February 12, 2008 |

Carnegie Libraries now have new storytelling game software

Can a lion share a cupcake with an astronaut?

A new, interactive educational game for children created at Carnegie Mellon University's Entertainment Technology Center (ETC), gives them the power to answer that question.

The game, called “My StoryMaker,” allows children to create, print and share their own unique stories, and through that cultivates a love of storytelling and reading.

The project was funded with a $50,000 grant from The Grable Foundation, and is available to visitors at all 18 Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh branches.

“Partnering with the Carnegie Library has been immensely stimulating and educating,” said Don Marinelli, executive producer at the ETC. “The ultimate goal of an ETC project is for the students and faculty to learn as much as the client learns from our technological experiments and implementation. This is one project that truly delivered on all accounts.”

My StoryMaker was developed by a team of graduate students at the ETC exclusively for the Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. It is aimed at increasing literacy rates in children during their formative learning years. To achieve this goal, the students, faculty advisors and library staff harnessed the power of fairy tales from books and combined them with the interactivity of gaming and the Internet to create My StoryMaker.

“We were challenged to find an innovative way to reach children, many of whom have never known a life without computers, that would be both educational and engaging,” said Mike Nangia, director of information technology at Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh. “The team was fortunate to play-test the initial prototype at several local elementary schools. It gave us insight on how children learn and utilize technology.”

In My StoryMaker, children can control characters, scenery and props. The game uses artificial intelligence to form sentences in relation to how the child is interacting with the story.

“The only limit to My StoryMaker is a child's imagination,” Mr. Nangia said. “If the child directs a character to interact with an object or another character, the software will recognize the interaction and create a corresponding sentence. The child can also completely customize his or her creation for a one-of-a-kind experience. Once the child is satisfied with the story, he or she has the option to print and/or save the story, making it available for sharing and viewing outside the library.”

Screenshots of My StoryMaker are online at www.etc.cmu.edu/projects/library/images.php.

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