Artcodes take the advent calendar into the digital age

It’s a long time since children were satisfied with a printed picture when they prized open the doors of their advent calendar. They have grown to expect some kind of treat – a sweet or toy – as well. But the advent calendar has moved on again – into the digital age.

Computer scientists at The University of Nottingham have developed an augmented reality advent calendar – packed with Christmas artcodes that open specially developed or your own personalised digital content.

Working in collaboration with artist Alice Angus, experts from the Mixed Reality Laboratory in the School of Computer Science, have produced an illustrated, free standing advent calendar featuring scannable artcodes that open customisable, interactive, digital images. It’s all done using the Christmas with Artcodes app.

The calendar has been created by the artcodes project team who are part of the HORIZON Digital Economy Research Institute at the University. The work has been funded by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC) as part of the ‘From Human Data to Personal Experience’ project.

Steve Benford, Professor of Computer Science and EPSRC Dream Fellow, said: “Our idea was to show the many ways in which augmented reality can extend a seemingly simple everyday product. What looks like a regular piece of card at first sight turns out to have many possibilities for making and sharing. Calendar owners can share personal memories and messages with friends and families through their calendars. Companies can wrap up the calendar with their own layers of stories and content for their customers. Crafters can learn how to draw their own augmented reality stickers. You can even throw the calendar away and start to make your own augmented stuff – Christmas cards, decorations, hats or table settings – anything that you can make from a piece of card.”

Connecting the digital to the real world

Research into augmented reality has many applications from scanning everyday products, to learn more about their histories and how to use them, to games such as Pokemon Go which connect digital characters and content to real world places.

The Mixed Reality Lab is exploring how we can decorate our world with interactivity – how can we replace QR codes with beautiful decorative patterns that connect to digital media and especially how we can enable designers and even everyday crafters to draw these for themselves.

Create your own digital calendar – smart phones at the ready

The freestanding ‘digital’ advent calendar features traditional artwork. It comes with 24 artcode stickers so you can choose which doors they go behind. The artcodes are scanned using the Christmas with Artcodes app to open photographs, videos or any other digital content. The app also allows you to customise your calendar with your own personal content which you can share with friends and family.

Workshops available

If you want to find out how to create your own interactive digital calendar the team are running two workshops but you will need to bring along a smart phone.

1pm to 4pm this Saturday 26 November at the National Videogame Arcade, 23-32 Carlton Street, Nottingham, NG1 1NN

A second Christmas with Artcodes Advent Calendar workshop will take place on Sunday 4 December between 11am and 1pm at 18 Saint Mary’s Gate, Lace Market, Nottingham, NG1 1PF. Alternatively all the instructions are available online.

The Christmas with Artcodes app requires iOS 8+ or Android 4.0.3+. The calendars are now available to purchase at a cost of £14.95 online at Etsy.

Image: Alice Angus, Proboscis

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