Augmented Reality is changing the way we see the world. Layering digital information such as videos, photos and 3D objects on top of a real environment has attracted not only the tech biggies such as Microsoft, Apple and Google, but also startups, product marketing companies, game developers and many others.
One such company creating innovative applications of AR is textile major Welspun. It is not natural to associate augmented reality with textiles and fabric, but Welspun and its wholly owned subsidiary, Tilt, have created a unique AR experience for kids using rugs, duvets and an app with a solid AR engine designed by technology consultants, Tata Elxsi.
In their quest to marry technology and textiles, Welspun and its offshoot Tilt, created a brand called SpinTales, the first of its many such ventures to come.
SpinTales makes two products - the Jungle Rug and the Enchanted Duvet, both of which are based on Welspun’s patented ‘Interactive AR on Textiles’ technology. The rug is made of Nylon, Latex while the duvet is made of cotton, with digitally printed illustrations on them. They were first launched and presented at CES back in January. The duvet and the rug are supported by the SpinTales app which is available on both iOS and Android (Apple devices must have iOS 7.0 or higher. Android devices must have OS 2.3.1 or later).
The app makes use of a smartphone or a tablet’s camera to enable multi-dimensional storytelling. When the smartphone or the tablet running the app is pointed at specific areas on the rug or the duvet, various characters come to life in AR, complementing the scene presented on the fabrics. For instance, you can have Little Red Riding Hood popping out from the duvet, or a tiger crawling out of the rug and walking up to your child. Children can even play fun AR games such as finding specific fruits on the Jungle Rug, exploring what’s inside those fruits, making Jack climb up the beanstalk on the duvet cover to discover a castle floating in the air, and many more.
Rajlakshmee, Director of Products at Tilt tells us that the Jungle Rug and the Enchanted Duvet were developed keeping in mind children between the age of 3 to 5. Leveraging children’s love for storytelling, Tilt wanted to create an experience which facilitates interactive storytelling for children and aims to assure parents of a constructive technology experience.
The AR stories presented by Tilt have been carefully developed in collaboration with story writers and authors from San Francisco, who reimagine classic tales such as Little Red Riding Hood, Three Little Pigs and Jack and The Beanstalk. “We realised that the kind of stories we have been listening to are not so good for kids. Like Jack steals the golden egg, or the little pigs are called browny, whitey and blacky, which is racist,” explains Rajlakshmee. So the classic stories have been enhanced to remove any elements of racism or gender bias to create a knowledgeable and fun AR experience for kids.
The duvet and the rug are equipped with markers to bring up the AR elements which are sketched and animated by various artists. Tilt tells us that most of the artwork on the rug and duvet was done by artists from the US. Markers placed on the fabric of the rug and duvet provide a fixed point of reference for AR. By scanning these markers through a phone or tablet’s camera, children can view various story characters in AR.
Tilt uses a combination of passive and fiducial markers. Passive markers reflect light back at the camera so that it can recognise them, while Fiducial markers act as reference of location, orientation and scale of the AR content. Basically, the markers help match the coordinates of the augmented reality content, to the orientation and location of the rug or the duvet, thereby creating a stable and accurate AR experience.
The brief demo that we saw of both the Enchanted Duvet and the Jungle Rug worked seamlessly and AR experiences looked pretty immersive, something a 3 year old would scoop up with delight. The one drawback that we could figure was that the phone or the tablet running the SpinTales app has to be held at a certain low height to produce AR content. Tilt tells us that this has been done because the product is aimed at children and the app is simple enough for kids to use independently. However, the company seems to have thought of a solution to this as well. When held at a distance where AR cannot be produced, the app guides the user to hold it closer to the specific markers on the fabric (the tree, the bench, etc). Any child would understand the instruction on the app easily.
The SpinTales Enchanted Duvet and Jungle Rug are both priced in India at Rs 4,999 as an introductory offer. Each product comes with three free stories. The same are available on Amazon.in as well as Hamleys stores in Mumbai. Tilt will start retailing them through physical stores across the country only after it is done testing the waters in Mumbai.