Last Minute Gifts: Augmented Reality Children's Books, or The Young Person's Illustrated Primer

Categories: Gift Guides

Ando Muneno
A Popar book in action. If you look at the card through a smartphone, webcam or tablet with the right software, the card will project a 3D image of a planet. You can move the cards around to get a better view and the image in the device will rotate appropriately.
Christmas has become awfully technical in the last decade or so. But if you've already caved and bought your child a smartphone and iPad or anything else with a webcam on it, you might consider buying them a Popar book to go with it.

These books employ augmented reality to overlay interactive digital images and games into a standard children's book. Or if you need to sell this to your 4-year-old daughter, "It's a magic pop-up book that you can play with if you look at through the iPad."

The technology is pretty impressive and they've pulled down a number of awards including a nod from "The View" for being one of the best toys at the New York Toy Fair.

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Here's how it works. You buy a Popar book, let's say it's about planets and you schlep it home for your kids. Once home you pullout your smartphone, head to the app store and download the free Popar software and then point your smartphone camera at the book. The fancy programming inside the Popar software recognizes the cover of the book automatically and 3D animations with narrations start emerging from the book.

In the case of their Planets 3D, looking at the cover triggers an animation of a shuttle taking off, complete with sounds. Now where things get interesting is that the shuttle is "anchored" to the book, so if you move the camera closer you'll actually zoom in on the shuttle. If you spin the book around the shuttle will spin with the book and you can see the launch from pretty much any angle.

Now all of this might sound really technical and perhaps not particularly enjoyable but having actually had some hands on time with the technology, it grows on you immediately. Your child probably passingly familiar with "The Spiderwick Chronicles," a series of stories centered around children who discover means of revealing an otherwise invisible world of fey folk that exists all around them.

Popar books are like that except that you're using an iPad to see and navigate around a three dimensional Jupiter that appears to be springing out of the table. When we visited the Popar offices they showed us a series of augmented cards that project images of the planets. If you wanted to show your kid the order of the planets, you could build your own spinning animated map of the solar system by just shuffling cards around on a table.

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