The landscape for mobile augmented reality apps is still mostly filled with utility and gaming apps, but a new entrant into the space is looking to pull children into the mix.
A just-released iOS app called Bookful takes classic children's stories usually found in large-sized paper books and brings them into AR, transforming classic characters into animated, interactive 3D objects.
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Once they download the app, users can select from a range of six books including The Tale of Peter Rabbit, The Tale of Benjamin Bunny, and The Tale of Jemima Puddle Duck (all by the late British author and illustrator Beatrix Potter). Users can also access three other books, including a Children's Encyclopedia (the only completely free book) and two others offering interactive educational content covering dinosaurs and snakes.
Each book includes the option of narration along with the AR content, with the ability to turn the audio narration off if the child would rather read on their own.
As with most children's books, the AR versions are short, which may give some more budget-minded parents pause, since the books cost $1.99 to download in full (the app is free, as are the first few pages of each book). However, when compared to the print version of The Tale of Peter Rabbit, which costs $6.99, the price begins to look more like a bargain. Plus, the books can be read as many times as you'd like.
Also, along with the AR app's reading and animated visual content, the books come with AR gaming modes, with very well done graphics and gameplay. As with the reading content, you can sample one game per book for free, with three games locked until you purchase the entire book.
The series was launched by Inception, a company with a great deal of experience in producing AR and VR content for the likes of Universal, Toyota, Conde Nast, Hewlett-Packard, Cisco, and others.
"Bringing books to life through augmented reality provides opportunities to get all children excited about books, whether they enjoy reading or not," Benny Arbel, the CEO of Inception, said in a statement. "We are looking to entertain, educate, and delight both children and parents alike, and reclaim some of the digital screen time for our favorite books and stories."
The launch is a partnership with Penguin Ventures (an arm of the publishing giant Penguin Random House), the group that manages the works of Beatrix Potter and The Peter Rabbit brand.
We've seen indie publisher attempts like this before looking to capture the children's book market via AR. But this is one of the largest and most polished efforts to date, leveraging the brand recognition of one of the longest lasting and most beloved characters in all of children's publishing. In that respect, this could be the best test of whether AR children's books represent one of the next mainstream frontiers for mobile AR.