If you're someone who loves to read, you've probably read a book that made you want to hop into the story and live in the world that wasn't your own. Reading has a way of letting us escape into other worlds and experience things that we normally wouldn't be able to. Augmented reality is similar in that way. Which is why it makes sense that the two would be combined to create an incredible, immersive new way of reading.
'The Dragon Brothers' is an adventure series written by James Russell for children. The series includes picture books as well as novels, and both of them encourage readers to download an app so that they may take a step into the world of the Dragon Brothers, Flynn and Paddy.
According to Stuff, Russell started writing these stories for his sons which he then published. Coming up with the idea of using augmented reality to help engage his readers came from his own experience:
I remember reading books when I was young and I would be lying in bed with my heart thumping because it was such an exciting book. I thought it was amazing how a book could elicit this reaction so I wanted to do something that makes these books as exciting as possible.
The augmented reality feature certainly succeeds in doing that. In order to access the feature, readers must download the free AR Reads app available on the App Store or on Google Play. The app is made specifically for the Dragon Brothers series so as soon as it's downloaded, readers can point it at the book and begin.
In an exclusive with Next Reality, Russell told us how he got the idea:
A friend came to stay, and he showed me how when he held his phone over his business card it played a promo video for his business on the surface of the card. I immediate thought of my books, which had been launched two years earlier. I just went for it - found an animator, developed an app (AR Reads) and retrospectively added the content, and a sticker in the book to explain how to access it.
The new novel by Russell, 'The Dragon Defenders" has five pieces of AR to find throughout it. The series' website says that using the AR feature:
You can meet the evil Pitbull, find out how his men reached the island and what they are there to do, and see the Mother's Knee Hill come to life!
There are certain pages in the book that are marked with 'augmented reality spots'. Once the phone hovers over the page, 3D images begin to appear including 3D maps, dragons flying about the room, and even the main characters trotting along on their adventure.
The book was first released in New Zealand, where Russell lives, and was a hit there. It's just been released in the US, and Russell is hopeful that it will get the same reaction:
I thought there would be a backlash but 99.9% of people are really into it. It's a two minute distraction and they're still going to spend five hours reading the book. I get so many parents emailing me telling me they're chuffed because their kids won't go to bed, they want to keep reading.
Innovation like what Russell has done with 'The Dragon Brothers" could change the way we read altogether. Imagine reading through 'The Lord of the Rings" series and seeing the Eye of Sauron appear before you, or watching Harry and friends fly across pages on their broomsticks while reading "Harry Potter." Not only that but in a world where children are into technology at a very young age, this is a new way to keep reading alive as it combines the best of both worlds.
Russell told Next Reality that he is hopeful that the use of AR will draw in those who might be hesitant to start reading with so much technology in the world:
I've found that this content is amazing to draw in the reluctant reader. I've been careful to ensure that you don't need to access the AR content to enjoy the book - I didn't want to exclude anyone that doesn't have access to a device - but it adds another layer on top. There's still a lot of imagination that goes into building a visual idea of the world you're reading about in your head - that's the magic of books. That's why I like to keep it fairly simple, and not completely reveal everything with the digital content - just things that will enhance the book reading experience. It makes it even more real in the reader's mind.
For a free trial, readers can print out a picture of the map of Flynn and Paddy's world on their website and test the app to see a 3D version of the map appear right in front of them. The books are available in the US now at most bookstores and online.