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- author Jackie French

Monday 24 December 2018

Guest Post: Alejandro Davila on Augmented Reality Books - Enchanting the Reading Experience for Young Readers

Can technology and traditional storytelling amalgamate? We think so and so does New Zealand author and creator, Alejandro Davila.

Today he discusses the motivation and magic behind augmented reality technology and its use to enhance and enrich children's stories.

As a child, my dream was being able to live and interact with cartoon characters.

Luckily for me, immersive technologies are becoming ubiquitous and my dream of interacting with cartoon characters is possible and I am proud to have made that happen with my AR book, The Green Fairy.

I like to consider Augmented Reality technology (AR) and how it works as a form of digital magic. By simply using a smart device, you can scan a printed image that triggers a 3D computer character/image to pop out of the page and become animated. Augmented reality books look just like regular books, but they also come with a downloadable app for your mobile device (Android or iOS) to walk you through an interactive adventure on each page. They are designed to enhance the reading experience and add to the joy of a story.

I originally got the idea for The Green Fairy story when I was studying for my driver’s license. I failed at first, because I was too distracted coming up with imaginative stories about the traffic lights! What if there was a secret fantasy world of fairies whose light help light up the traffic lights? I kept the concept simple: fairies’ glow, traffic lights glow, why don't they settle in and live there? And so, The Green Fairy book was born. Oh, and I finally got my licence too!

I love Augmented Reality for educational purposes. I have always been fascinated with combining our physical reality, with the magic of computer animation. The team at Conical Interactive Studios in Auckland and myself, took about six weeks, full-time to develop The Green Fairy app and we just knew that this delightful little story would lend itself well to AR technology.

In order to create an educational experience for readers, we pre-programmed the fairy in the book to read the story for you. This serves as a form of audio-book as each page is being read by the fairy. Only you can see her narrating the story as she flys, hops and skips along. Augmented Reality provides new technology that serves as a companion to a physical book in much the same way the CD-Rom did, only it’s much more fun!

Augmented Reality media consumption is currently accessible through hardware such as smartphones and tablets; but it has been forecasted that in the 2020s, we will see a rise of wearable Augmented Reality glasses that will remove the concept of having to hold two separate items (the book + tablet) in order to experience the digital magic. Some of these AR glasses have already been prototyped and are currently being tested in the market but are yet to be seen in the hands of consumers, but when they do - that’s when things will get really interesting!

However, nothing can beat the magic of reading a physical book and that’s why I think AR Books should be designed in a way that compliments the reading experience and adds value to the story so that the reader is still using their imagination in the process. The Green Fairy takes the reader on a magical journey and charms them with her Disney-like voice, giving just enough so that the reader can learn and discover some elements of the story on their own too.

Augmented Reality is disrupting a lot of industries and revolutionising the way we consume information. For me, it is about creating innovative reading. The Green Fairy is more than a book. It’s a magical book. And that’s exciting!

Alejandro Davila – Author of  The Green Fairy and AR/VR Producer at CONICAL - Interactive Studios, New Zealand. In 2016, he was nominated finalist ‘Young New Zealand Innovator of the Year’ after making New Zealand’s first Virtual Reality movie, leading to a ripple effect across the country as a pioneer in VR/AR storytelling.

Alejandro’s universal technique applies both to VR and AR and is used in
The Green Fairy AR Episode Series and the Interactive VR Film.

'I am motivated by finding new ways to capture a child’s imagination, using modern-day fairy-tales that bring magic to our daily, urban lives.'

For more information head to: www.conical.nz/green-fairy

If you’re an author interested in enhancing your book with Augmented Reality technologies, get in touch with the team at Conical in New Zealand: www.conical.nz

The Green Fairy is an Augmented Reality book that has been crafted with a lot of love and care by the team at CONICAL – Interactive Studios in New Zealand. Its team of developers and animators have produced the illustrations, story and technology for the book in-house. Illustrations by Vittorio Suhendro, story by Alejandro Davila, publishing in New Zealand and Australia by Duckling Publishing and Augmented Reality app development by CONICAL – Interactive Studios.