BM8 Immersive 3d generative modelling as an educational tool

The project will develop an immersive environment for 3d generative modelling for children. It is co-supervised with Alan Dorin.

3d printing is now readily available and has proven to be a very successful tool to engage kids with information technology. This has been recognized by industry and academia and a number of 3d modelling environments for kids, even for primary school age, have appeared.

However, the ones that are conceptually simple are overly simplistic in their modelling approach. Simply said, kids can model in a much better and much more versatile way with Lego than with any virtual environment. One of the major hurdles for children is the conceptual mapping of the on-screen 2d world to the intended 3d object. Another one is to decompose an intended step of 3d manipulation into a sequence of 2d interactions. Surprisingly, none of the modelling environments aimed at children uses immersive 3d visualization and interaction, even though these technologies have now become inexpensive and readily available.

A second, related technology that has proven to be very successful at engaging kids is generative and parametric arts, i.e. the generation of art objects by writing programs that create them (or modify a seed object) rather than by direct manipulation of (virtual) materials. Educationally, the big attraction of this technology is that it bridges from pure use of IT to the world of programming. There is any number of educational tools available for generative arts in 2d, and some of these, in particular Processing, are extremely popular and in wide use. However, almost none are available for 3d modelling. The few that exist, like Grasshopper, are parts of complex professional tool suites for adults.

The project will bring these two areas together by creating an immersive environment for 3d generative modelling for children. This will open new educational opportunities for children and will generate new insights into how children interact with and conceptualise 3d worlds.

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