A team of United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) students have invented an innovative way to inspire a love of storytelling among the nation’s youth, by developing a tool that will transform traditional stories into interactive multimedia games on smart devices.
Asmaa Rashed Alawadhi, Hessa Saeed Al Shamsi and Amnah Sulaiman Aldhanhani, who are all Emirati students UAEU’s College of Information Technology, have developed a project that they hope will boost reading rates in the Arab world and encourage children to learn to love reading and storytelling. The team developed an automated tool that helps recast traditional Arabic stories in interactive game-like multimedia stories and deploy them on smart devices.
"We feel that whenever a storyteller dies, it is as if a library is burnt down,” said Ms Alawadhi. "We cannot revive the traditional methods, but we can recapture them with multimedia.
"Consequently, we have developed a story translation system that serves as tools for knowledge production, thus contributing to the UAE vision of a knowledge society. The result is a powerful tool, similar to an automated factory, to support story translation.”
To automate the transformation process, the team, supervised by Professor Boumediene Belkhouche of UAEU's College of Information Technology, designed two formal languages: the source language (L1) and the target language (L2). "L1 is a scripting language that allows the designer to express stories in a formal way (similar to movie scripts),” explained Ms Alawadhi.
"L2 is the game language that is processed by the game-engine to animate the story. Our system transforms automatically scripts in L1 to interactive stories in L2.
"The product is a story similar to those found in the Google Apps store, such as Cinderella and Little Riding Hood. We have shown the effectiveness of our approach by applying the process we have defined and generating automatically several interactive stories.”
Ms Alawadhi said the project aims to bring a new dimension to storytelling and help preserve a critical component of the UAE's cultural heritage, while also supporting the acquisition and transfer of knowledge and providing entertainment and providing children with an engaging form of vocabulary acquisition and reading comprehension. "It will provide many engaging opportunities to people, and especially children - stimulating their imagination and facilitating their quest to acquire knowledge inside and outside the classroom,” she said.
"Based on a recent study, the reading rate in the Arab world is one of the lowest globally. Consequently, Arab pupils’ scores on international tests suffer. Academic success cannot be achieved with deficient linguistic skills.
"This is a major motivating factor for our research - using the engaging power of digital storytelling as an alternative and complementary resource to help Arab pupils acquire and strengthen their linguistic skills.”
Ultimately, Ms Alawadhi said she and her teammates hope to contribute to social development through this project. "It will allow people, especially children, to get involved in reading and, at the same time, become involved in learning without knowing, through an effective and intelligent technique," she said. "This will mean our achievements will have social, cultural, and educational benefits."