Forestry Commission England launches Gruffalo AR app

Magic Light Pictures and Forestry Commission England have teamed up to offer an augmented reality Gruffalo app designed for use in a number of England’s forests.

Users follow clues along an interactive trail in an attempt to find the elusive Gruffalo. (For non-parents, The Gruffalo is a hugely successful picture book written by Julia Donaldson and illustrated by Axel Scheffler.)

The app uses five different types of AR markers to track different characters – Mouse, Snake, Fox, Owl and the Big G himself. When found, animated versions of the character appear superimposed onto the real world backdrop. Users can also take pictures of themselves alongside the stars.

One of the exciting things about The Gruffalo Spotter is the way in which we have scaled up the AR technology to create close to life-sized characters in a real world location,” director of developer Nexus Studios Sam Southward said.

Up until this point, the majority of AR has been a smaller and more controlled experience, but for this project we really wanted to see how much we could push it. On a technical level, we have included a few clever techniques to better integrate the characters into their outdoor surroundings, such as designing the animation to work from the ground up, giving the characters a stage, which will hopefully make the experience even more magical and memorable for the audience.”

The Gruffalo Spotter has been designed for use in 26 forests. Details on supported locations can be found here. They stretch from as far south as Cardinham near Bodmin all the way up to Kielder Water in Northumberland. The trails have already begun and will run until September.

This is such an exciting development and will deliver a completely different forest experience for our visitors,” Forestry Commission England recreation manager Bridgette Hall said. The Gruffalo is a world renowned story and to be able to bring the characters to life in their natural setting is fantastic. It’s great we’ve had the opportunity to join the two worlds of technology and nature together in a sensitive way.”

Magic Lights Pictures’ head of digital Barney Goodland added: Our partnership with Forestry Commission England has been an overwhelming success from the start so in this, our fourth year of activity, we wanted to do something really special.

We’re always looking to further children’s enjoyment of The Gruffalo brand and this was an innovative way to incorporate new technology with a real world experience. Working with the Forestry Commission and Nexus Studios has been a real joy and it’s exciting to now be sharing The Gruffalo Spotter with families. Most importantly for us the app is completely free, which means that it’s there for everyone to enjoy.”

The Gruffalo Spotter is free to download on iOS and Google Play. Supported sites will also allow players to buy an associated animal tracking kit.

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