Following the success of the Pokémon Go craze, developers began to see AR in a totally different light and as a potential game-changer when it comes to content delivery. What we have been seeing in the past few years is a ramping up of effort in AR development with studios coming up with increasingly useful AR apps that could be put into more practical uses beyond the gimmicks.
Beyond gaming, entertainment and retail applications, augmented reality is also being used as a storytelling medium. One of the coolest AR storytelling apps to have emerged recently is Wonderscope which was launched last November on iOS. This augmented reality storytelling app for Apple devices has incorporated a new interactive experience to its library of immersive and educational stories. The app gets kids who are aged between 6 and 8 to enjoy reading aloud.
Wonderscope has just added its fourth story, known as Clio’s Cosmic Quest, to its library of immersive educational experiences. This experience involves helping an animated particle of stardust to stand up to a bully and then later on learn to understand and befriend them. It has a space theme but it is geared at helping kids learn how to handle bullying and to read with confidence.
Clio’s Cosmic Quest will take young readers on a space voyage with a cute purple particle (that has to grapple with some bully in her nebula) and a long the way, the kids will learn about the stars, the solar system and the supernova.
Apart from Clio’s Cosmic Quest, there are three other stories on Wonderscope which are based on known tales like Alice in Wonderland, Goldilocks and the Three Bears and the Little Red Riding Hood. The developer Within’s modern retake on these stories is such that it is able to tackle the topics and issues that today’s kids can relate to. There is, for example, a STEM twist to the Red Riding Hood story where the user will help Red in building a gardening drone.
Clio’s Cosmic Quest, on the other hand is an original story but one that utilizes new technology that enables the developers to create and deliver a fully immersive content. It taps into Apple’s ARKit to craft the characters and puts them inside space that will envelope the entire room instead of just the tabletop. The experience will also provide safeguards for borders so that kids don’t run into walls or objects. This makes it safe for them to explore the experience within a room without incurring any injuries as you won’t be around at all times to ensure the safety of your kids after you have handed them your iPad.
Each of the stories will run for approximately 10 minutes based on the responsiveness of the user and many caretakers are unlikely to stick around until the experience has run its course. Within describes Wonderscope as a “screen positive experience” that gets your kids moving around, playing and talking rather than simply sitting and tapping on a couch somewhere or in the corner of a room.
The user will meet a digital character that will appear in a virtual environment in front of the device’s camera. As the plot unfolds, words begin to appear on the bottom of the screen and the user has to read them out aloud correctly to advance in the gameplay.
Whenever the user speaks, the text appearing on the screen will be highlighted in green and it will subsequently fade once the user is done (speaking). The characters that appear in the virtual environment will then react to what the user is saying. They will even make eye contact with the player. This combination of voice recognition and augmented reality will create a more engaging experience, in contrast to the typical passive media consumption that users get with 2D content delivery.
According to Wonderscope creator Within, some parents have reported that the app helped their autistic kids to learn to read, a rather unexpected and very positive effect.
Clio has excellent quality production, storytelling and animation. Both the sound and visual effects are engaging and crisp. However, a test done by Engadget found the voice recognition system a little “lenient” as words were highlighted and the user taken to the next story even where they misspoke. Within co-founder Chris Milk has admitted as much stating that his team didn’t particularly focus on accuracy and that Clio is not a substitute for Siri or Google Assistant.
Rather, with Wonderscope, the system already knows what the user wants to say and there is a word that it will be listening for. The lenience in voice recognition will also give a pass to kids with a lisp in their voices or those with speech impediment, thereby helping build their confidence, too.
The Wonderscope app is freely available on any ARKit-compatible device that runs an iOS 11 or newer. The introductory story will be available for free but the other tales will each go for $4.99. Clio’s Cosmic Quest is already available at $4.99.
Beyond the fun AR effects, the app can also help if you have a kid that is struggling to read as it helps in instilling the confidence as they learn about space, science while also learning how to stand up to bullies.
Wonderscope was one of the first companies to immerse itself in storytelling in augmented reality. Its buzzy technology will overlay the digital images onto the physical real world around the user. For the past few years, augmented reality has been known for fun and gimmicks in the minds of the average consumer but we are slowly entering a phase where augmented reality will have a more utilitarian value, being incorporated into everyday uses that consumers will find practical, even indispensable.
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