image how popular a book with Disney characters might be.

Jealous grown-ups need not mope, either: Adult coloring books are "a thing" now, so augmented reality coloring books for big kids won’t be far behind.