Augmented Reality can be serious, useful, and educational. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be a lot of FUN!
Augmented Reality Cards & VR Headset
It’s a good job I am a great big man-child as some of the most exciting advances in commercially available VR & AR are coming to market cunningly disguised as books and toys! So today I’m gleefully rummaging in the Tech Trends AR Toy Box for some STEM-based educational stuff as well something much more terrifying… The Educational option comes from ReTrak who are offering three Utopia 360° 4D+ Augmented and Virtual Reality kits for kids of 5+, The Space, Dinosaur and Animal Zoo 4D+ Bundles are literally amazing and I was blown away by the quality of the AR implementation and the educational content.
Now that was pretty enthusiastic, so let’s look a bit more closely at what impressed me so much. Each bundle includes a VR headset for your mobile phone, a set of AR cards, which activate the experiences. However the magic and, I imagine, the real work is in the Android and iOS apps you download to bring the science to life.Bundles includes a VR headset for your mobile phone and AR cards to activate the experience Click To Tweet
You are probably familiar with image-activated AR by now, where you open the app on your phone or tablet, point the camera at the image and the augmented elements pop up, overlaid onto the real-world image you can see on your screen. This is the technique used by ReTrak, but it is better implemented than any such tech I have tried previously and the interactivity and content is nothing short of excellent.
The app interface offers several ways to interact with the AR. With the dinosaur, for example, you can make him roar, wave his head around, or walk forward. You can also read pop up fun facts on the creatures and even remove their flesh (not in a gruesome way, we’ll come to that later in our next product) and watch their animated skeleton prance around. You can also look at two dinosaurs side-by-side if you place the cards next to each other.The app interface offers several ways to interact with the AR Click To Tweet
The coolest function by far, however, is “drive mode,” where you can make your dinosaur walk, swim or fly around the room using a handy little virtual joystick. This lets you point the camera away from the card and really enjoy the environment with your pet AR dinosaur. It is this mode that really makes the most of the screen capture function as you can take in-app photos of the creature standing on your friends lap of perched on their head, and share them on social media.You can make your dinosaur roar, wave its head or walk around Click To Tweet
It’s all pure childish fun, and there is even a “flip 90 degrees” option so you can make the dinosaur climb the walls! Oh and of course, there is a swap camera mode so you can take a selfie with the monster. The VR headset offers a lot more equally detailed and info-packed content, but expands the AR/VR world to immerse you in a Jurassic environment, or deep space.You can capture in-app images of your AR friends and share them on social media Click To Tweet
I was a dino nut as a child and these 4D+ Augmented & Virtual Reality Bundles combine the card collecting madness that every child (at least every man-child) goes through with the latest AR tech and solid educational content, so what’s wrong with them? The price? No, at around $30 (or £40 in the UK) the bundles are a real bargain, you just need to make sure your phone or tablet is a 2016/17 model and powerful enough to handle the AR & VR content.
- Animal Zoo (multilingual): Learn the alphabet, animal names, sounds and spelling. Features an interaction mode, allowing you to match food cards with the animals to feed them. 5+
- Space Exploration: Explore planets, space objects and historic missions. Includes a virtual 360° tour of the International Space Station, solar system and the ability to drive rovers with on-screen controls. 7+
- Dinosaur Experience: Bring the extinct dinosaurs back to life while learning about the origins and size of each creature, seeing their skeletons and using the drive-mode to navigate. Includes a virtual 360° tour of prehistoric times. 7+
The 4D+ bundles are already in Barnes and Noble and are launching in Brookstone, Staples and Walmart soon. They are also available on www.utopia360vr.com.
ALIEN: AUGMENTED REALITY SURVIVAL MANUAL
This Alien book was a genuine geeky treat Click To Tweet
Next in my AR Toy Box is an excellent interactive book from Carlton Publishing featuring my favourite film of all time, Alien. Boy this is a treat for a geek like me, an Alien: Augmented Reality Survival Manual. The book was produced in partnership with 20th Century Fox and is full of detailed content on the marines, the tech and the universe of the films, with lots of high quality images and production artwork, But the AR is the USP here, and it doesn’t disappoint.
A book like no other. An experience you’ll never forget. The Alien movie franchise has been shocking audiences for more than 35 years, and the series is set to continue into the future, which is where this book comes from. This special interactive edition has been beamed back to us from the future reality witnessed in the movies. Alien: Augmented Reality Survival Manual was written for new recruits of the U.S. Colonial Marines to impart knowledge of identification and combat of Xenomorphs.
There are seven interactive AR experiences, Egg Hatching, Drop-ship Simulator, Face Hugger Autopsy, Chestburster Sim, Alien Queen Encounter, Weapons Training and Xenomorph Tracking. I was also pleased to find that throughout the book are scattered AR-activated film clips. This worked very well, but it would have been nice to fill the screen with the clip then exit out of the player and back into the AR interface, but that really is nit-picking.I was blown away by the quality of the AR implementation and the educational content Click To Tweet
Now I have done a lot of AR demos, and can confidently say that these are some of the best out there. You get a real mix of experiences, the Chestburster alone is worth the money, social sharing gold, producing a saveable selfie-style video of you, just as the evil worm bursts out of your chest and slithers away. Excellent! The egg hatching is a predictable but fun shocker while the face hugger autopsy features an awesome finger-controlled laser scalpel dissection, and yes I was so involved I forgot why cutting up an Alien is a bad idea… The drop ship is also great and what freak wouldn’t enjoy trying out all the weapons? The Alien Queen and the Xenomorph are fantastically detailed, glistening with slimy menace.The face hugger autopsy features an awesome finger-controlled laser scalpel dissection Click To Tweet
There are lots of little nice touches throughout the book such as the “Secondary Objective” of each AR experience being ‘Survival’ (Ha Ha). Many franchise books feel rather forced, but bearing in mind the ambition behind this book, browsing through and trying out the AR features feels fresh and genuinely entertaining. If this is the future of books then I can’t wait to see what’s next
Protecting yourself and mankind against this significant and ever-growing threat is the goal. Study a Xenomorph autopsy, witness an Alien egg hatch in real-time, and see the deadly attacks of a face-hugger first-hand. For new recruits, you will also get to see what the life of a USCM pilot is like, and witness ‘on the scene’ footage of the marines in action, in the form of movie excerpts. Whether it’s the first day of your USCM training, or you’re a hardened marine veteran, Alien: Augmented Reality Survival Manual is vital to shore up your knowledge of the Xenomorph threat, and ensure your prolonged survival as you travel the stars to protect the United Americas Colonies and interests.
The book packs in a lot of detail for fans of the franchise and author Owen Williams, a veteran film journalist and Alien fan, makes sure the tone and feel fits the brand. Retailing for a very reasonable £25 here in the UK this book is a statement of intent from Carlton that publishing needs to evolve and embrace technology. Development on a publication and paired app project like this might be a big investment but we need more bold moves such as this from publishers to make sure books and print are not left behind in the new media revolution. Hats off Carlton, a splendid success!
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