Step in Books

While looking up the Bologna Children’s Book Fair I came across the work of the Danish company Step in Books.

Step in Books create mixed media ‘interactive stories’ using books together with mobile devices. They appear to augment existing children’s books digitally. Their AR children’s books Mur and Wuwu won the Bologna Ragazzi Digital Award in 2017 and 2016 respectively. The work is beautifully designed and there’s a wealth of games, software and technical experience on the team. This leads me to question the level of technical skills and knowledge required to create these digital AR applications.

With regards to my own project, I’m going to focus on the narrative (I am not a writer and am feeling a little anxious about this – aiming to shape the concept into something both dramatic and emotionally engaging) and UX today and will continue to do research around the technical skills required. The story I am working on is about a little bird who wants to escape from a book… the idea began a few years ago as a picture book and the more I thought about it the more it seemed to lend itself to an animation. So, perhaps AR will prove a good combinatory medium.





AR childrens books – Research

So this blog and research project popped up in my Twitter feed (@Em_Hogan_) this morning. It’s an interesting overview of research into augmented reality apps conducted by Professor Jackie March at the University of Sheffield.

Included is a link to study TechandPlay aimed ‘to examine pre-school children’s use of apps on tablets and identify how far apps for pre-school children (aged 0-5), including apps that incorporate augmented reality, promote play and creativity.’ Results of the study are very nicely presented with outputs catering for a range of different audiences (effective thinking around impact for different audience segments). Included in downloads is a full report and also tailored reports for Parents and Caregivers, Early Years Practitioners, Children’s Media Industry and Briefing for Policy-Makers.

I’m working through the ‘Children’s Media Industry’ report (Marsh et al.) and finding lots of interesting nuggets. A characteristic of apps identified as limiting play and creativity is the use of augmented reality features that simply animate characters or objects. The issue cited is that ‘children cannot utilise fully the animated features and may disengage’. (p.14) I’ll need to explore this further in line with initial ideas for my practice project as immediate content ideas are around animations but perhaps could include more interactive AR content.

There are some strong guidelines for designing apps that promote play and creativity cited including identifying a clear purpose, design aesthetics and scaffolding. (p.15)

An issue for my project is that the report identifies that ‘Parents favour educational and story apps, whereas children prefer using video/audio apps and visual play and drawing apps’ (p.9) This might be problematic for my story app and merits further research…

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Creative workflow

So Jessica Abel proposes that we get more done if we focus for a full day (eight hours) on one creative project rather than split it among lots of creative projects. That makes sense – it takes time to transition from one headspace/project to another (logically and psychologically) and to really get into the project.

As per Jessica’s guidelines, I’m designating 6-9 weeks for this project – I’m aiming that in this time I can do research and pre-production up to prototype stage. At the moment, I can designate about 12-15 hours per week to the project. This will be split across the week with more concentrated effort and hours on Fridays. I’m not sure this will be enough to create momentum but unfortunately it’s all I have to work with right now. By week the project and I are likely to require a more focused timeline and milestones!

I’m tallying up some time today (Friday) to:
Research (3 hours): AR books, technology (this is a big one!) and studies.
Create (2 hours): Develop an initial schematic UX diagram of the book.

and start this blog! (1 hour)

New Project: AR childrens book

This marks the first day of a new project – an AR children’s book. I’ve decided to blog as a way of documenting my creative process and workflow and record my research.

First off, it’s important to say that it was not easy for me to decide what project to focus on. I’ve have many creative ideas and projects vying for attention and priority (for years now) and these projects stand in varying semblances of completion. When I recently attended the One Goal To Rule Them All online workshop with Jessica Abel, Lecturer in Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts I achieved what Jessica calls ‘creative focus’. In Jessica’s workshop (held on we explored tools and techniques for prioritising creative project ideas. I had a sheet full of ideas and through the process I’ve decided to focus on this one idea for the next 6-9 weeks – the development of a mixedmedia AR childrens book using both print and digital media.

Or so the plan goes, but let’s see what emerges in the development phase…