Sean's Technology and Writing Blog

Testing text display and facial recognition in Scratch Lab

02 February 2021


Hello Scratch! text, drawn using the new Scratch blocksScratch Lab has been launched, a new site that gives you a preview of some of the ideas that might end up in the Scratch programming language. When Scratch 3 was launched, it introduced the concept of extensions. These make it possible for the Scratch Team to add new features to the language without breaking the core features, and without overwhelming users with features they might not need. Now, you can preview two new extensions that are in development, and that might, or might not, end up in Scratch.

The first of these addresses one of the most requested features in Scratch: the ability to display text, outside of speech bubbles. I imagined this feature might have been implemented by using the pen to write on the Stage, but the team has taken a different approach. The Animated Text blocks seem to have the same effect as changing your sprite's costume to your desired text, except that you don't see a change in the Costumes Area. You can change the text's size and position using the normal Motion and Looks blocks, and use graphic effects on it. The Animated Text blocks include rainbow, typewriter, and zoom effects (where the text flies towards you). There is a block to change the text colour, change the width of the text area, change the text's alignment, and change the font. There's also a block that shows the sprite's real costume again.

I can see a lot of potential with this. The flexible animation options are great (and would be hard to do with an implementation closer to the Pen blocks). It gets around some common problems when creating interactive stories or games, but still leaves lots of room for creative coding. The only thing that might be confusing is the idea that the sprite turns into your text. It's consistent with Scratch generally (everything that moves, appears, or disappears is a sprite) but the transition between the sprite and the text is new and might take some getting used to.

Here's a simple program I wrote to bounce some text around the screen. This only works in the Animated Text version of Scratch at the Scratch Lab. I put some spacing in the middle of my text to force the line break in the right place. The image in the top right shows you what it looks like.

Scratch code using the Animated Text feature

The other new extension available to preview is face sensing. This is fun! There are blocks to move a sprite to a particular facial feature ("go to nose"), point in direction of face tilt, and detect the degree of face tilt. There are hat blocks to trigger scripts when the face tilts left or right, and to start a script when a sprite touches a particular part of the face. There's also a block to start a script when a face is detected. I wrote a simple game where you try to head the ball that's bouncing around. As the video below shows, it's fun, but the head detection isn't perfect. It seems to be detecting the forehead, and possibly by reference to other facial features, so making sure they are all on screen and clearly visible might help improve detection rates.

Here's the simple code to build that game. It uses just one of the experimental new blocks, to turn the ball around when it hits my head. To use this code, visit the Scratch Lab Face Recognition test here.

Scratch code using the Face Recognition feature

I expect publishing code in Scratch Lab gives the Scratch Team a chance to see how people use the new features and how popular they are before considering whether they should be built into the main language. I'd love to see both of these included. The Face Recognition feature adds a degree of AI to the video sensing feature that will make engaging new projects possible. The Animated Text extension adds a much requested capability, and does it in a way that feels native to Scratch. I look forward to seeing more new features in the Scratch Lab in the future!

While you're here, why not download a free sampler from the fully updated 2nd Edition of Scratch Programming in Easy Steps, get a free project from Cool Scratch Projects in Easy Steps, or visit my Scratch programming tutorials for more tips and tricks in Scratch!


Permanent link for this post | Blog Home | Website Home

0 comments

Dip into the blog archive

June 2005 | September 2005 | January 2006 | March 2006 | April 2006 | May 2006 | June 2006 | July 2006 | August 2006 | September 2006 | October 2006 | November 2006 | December 2006 | February 2007 | March 2007 | April 2007 | May 2007 | June 2007 | July 2007 | August 2007 | September 2007 | October 2007 | November 2007 | December 2007 | January 2008 | February 2008 | March 2008 | April 2008 | May 2008 | June 2008 | July 2008 | August 2008 | September 2008 | October 2008 | November 2008 | December 2008 | January 2009 | February 2009 | March 2009 | April 2009 | May 2009 | June 2009 | July 2009 | August 2009 | September 2009 | October 2009 | November 2009 | December 2009 | January 2010 | February 2010 | March 2010 | April 2010 | May 2010 | June 2010 | August 2010 | September 2010 | October 2010 | November 2010 | December 2010 | March 2011 | April 2011 | May 2011 | June 2011 | July 2011 | August 2011 | September 2011 | October 2011 | November 2011 | December 2011 | January 2012 | February 2012 | March 2012 | June 2012 | July 2012 | August 2012 | September 2012 | October 2012 | December 2012 | January 2013 | February 2013 | March 2013 | April 2013 | June 2013 | July 2013 | August 2013 | September 2013 | October 2013 | November 2013 | December 2013 | January 2014 | February 2014 | March 2014 | April 2014 | May 2014 | June 2014 | July 2014 | August 2014 | September 2014 | October 2014 | November 2014 | December 2014 | January 2015 | February 2015 | March 2015 | April 2015 | May 2015 | June 2015 | September 2015 | October 2015 | December 2015 | January 2016 | February 2016 | March 2016 | May 2016 | July 2016 | August 2016 | September 2016 | October 2016 | November 2016 | December 2016 | January 2017 | July 2017 | August 2017 | October 2017 | November 2017 | January 2018 | February 2018 | August 2018 | October 2018 | November 2018 | December 2018 | January 2019 | March 2019 | June 2019 | August 2019 | September 2019 | October 2019 | January 2020 | February 2020 | March 2020 | April 2020 | May 2020 | June 2020 | September 2020 | October 2020 | December 2020 | January 2021 | February 2021 | May 2021 | June 2021 | Top of this page | RSS

Credits

© Sean McManus. All rights reserved.

Visit www.sean.co.uk for free chapters from Sean's coding books (including Mission Python, Scratch Programming in Easy Steps and Coder Academy) and more!

Discover my latest books

100 Top Tips: Microsoft Excel

100 Top Tips: Microsoft Excel

Power up your Microsoft Excel skills with this powerful pocket-sized book of tips that will save you time and help you learn more from your spreadsheets.

Scratch Programming in Easy Steps

Scratch Programming IES

This book, now fully updated for Scratch 3, will take you from the basics of the Scratch language into the depths of its more advanced features. A great way to start programming.

Mission Python book

Mission Python

Code a space adventure game in this Python programming book published by No Starch Press.

Cool Scratch Projects in Easy Steps book

Cool Scratch Projects in Easy Steps

Discover how to make 3D games, create mazes, build a drum machine, make a game with cartoon animals and more!

Raspberry Pi For Dummies

Raspberry Pi For Dummies

Set up your Raspberry Pi, then learn how to use the Linux command line, Scratch, Python, Sonic Pi, Minecraft and electronics projects with it.

Earworm

Earworm

In this entertaining techno-thriller, Sean McManus takes a slice through the music industry: from the boardroom to the stage; from the studio to the record fair.

Scratch Homeschooling resources

Scratch cat with balloons invites you to visit my Scratch resources

Sean's Scratch Resources

Tips, tutorials and free book chapters for Scratch, a coding language widely used in schools.

Walking astronaut from Mission Python book Top | Search | Help | Privacy | Access Keys | Contact me
Home | Blog | Copywriting Services | Books | Free book chapters | Articles | Music | Photos | Games | Shop | About