Skip to main content

Augmented Reality

Augmented Reality Shows Up in a Japanese Textbook (video)

ZDNet has turned up a new example of a print publisher adding augmented reality features to a paper book. In this case, a textbook publisher has added little conversation vignette videos to a book that teaches English as a foreign language.

The publisher is Tokyo Shoseki, and they’ve just released a new edition of their New Horizons imprint.These are books for an adult student who wants to learn or relearn a foreign language. The AR comes in because you need to point a camera equipped iPhone at the requisite page in the textbook in order for each video to pop up.

I’ve shown you AR tricks once or twice before, so I’m going to assume that you’re familiar with the idea. So far most of the examples I’ve seen have been gimmicks or broken. This one is no exception, and you can see that in the video.

I have to say that this is one of the more poorly conceived uses for AR.

Do you see how the iPhone is blocking the text on the page? That’s going to make it hard to follow along with the conversation, take notes, or do anything besides hold the iPhone in front of the page so the video will play. I think it would be better simply to have the app play the video without using the AR gimmick.

Just to be clear, I call this a gimmick because the publisher could have simply posted the videos online and let students play them on whatever device they have. The videos will fill the educational need with or without involving augmented reality.

I happen to like the idea of augmented reality on a technical level and it is a very nice toy which is fun to play with. But I am still waiting for someone to come up with an intelligent way to use augmented reality that actually adds to a book.

P.S. If you’re working on a better way to use AR, drop me a line.  I do want to see it.

Marvel to Add Augmented Reality Features to Their Comics

Marvel is at SXSW today and they just unveiled a couple new tricks they’re dding to their comics  starting next month. This post just looks at the less interesting gimmicky one, namely, augmented reality.

If you’re not familiar with augmented reality, let me give a brief explanation. Do you know how movie makers can add all sorts of visual imagery around real actors? With augmented reality, you can kinda do the same thing and you can do it in real time. You just need the right computer, camera, and software.

Starting in April, Marvel is going to add AR codes to their paper comics. Download the iOS or Android app, and once you point your camera equipped device at the code you will see various neat features pop up on the screen. Here’s how Marvel describes it:

By opening this app and scanning select Marvel products featuring the Marvel AR logo, you’ll unlock exclusive content starring the world’s most popular Super Heroes–including Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Spider-Man, Wolverine, Hulk and many others! Go behind the scenes of your favorite comics, see new footage, hear from creators, catch yourself up on past events and more!

You can watch the video at the end of the post for a demo.

I’ve been playing with AR book features for a while now, and I’ve come to the conclusion that it is ether a gimmick or a toy.

I’m afraid that this one is a gimmick because of the content Marvel is including. Some of it will be cool 3D stuff that you’ll like the first time, and maybe the second time, but the third time will bore you. I’d say that it falls in the same category as 3D Movies, and you know what The Oatmeal said about them.

And some of the features you’ll get via the AR code will be behind the scenes videos. Those would work just as well if you posted them to Youtube; hiding them behind the AR code is a gimmick. Ditto for anything that could have been posted to a blog.

Augmented Reality eBooks Are Fraught with Technical Problems

People are putting video, audio, and interactive content in t

heir books, but I’m pretty sure that we’ll never see augmented reality added to an ebook.

A couple weeks back I posted on a new augmented reality book that was just published. The authors had posted an augmented reality demo that you could try, and I had a poor experience. The idea didn’t seem to work all that well, but it did get me interested in the idea.

I got to wondering on how well this would work with an ebook.

I hadn’t heard about anyone having tried this before, and that was a surprise. We live in an experimental era. Lots of developers are trying new things but none have tried this.

Now, if you’re not familiar with augmented reality, let me give a brief explanation. Do you know how movie makers can add all sorts of visual imagery around real actors? With augmented reality, you can kinda do the same thing and you can do it in real time. You just need the right computer, camera, and software.

In this case we need a webcam, a book with the right symbols (AR keys) printed in it, and we need the right app (provided by the publisher). We also need a live internet connection. If you’d like to see a demo, you can check out this old post on The Search for WondLa, a children’s book that was published in 2010. Or you can watch the demo video on Youtube.

But this post is about augmented reality ebooks, so that print demo doesn’t really help much. Luckily for us, the ebook version of WondLa also has the AR keys found in the print edition.  You can see them in the lead photo; that’s my KDX and Samsung Galaxy Tab.

I bought the ebook and then went to the WondLa website to try it. Things went downhill from there. First I had to install the necessary software and restart my web browser. Then I was prompted to do it again because it didn’t work the first time.

I have the software installed correctly now, and it looks like it is running.  But no matter how I hold the AR key, the software just doesn’t seem to recognize it. All I see on my screen is me waving around an ereader, not the augmented reality map which is supposed to appear.

It turns out that the website that is supposed to support this particular project hasn’t been updated in a couple years, and it has since stopped working. But I’m not sure how much that mattered because I feel that simply setting this up just to try an augmented reality ebook was more effort than it was worth (even if it had worked).

Why not make it easier on the reader? Since I am already staring at my laptop screen, why not just put the content on Youtube or wherever and let me watch it there?

In fact, I’m growing less and less fond of the whole idea. I’m not sure that there is any value in augmented reality in a paper book, either. It’s beginning to feel like it’s just a gimmick.

If you ask me, I think it will go the way of the optical illusion. It’s an interesting trick but really not much more than a distraction.

P.S. If anyone knows of other books that use augmented reality, please let me know. Two data points isn’t enough to make a final decision.

I Hope Digital Pop-Up Books Aren’t the Future

You’ve seen a pop-up book before right (a paper one, that is)? Here is the digital equivalent.

Over the past couple years a number of publishers have been experimenting with augmented reality apps. Do you know how movie makers can add CGI to  film and insert imagined creatures in among the real actors? In augmented reality, you can do that in real time with your webcam.

Check out the video below. This is something that is easier to show than say.

[contact-form][contact-field label="Name" type="name" required="true" /][contact-field label="Email" type="email" required="true" /][contact-field label="Website" type="url" /][contact-field label="Message" type="textarea" /][/contact-form]

As you see, the video shows a digital pop-up book. It’s a demo for Between Page and Screen, a new book that has just been released.

The gimmick here is that the pop-up words are poems that are sent between 2 lovers. You hold the book in front of your webcam and you’ll be able to see the poems on your screen. If you want to see it in action, there’s a sample that you can try.

I like the idea but I don’t think this implementation works all that well.

I tried the sample, and I found that I had to hold the sample at a minimum of  30 degree angle for it to work. The demo video above fudged a number of details; I could not hold the sample as flat as that book was held. It stopped working when I tried.

The angle and position of the sample wasn’t terribly convenient. I did eventually figure out where to position it between me and the screen, but the book wouldn’t be as convenient.

But don’t take my word for it; go try it. It’s worth a few minutes of your time.

All in all, I like the idea, just not this particular book. But I recall seeing something similar back in 2010. That book was called The Search for Wondla. It seemed to work better, so I’m going to go get a copy and try again.

My first augmented reality book: The Search for Wondla (video)

search for wondlaOne of the authors of The Spiderwick Chronicles, Tony Diterlizzi, has just released his latest book, The Search for WondLa. He’s done something rather interesting with the paper edition of this book. If you have the book and a computer with a webcam, you can use the book to access a map of the world that the book is set in.

While the demo video looks cool, I want to see how well this works with a smartphone.

Watch the video, and you’ll see it doesn’t work quite so well with a webcam. A smartphone would put the camera and screen in between the user and book, and I think that would work better.

The Search for Wondla via Password Incorrect