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Visions in VR: Pebble Studios ask us to step inside the mind of a child

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The virtual reality experts at London-based VR and production company, Pebble Studios, have given us the opportunity to experience the uniquely imaginative worlds of children for the very first time. A lucky group of seven and eight-year-olds from Grange Primary School in West London were visited by the Pebble Studios team at the start of the year and asked to draw some of the wondrous and inventive characters, lands and stories they come up with during their creative play time. The resulting colourful artwork revolved around a mythical “Candy Land,” which was home to, amongst other creations, a giraffe in a bow-tie and a multi-coloured, disco-loving T-Rex!

Two weeks later, the studio surprised the children with a VR experience that allowed them to actually step inside their imaginations in virtual reality and explore the three-dimensional worlds inspired by their own sketches and characters. The heart-warming video of the project and the big reveal can be seen above and those with a VR headset, or Google Cardboard, can experience the Candy Land for themselves below. Be warned though, it can be a pretty overwhelming experience. So if you plan on visiting Candy Land, make sure you do so on an empty stomach! When asked why adults might not be as creative as children, the answer given by the kids was simply that “they have jobs and things, so can’t keep their imaginations in their heads.” When asked how the pupils thought the Pebble Studios team had done it, meanwhile, one girl suggested it was via a mobile phone’s “pandemonium thingy.” Fair enough kids. Fair enough.

Matt Beveridge, the Co-founder and Creative Director of Pebble Studios, said: “It is our job as a creative production agency to be imaginative all day every day, but in our industry, often our brains work in quite a predictable fashion because we are so attuned to what brands, agencies and consumers want. We wanted to remind ourselves what pure, limitless, creativity felt like again! Kids’ imagination was a natural place to start and the project was a real learning curve for us. With this completely open brief we had to unlearn all the things that we’ve established through the years and that we pre-empt when we get a brief, really taking things back to basics. These children weren’t thinking about what their friends (or clients) wanted. They just wanted to make stuff that was fun. VR is a growing industry and education is definitely a really important part of where VR and 360 is going. We’ve had more interest than ever from educational organisations wanting to harness the power of imaginative learning through virtual reality experiences; VR definitely has the potential to be the blackboard of the future.”

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The virtual world in Pebble Studios’ “Making Kids’ Imagination a Virtual Reality” film took two weeks to create and rendered the children’s characters as 2D paper figures set in a simple, bold and colourful world to keep the imaginative charm of the children’s original drawings. Next, the team had to interpret the sketches, using a combination of the children’s descriptions and their own intuition to brainstorm how each character should move, before animating the drawings and adding textures. The children’s characters were then arranged around a track which a 360 camera followed through the virtual environment, resulting in a happy ride around a paper world of the children’s imaginations.

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Emma Aly-Lane, a teacher at Grange Primary School, added: “This has been such a fantastic experience for the children, and for me too. I was blown away by their creativeness, fantastic imaginations, and just how articulate they were. It was so refreshing to hear the children letting their imaginations go free and hearing them put their thoughts and ideas into words for the VR team to work from. It was a pleasure seeing them take part in this exciting project.”

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