Friday Fun: Project Zanzibar Blurs Boundaries of Physical & Digital Worlds

My colleague shared this article with me yesterday from the Microsoft Research Blog showcasing a very cool piece of technology code named Project Zanzibar. My reaction was similar to when I first saw the HP Sprout (a device I blogged about as being ‘almost magical’).

Have a watch of the video above to see how Project Zanzibar works, however the idea came about as follows:

“We began with a simple thought: what if we could blur the divide between the physical and digital worlds? What if you could play with toys and cards and blocks, while watching your actions come alive onscreen?” – Project Zanzibar Research Team


The physical toys on the mat are accurately replicated in the digital world.

What excites me about this project is the interface is no longer the device – it is physical objects such as toys, cards and coins however these interactions are replicated and recorded on a device as part of a story telling narrative. Project Zanzibar invites children to bring their toys into an interactive experience and watch them come alive through sound, visuals and special effects.

Therefore, this incorporates all of the benefits of  kinaesthetic playing, unlocking imagination and promoting hand-eye co-ordination whilst ‘supercharging’ this play with device recording and sharing at the same time. To this end, Project Zanzibar aligns closely with the Montessori Method of learning:

“The importance of multi-sensory learning is especially apparent in the Montessori method of teaching, where children use physical objects and self-directed activities for all subjects of learning. We took traditional Montessori exercises for young children and extended them with digital content and feedback using Project Zanzibar.” – the Project Zanzibar Research Team

If you’re interested in learning more, read the full technical paper the team have released here.

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