How do we create educational books with augmented reality?

Book creation is a very interesting and painstaking process. The advent of augmented reality books (AR books) has expanded book production. The introduction of IT technology has brought new life into an established industry, making it possible to meet the expectations of today’s readers.

Our company is one of the few companies in the book industry that performs the full production of books with augmented reality: from choosing a theme and developing a concept to incorporating technology into a finished printed product. We have our own R&D laboratory on the basis of the international technopark of IT start-ups Astana Hub and full-cycle printing production with the best equipment. This allows us to produce quality products for readers.

Work on a new AR book consists of key stages:

  • Choose a theme.

Before starting to develop a book with augmented reality, we study the interests of the reading audience and determine the topic of the future book.

  • Development of the concept of the book.

We form our idea of how the book will look like in the concept. It reflects the format, content, sections, number of pages.

  • Development of the concept of animation (whether it will be just a moving 3D model or a full-fledged animation).

After the internal content and external characteristics of the book become clear, it is time to develop the concept of animation. At this stage, we determine whether it will be a controlled 3D model or an animation scene and write the script. We indicate the name and number of objects to be developed, the appearance and actions, and the interactive part. For example, in the book Amazing Dinosaurs of the Planet we modelled reptiles, whose movements can be controlled, as well as taking interesting selfies with them. In 3D Anatomy the reader can see three-dimensional models of the human body organs, review from all sides, decompose it into parts, and learn explanatory information using audio voice acting. In the educational ABC book, animated 3D characters can move and talk on their own, establishing contact with the user.

  • Collecting and writing content.

The content of the book determines the design, volume and nature of the book, and of course, how the animation will look. We carefully select the information, make sure it is reliable and consult with experts. For example, the content of the 3D Anatomy was tested for compliance by the professorial staff of the medical university and practising doctors. After selecting the necessary information, the text is written and distributed page by page.

  • Design and layout.

Attractiveness of the book is defined by the design of the book. It is developed depending on the content of the book and the reading audience. Good design captures the attention of readers and increases interest in buying the book. Our designers approach the creation of the visual part outside the box, using an unusual background, colour combinations and details. When creating a design, technical requirements are taken into account, which must be observed for good readability of animation from pages of the book. When laying out the text, we do not adhere to strict classical frameworks, but at the same time we make sure that our readers find it convenient and easy to navigate in it.

  • Creation of 3D models and animation

In parallel with writing content and designing the book, there is a process of creating 3D models and animation, which consists of several important stages: setting model geometry, (UV) unfolding, object texturing, creating and adjusting the skeleton (rigging and skinning), animation, setting light and viewpoints, 3D visualisation or rendering.

  • Development of a mobile application

Augmented reality on the pages of books is played using a special mobile application that the reader can download for free on a tablet or smartphone from the AppStore or GooglePlay, launch it on the device and point the camera at a page with a 3D icon to view three-dimensional objects, animated characters or animation.

  • Printing and assembling the book.

The completion of the book production stage is printing and assembly. Books with augmented reality of Big Dream Lab stand out in appearance among other publications with AR technology. Easy-to-read format, durable padded front cover, engaging content and catchy animation.

The development of a 3D model takes place in several stages:

  • Concept creation.

Before you start developing a 3D model, you need to have an idea about its appearance and the task that it must perform. Hence, a concept is created, where the idea is described and sketches are shown. The sketch is made by the designer and allows the 3D modeller to visually understand how the object will look like and plan their actions.

  • Modelling or creating model geometry.

3D modelling is the process of creating a three-dimensional model of an object. Three-dimensional modelling allows you to demonstrate the visual volume of an object or character.

In creating a three-dimensional geometric model, there are different techniques to be used:

  • extrusion;
  • modifiers;
  • polygonal modelling;
  • rotation.

Depending on the task that a three-dimensional object must perform, it can be static or have functionality. The model created for animation (movement) must be optimised for further work with it. The main criteria for preparing a 3D model for animation are topology and the number of polygons.

A polygon or polygon mesh is a set of vertices, faces, and edges that define the shape of a polyhedral object in 3D graphics.

Topology refers to the smooth and flowing organisation of polygons, in other words, the neatness and correctness of the polygon mesh, as well as the continuity of the wireframe. Topology affects all further work with a 3D object.

  • (UV) Unfolding.

Unfolding is a flat map of an object, which contains all its elements located on a flat surface. Unfolding transfers volumetric shapes to a plane so that textures can be placed on them.

  • Object texturing.

The degree of realism of the created model directly depends on the choice of materials when creating textures. Professional programs for working with three-dimensional graphics are practically unlimited in their possibilities for creating a realistic picture.

  • Creating and customising the skeleton.

For any moving object, a skeleton must be created. The process of creating and adjusting the skeleton (system) of bones is called rigging and skinning. Bones allow the 3D character to move and fully participate in the animation. One character can have 30-120 or even more bones. The more complex the character, the more bones are needed for it to animate correctly and behave realistically. To create and edit bones, our team mainly uses 3dsMax, Maya, Blender 3D softwares.

  • Object animation.

With the help of animation, the object “comes to life” and gains the ability to move and perform any actions

  • Setting up lights and viewpoints.

The realistic perception of the image directly depends on the choice of light tone, brightness level, sharpness and depth of shadows. The choice of the viewpoint of the object also plays a big role, it can either be from a human height, a bird’s eye view, or the effect of being inside the object due to its scaling.

  • 3D visualisation or rendering.

The final stage of 3D modelling, the process of finalising the model using a special software. The duration of processing complex images by a computer can reach several hours. During this period there are several stages:

  • colouring;
  • detailing of small elements;
  • lighting effects;
  • display of weather conditions and landscape;
  • implementation of other details to enhance realistic look.

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