What if you could complete a simple puzzle, point your phone or iPad at it, and see a 3-D image arise right out of the puzzle? Our Dr. Tan’s Supergrams Kickstarter project will marry Tangrams, an ancient Chinese puzzle, with Augmented Reality, a cutting edge technology for creating 3-D images.
The Story of Tangrams
Tangrams are 7 colorful, two-dimensional geometric pieces that can be used to complete hundreds of puzzle shapes. Legend has it that a worker in ceramics, Mr. Tan, was asked to make a beautiful square tile for the Emperor. While carrying the tile to the palace, Mr. Tan tripped and dropped it on the stones, where it shattered into seven perfect geometric pieces. Heartbroken and afraid, Mr. Tan delivered the shards to the Emperor. He expected punishment, but instead the Emperor found hours of delight in trying to reassemble the original square.
Tangram puzzles teach kids about geometry and spatial relations, and they range from simple to very challenging. Moreover, the puzzles help kids learn to think flexibly. Skill at moving and visualizing shapes has been shown to correlate with higher performance in subjects like math and engineering.
We’ll bring another level of fun and reward to Tangrams by adding an Augmented Reality feature. In Augmented Reality, or AR, a user points a phone or computer at a printed 2-D target image with a black and white frame. A 3-D image ( a roaring dinosaur, for example) rises out of the target. The new image can move, and you can change its color or interact with it—it’s all in the programming.
So far, AR has been used mostly in advertising or in a few children’s books. Linking AR images to a changeable puzzle will be unique—Dr. Tan’s Supergrams.*
Tumblehome learning is a new transmedia company that excites kids about science and engineering through books, activity kits, and related electronic games.
Tumblehome’s creative team includes advocates for science education and people with experience creating science activities, events, and museum exhibits for curious kids.
Our flagship Galactic Academy of Science series, aimed at readers 8-13, sends two middle school kids on a time-travel adventure to meet scientists in the past as a way of solving mysteries in the present. With each book, readers can also buy a kit of experiments and activities to try at home. Now we’ll add a set of Supergrams with new puzzles to each G.A.S. kit. We’ll also sell the Supergrams alone.
One advantage of Supergrams is that we can add new puzzles or change the images that arise out of the puzzles without users having to make any new purchases. We can add secret codes to the image, and kids can use the codes online to open new games or accumulate points toward a new book or kit. This way we can keep adding new challenges, so puzzlers won’t get bored.
*(Since creating our video, we've learned that Ravensburg has a jigsaw puzzle with AR. The difference with Supergrams is that we'll be able to keep adding new images for new shape challenges, all using the same 7 pieces.)
In gratitude for your contribution, we can offer you a variety of rewards, including a Supergram set, two of our favorite GAS books (see reviews and descriptions on Amazon) and activity kits, and/or a fossil jewelry kit. At higher levels of contribution, we can add a character of your choice to an upcoming GAS book or offer a full set of books, activities, and an author visit to a classroom of your choice.
Risks and challenges
Kickstarter funds will go primarily toward licensing the software we need to complete this project. Another significant chunk will go to programmers and artists for creating the 3-D images. Anything left over will go to producing puzzle mats, designing the puzzles, and creating the Supergram sets and packaging.
Our first Supergram set will include at least five different puzzle images.
The initial version of Dr. Tan’s Supergrams will work only with Apple products, but as the technology improves, we will be able to extend Supergrams to work with Android and other platforms.
The main technical challenge will be adjusting the sensitivity of the system so that a tangram puzzle has to be completed correctly--but not situated perfectly--for the AR image to appear. We'll just keep fiddling with it until it works.
Any funds raised beyond $8000 will go to increase the number of AR images in our first product—and to adapt our images to Android and other operating systems.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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