New app Doodlar allows you to draw an animal on paper, or on your phone screen, and then watch it come to life in realistic, 3D animated, interactive AR form. It uses machine learning to try to recognise your drawing based on thousands of other people’s drawings of the same animal, then if it guesses right, it generates an AR version of what you drew. Aimed at kids aged 6-10 but also with commercial hopes, the app – says creator Mat Dobson – is a first in terms of its combination of the two technologies and the resulting experience.
“At its heart Doodlar comes from a hope to make tech relevant and useful – too much is done for the sake of it when it comes to tech,” Dobson tells It’s Nice That. He is also founder at BYO, a production company that specialises in emerging tech, which has worked with brands and agencies such as Adidas, Engine Group and Universal; it also collaborated with software design studio Baud on Doodlar. The combined team has a personal passion for the concept, with many having young children and wanting to encourage creative exploration while also teaching kids about nature. The app rewards each drawing with unique interactions, from feeding an elephant to rubbing a pig’s belly and being chased by a charging rhino, and it also offers facts about the animals as the user is playing.
“You need to imagine the different ways people might draw the same thing,” Dobson says. “It encourages real creativity and lateral thinking.”
According to Dobson there are lots of great apps out there that encourage creativity and education among children, such as Toca Boca’s suite of games, but “there’s nothing out there like Doodlar,” he says. “It’s the first time you’ve been able to draw things into existence.” Dimitrios Doukas from Baud adds that the app “reinvents AR interaction design, by removing interfaces and allowing users to engage with content in new ways”. As such, the process of developing the app was made extra tricky in terms of it translating cutting edge tech for use by young children, in an intuitive way.
While the primary aim of the app is to entertain, educate and promote creative exploration, the team has also considered the commercial potential of the innovation. “It’s a brand new form of interaction for AR experiences, so we’re hoping it leaves its mark from an industry point of view too,” Dobson says. “And because we can make Doodlar recognise anything, we’re talking to brands about how it might work for their IP and product.”
Doodlar is free to download on the App Store and Google Play, and comes with 15 animals in three packs, with extra paid-for packs such as savannah and forest animals. The team has plans for future packs including machines, vehicles, natural events, sports, creepy crawlies, household objects, under-the-sea and mythical creatures.