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From the Tech Desk
Life Vision VR Gets Creative with Augmented Reality Kids Book
We’ve been here before, asking whether virtual reality (VR) or augmented reality (AR) might be game-changing forces for the future of publishing. In June 2017, From the Tech Desk took a look at some of the then-current titles that were experimenting with VR and AR as ways to tell stories or shape reader experiences. At the time, the approaches were mostly gimmicks: one example was a Disney coloring book that allowed kids to color in pictures of their favorite characters and then animated those pictures in their chosen colors. But it was clear that, with the right developer, AR or VR could be used to do some pretty cool things in the book publishing space.
The Desdemona’s Dreams AR app, developed by an Atlanta-based company called Life Vision VR, is one example of how cool an AR-driven book can be when executed in a fully-realized way. The app takes an award-winning storybook—2016’s Desdemona’s Dreams, Volume 1: To Dream of Dancing, penned by New Orleans-based author Z.W. Mohr and illustrated by Aaron Damon Porter—and turns it into an immersive mobile based experience. The book was already hailed as a rich work of imagination, telling the story of an eleven-year-old girl named Desdemona who has been raised by a teddy bear and a pair of “witchy aunts.” The core conceit of the story is that everyone in Desdemona’s hometown is mysteriously losing their ability to dream. Desdemona herself, meanwhile, has found that her dreams are only becoming more vivid. Eventually, a mad maestro steals one of Desdemona’s dreams—her dream of dancing—and she learns that her ability to imagine and dream is more powerful than she ever realized.
Stephanie Marlo, the founder of Life Vision VR, says that Desdemona’s Dreams originally released around the same time that Life Vision was experimenting with AR and VR toys. The team was blown away by the book’s “rich storytelling” and “vivid illustrations” and decided to try to craft it into a unique AR experience. “We've always chosen to explore just past the edge of possibility,” Marlo says. “The Desdemona's Dreams app provided us an opportunity to see what fresh innovation we could create for books and the publishing world.”
The app takes the 60 pages of Desdemona’s Dreams and turns them into an immersive, panoramic, 360-degree world. As with other AR-driven mobile apps, the app uses the camera to capture elements of the real world. After launching the app, for instance, the reader would use the camera to find a flat surface in their environment on which to “place” the book. The book then exists in the app itself, with a narrator reading through the text and flipping the pages as the story moves forward. The app also brings elements from those pages out into the real world, ranging from butterflies to dancers and beyond. We’ve all seen a movie where a book comes to life and the characters bleed from the pages into the reader’s world. The Desdemona’s Dreams app recreates that concept and puts it on your phone or tablet screen.
A press release indicates that the Desdemona’s Dreams app is intended in part to get kids excited about reading this holiday season. If there is a higher purpose for AR and VR in book publishing, that’s probably it. With so many forms of entertainment and so many distractions in today’s world, it’s sometimes hard to imagine young kids picking up books and falling in love with reading in the way that past generations did. Exciting, colorful AR book experiences like Desdemona’s Dreams could be the antidote.
If there’s a barrier to this kind of book succeeding, it might be that there just aren’t very many of them at this point. Companies like Life Vision VR are blazing a trail by testing the limits of how AR might be able to integrate with children’s books. Other tech innovators, publishers, or entertainment companies will inevitably follow, but for now, it’s hard to build a library of titles along these lines. Even if a child does fall in love with reading by experiencing Desdemona’s Dreams in all its augmented glory, how are they going to find similar experiences when AR in books is still a relatively new and untested concept?
For now, AR-driven kids books seem like the natural evolution of the book app, itself a fairly niche aspect of children’s book publishing. Only time will tell if books like these become a bigger trend. For now, though, if you’re looking for a fun way to get your child reading this holiday season, load the Desdemona’s Dreams app onto your mobile phone or tablet—it’s $7.99 for both iOS and Android—and follow the on-screen prompts to get started. You can also learn more about the app at https://desdemonasdreams.com/desdemonas-dream-ar-app.
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Craig Manning is currently studying English and Music at Western Michigan University. In addition to writing for IndependentPublisher.com, he maintains a pair of entertainment blogs, interns at the Traverse City Business News, and writes for Rockfreaks.net and his college newspaper. He welcomes comments or questions concerning his articles via email, at manningcr953 (at) gmail.com.