James Rus­sell and The Dragon De­fend­ers

Idealog - - CONTENT -

Augmented re­al­ity (AR) is a com­puter-gen­er­ated im­age that’s im­printed on the real world. It’s fre­quently touted as the fu­ture of tech, but it’s also im­pact­ing on age-old tech­nolo­gies.

Paper­back books are be­ing given a high-tech twist, with AR apps on a tablet or phone pro­vid­ing a way to make the story jump off the page through 3D im­ages.

Com­bin­ing books with AR is on the rise, but New Zealand chil­dren’s au­thor James Rus­sell reck­ons he’s one of the first in the world to in­cor­po­rate the tech­nol­ogy into chil­dren’s nov­els.

“It’s def­i­nitely not com­mon­place. It’s get­ting more com­mon in pic­ture books, but in [chil­dren’s] nov­els, mine’s only one of two, per­haps three, in the world so it’s very rare,” Rus­sell says.

Rus­sell first dab­bled in AR con­tent by cre­at­ing an app called AR Reads for his pre­vi­ously re­leased pic­ture book tril­ogy.

His lat­est cre­ation, a chil­dren’s novel for a slightly older au­di­ence called The Dragon De­fend­ers, con­tains five mo­ments of AR tech­nol­ogy – a 3D model, two 2D an­i­ma­tions, a coded page and a video.

Rus­sell ini­tially had the idea to com­bine chil­dren’s nov­els with AR af­ter he saw a friend us­ing the tech­nol­ogy to play a pro­mo­tional video on his busi­ness card.

“As soon as I saw that, I recog­nised the op­por­tu­nity for a chil­dren’s book. He put me in touch with some an­i­ma­tors and I just went for it.”

Ini­tially, he didn’t have a clue what he was do­ing or what kind of pric­ing was rea­son­able for cre­at­ing an­i­ma­tions.

“I’d get a quote from some­one and I didn’t know if it was ridicu­lously high or not, so I had to try get hold of peo­ple around the world that were will­ing to help.”

As well as this, build­ing an app from scratch was a risky, ex­pen­sive ex­er­cise, he says, but it has since paid off, with the pic­ture books be­ing picked up by pub­lish­ers around the world.

He says the AR el­e­ment in the books pro­vided a unique point of dif­fer­ence, help­ing his book stand out in a crowded cat­e­gory glob­ally.

While the lat­est book, The Dragon De­fend­ers, has only been out a cou­ple of weeks, he says it’s al­ready been picked up by a Czech Repub­lic pub­lisher.

Paper­back books are highly prized and pro­tected by avid read­ers. The eReader rev­o­lu­tion came and went, with many ex­press­ing out­rage at the thought that new tech could re­place the read­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

Those same peo­ple might balk at the thought of AR tech­nol­ogy be­ing weaved into a story – and par­tic­u­larly one aimed at chil­dren - but Rus­sell says it adds to, not de­tracts, from a book.

“The purists would say it doesn’t en­hance it at all, it takes away from the read­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. I don’t agree,” he says.

“It broad­ens and deep­ens the world in which the reader finds them­selves in, and it could make it a bit more ex­cit­ing. It’s been par­tic­u­larly ef­fec­tive for chil­dren that are re­luc­tant read­ers, like if they don’t grav­i­tate to­wards pick­ing up a book. With this, they can’t wait to get through to the next part of AR con­tent. I can’t see it be­ing any­thing other than a plus.”

He says he was care­ful to en­sure each AR ad­di­tion didn’t re­place the role of the reader’s imag­i­na­tion, as that’s the most pow­er­ful part of read­ing a novel. For ex­am­ple, one of the AR fea­tures in the Dragon

De­fend­ers novel is a vin­tage map that an­i­mates, with a dot­ted line trac­ing the way that some of the char­ac­ters go.

“I’m not try­ing to make it look like the real world, it’s still leav­ing a lot to the imag­i­na­tion. I think that’s key, rather than spell­ing it all out,” he says.

Rus­sell says feed­back about the book has been great, so he’s in­spired to cre­ate more se­quels to fol­low. It will be the first augmented re­al­ity novel of five, or pos­si­bly more.

Mean­while, he says the art of sto­ry­telling will con­tinue to be rein­vented – or at least, augmented – as AR books grow in pop­u­lar­ity within New Zealand and fur­ther abroad.

To check out the book's AR con­tent, down­load the 'AR Reads' app and point your phone at the com­pass above

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.