Ishac Bertran's Pas a Pas is not only a device for teaching children the fundamentals of stop-motion animation (and a little geometry for good measure); it also happens to be a gorgeous piece of product design (which, Gizmag guesses, is with good reason). All in, it's a welcome reminder that sometimes all that compelling new technology requires is a little original thought.
Functionally, the most important aspects of the Pas a Pas are its screen and camera, with which children can create a stop-motion animation with a series of simple steps. The screen displays an arrangement of colored shapes. A child arranges corresponding colored blocks over the shapes, directly on the screen. With the pieces in place, the "record" button is pressed, and the camera above, which points down at the screen, takes a snapshot. The screen then cycles to the next frame of the animation, with the child moving the relevant pieces. So on to completion.
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Once the final frame has been snapped, children can watch their animations on screen start to finish, and on a forwards or forwards-then-backwards loop. As you'd hope, there's a free mode in which children are free to create animations of their own design without on-screen guidance.
It doesn't have to be colored blocks, of course. Beneath it all, the Pas a Pas is a computer. Predetermined animation patterns can be loaded from different cartridges, which each come with a corresponding set of shapes targeted at different age groups. The simple geometric set is aimed at children aged 4 to 6. In free mode, though, there's obviously no restriction on the shapes or materials that could be used. (I'm thinking live snails.)
The Pas a Pas, created with schools in mind, connects to a dedicated social network with which children can share and view their mini masterpieces, but also exchange knowledge and methods.
The industrial design on show warrants a mention on two counts at least. Most straightforwardly, the wood veneer finish and rocker switches obviously harken back to 1970s product design. Combined with glass panels and metallic buttons, the Pas a Pas also manages to appear entirely modern.
The Pas a Pas was Ishac Bertran's final project at the Copenhagen Institute of Interaction Design. Though the prototype has been knocking around for a year or two, it picked up awards in the Student and Expression categories at this year's Interaction Awards. We understand that the Pas a Pas remains a prototype at this stage.
The video below ably demonstrates the appeal the Pas a Pas holds for children. That's assuming they weren't bribed, obviously.