Future-Proofing: AI, AR and VR Content For Kids Event Recap

On October 28th, the Children’s Media Association hosted an event on how to create AR, AI, and VR content geared towards children. I’m personally super excited to see more interactive content made possible through AR integration so I couldn’t wait to see the visual examples the speakers had planned. The event was moderated by Sherri Hope Culver (Director of the Center for Media and Information Literacy at Temple University), who began by showing how immersive technology is already all around us whether it be a smartwatch, an automated reminder alert, or even AI programs like Alexa. The panelists were introduced as Erin Reilly (Consultant at ReillyWorks) and Yuting Su (Founder and CEO of Thinker-Tinker).  

Erin led us into the first visual example which featured a behind the scenes look into the AI content Lucy’s Fable, created by the interactive story company Fable. Lucy’s Fable is designed to interact and directly respond to the user’s questions and remarks, even remembering details to include in future interactions. Progressions in technology have always caused change in content and storytelling, and I agree with a statement from the video about how artificial intelligence is going to become the next great art form. Following this video, Erin led us through her research on “tangible media,” and how it plays a major part in the future of interactive content. She defines tangible media as something that meets the three criterias of: 

  1. Manipulability (can be changed, moved, or altered) such as dynamic character models that move during interaction
  2. Physical connectivity (objects or the body can be directly connected to the story) such as through the use of a motion enabled controller paired with a visual headset
  3. Performativity (when objects can become storytellers by using visual, auditory, or kinetic methods to communicate) such as when interaction with a character model changes their behavior or memory. 

Yuting Su continued to discuss AR integration by explaining the concept behind one of her current projects named Octobo, which is a robot inside of soft, plushy exterior. Octobo is meant to help children learn the foundations for STEM education through the combined use of a small tablet, an educational app, and the fluffy robot. This type of simple and playful integration is enhanced by constantly updated learning programs to make the curriculum feel new and exciting for children. Erin supported the idea of products like Octobo by stating how important having an interactive play partner is for children so that they can practice social interactions. 

A brief Q&A began with several questions dedicated to the behind the scenes actions of content creation, like skills that should be pursued, privacy/data collection regulations, and how immersive opportunities are changing as a result of the pandemic. In terms of useful skills to pursue, Erin emphasizes hybridized skills such as data AND analytics along with design AND development. Yutin chimed in with her approach of focusing on out of the box thinking and mastering the basic use of current technology to prepare for using it in creative ways. In terms of privacy/data collection rules, Yutin spoke on the importance of UI design and camera monitoring to give parents a sense of safety and privacy. As a result of the pandemic, many companies and jobs are forced into adopting a new platform for their work, and I absolutely agree with Erin that we are seeing a permanent shift in the current work culture. With companies like Microsoft fully supporting the work from home position, I am very interested to see how the interactive content creation process changes as we move towards a new way of team interaction.