Filmmaker and transmedia pioneer Lance Weiler is set to launch his next project, Robot Heart Stories, on Oct 17.

“It’s inspired by my mom and my son,” said Weiler, speaking at the Power To The Pixel Cross-Media Forum in London. “My son, who is three and a half, would sit with my mom and she’d read to him using the iPad, but at the same time he was teaching her how to use the iPad. It’s about digital literacy across generations.”

Robot Heart Stories, which is an experiential learning project for disenfranchised students, is allowing two classrooms (in Montreal and Los Angeles) to encourage students with creative writing projects related to a robot’s journey. Students suggestions will determine the robot’s journey and he will be photographed in physical locations they suggest, with their ideas then brought to life also in illustrations. At the end of the project (on Oct 28), the robot as well as the students’ stories will be launched into space on an actual rocket.

Weiler explains: “Kids can express themselves through stories and collaboratively problem solve. Elementary school kids will take control of this world we’re building. Co-creation is a very messy thing, working with 50 people across the world is challenging, but it’s also incredibly exciting.”

Partners on the project include the Dr. Julien Foundation and Story Pirates. This year’s project, with a cost of about $23,000 raised mostly through crowdfunding, will be the pilot programme for a bigger scheme next year, Weiler hopes. “The second incarnation next year will be in multiple places, robots will go to host families. The idea is to have more kids involved in it, more schools involved in it.” In turn, schools will get support for their creative writing programmes.

Weiler envisions Robot Heart Stories as part of a trilogy of participatory stories. The second parts of the trilogy will involve land (based on a time capsule concept) and sea (based on a high-tech GPS-enabled message in a bottle).

He also spoke at PTTP about another transmedia project, Pandemic 1.0, which had its launch during Sundance 2011. That is part of a larger feature film project, Hope Is Missing, which is the story of teenagers and kids coping when a sleep virus attacks the world’s adults.  

Pandemic as a live event ran for 120 hours in Park City; participants could also login from across the world. Weiler said: “I like working with the hyper-local and global, stories can be more pervasive that way.” The project encompassed: film, mobile, online, real-world locations, gaming, toys, comics/short fiction, book, data, and physical objects.

“A lot of the stuff that I’m doing is very much about experimentation,” added Weiler.

More information about Robot Heart Stories can be found here.