Complex computer software developed at Oxford Brookes has helped to create a 'magical' new technology for the Sony PlayStation, that author J.K. Rowling calls 'a reading experience like no other'.
WonderbookTM is a physical book that interacts with the PlayStation 3TM via a camera, and allows the player to control the computer through natural hand gestures. Books come to life on the screen in dramatic new ways that can be used equally for entertainment and education. The first implementation is the 'Book of Spells' from the World of Harry Potter series, complete with new writing by the author, released for Christmas 2012.
Wonderbook was announced in June at a Sony press conference in Los Angeles. Astonished comments in the press called it 'unique', 'innovative', 'ground-breaking', and 'a new medium for storytelling'. Of her Wonderbook Book of Spells, J.K. Rowling said 'it's the closest a Muggle can come to a real spellbook. I've loved working with Sony's creative team to bring my spells, and some of the history behind them, to life.'
The contribution from Oxford Brookes was to enable the computer to distinguish the skin of the player's hands from the background. It came as part of a Knowledge Transfer Partnership with Sony Computer Entertainment Europe, led by Professor Philip Torr from the Department of Computing and Communication Technologies, who is a world expert in computer vision systems. The Computer Vision Group has previously won the prestigious best KTP of the year in a collaboration with Vicon that resulted in a new product range with added video functionality.