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Story Maker

Periodic Reporting for period 1 - Story Maker (Story Maker)

Reporting period: 2017-06-01 to 2017-11-30

This report presents the results of a feasibility study carried out by Wonder Media Productions (hereafter: WMP), Belgium, for the introduction of its product Wonder Media Story Maker (hereafter: Story Maker) on the EU education market. Story Maker is a project-based digital education solution for teaching and learning based on story telling with 3D animated characters, that has been developed by WMP. At the core of the solution is animation now, a proprietary animation software owned by WMP. This software utilizes a unique approach to animation and can be regarded as a ‘virtual animated puppet theatre’. It enables students in schools to create and communicate their own animated stories in real time with state-of-the-art 3D animated characters. The Story Maker solution has been introduced in the US market in March 2016 and has been implemented in 118 schools across 16 different US states. The solution has been positively received by US schools, teachers and educational experts.

This feasibility study has been made possible with a EUSME Phase I grant (project nr. 774228). It consisted of a technical and an economical part. The objective of the technical part was to identify which further product developments are needed to create a sufficiently scalable and attractive digital education solution for schools across the EU, and what the best technical approaches and solutions are to meet the needs and requirements of the target user groups (schools, teachers, students).
As has been a presumption at the outset of the study, introducing a digital education solution on the EU market needed a step-by-step strategy, starting with countries that have the most favourable environment for ICT in their education systems. The objective of the economical part has therefore been to identify which country or countries would be best to start with the introduction of Story Maker, and to determine the best business approach for that.

Starting point for the technical feasibility study has been the identification of the user needs and requirements based on input from the market and educational experts. The most important needs and requirements are: (i) ability to run on multiple platforms (web-based), (ii) an easy-to-understand User Interface that can be adjusted to different languages, (iii) a high 3D render quality, (iv) easy-to-use integrated User Experience, (v) support tools for managing Story Maker projects in class, and (vi) a content library appealing to different student age groups.
Technical options to meet the user needs and requirements were investigated and evaluated. Technical solutions were identified, and it was concluded that implementing these solutions is feasible with reasonable product development efforts. The most difficult challenge has been to reconcile the need for a multi-platform solution while keeping or even improving the real-time 3D rendering quality of the animations. The most notable and surprising new insight that this study has brought is that both requirements can be met in an elegant way with a newly designed system architecture, which is proposed as result of this study. Product development along the proposed lines will strengthen WMP’s company know-how.

The economic feasibility study has focussed on analysis of the EU member states against nine criteria relating to their level of educational development, their readiness for digital teaching and learning, and practical market barriers. Two candidate countries to start with the introduction of Story Maker have been earmarked. Stakeholders and potential partners have been identified, while the competitive environment has been analysed as well. Good opportunities are present to differentiate the Story Maker offering from its competition. Another element of the economic feasibility study has been an assessment of the legal and regulatory framework relevant for digital education solutions. It was found that rules and regulations, both on EU and country level, with respect to (i) copyright protection and (ii) data- and privacy protection need specific attention when further developing the product and planning the business roll-out.

It is concluded that a market introduction of Story Maker is feasible when the solution meets the user needs and requirements identified and a country-by-country strategy is followed. Based on the results of this study, a concrete business plan will be made focussing on the introduction of Story Maker, initially on the education markets of the countries selected by this study. The business plan will include a clear strategy how Story Maker will be rolled out to other EU member states, once a sound position in the selected countries has been build up. A product development road map will be drawn up as part of the business plan as well. WMP plans to apply for a EU Horizon 2020 SME Instrument Phase II grant to support the budget for the execution of the business plan.
Complete economic and a technical feasibility study have been performed during the project implementation. These study showed potential for the solution, however new directions for the next phase of the project must be implemented.
This highlights the full necessity of such a survey and will give Wondermedia practical, complementary insights about their product and market.
The expected results of the project were a complete survey about the technical and economic feasibility of the product. The product will have a broad and positive impact on education, but Story Maker needs now to reach the market. Thanks to this phase 1 project, Wondermedia has all the assets to pursue the project in phase 2 and to successfully reach the education needs in animation.