Which augmented reality books do you recommend

Augmented reality
Children's books with digital added value

Learn English with the children's book character Conni | Photo (detail): © Carlsen Verlag

Some publishers in Germany are trying out digital formats for very young readers. The new products offer many learning opportunities, but have not yet caught on with parents and educators.

Augmented Reality: Ever since a large furniture retailer started using augmented reality technology in its catalogs, it has made its way into German living rooms and thus in the public eye. With an app for the catalog, virtual furniture can be placed in real rooms. However, augmented reality is not only used in advertising publications: it is also used in children's books.
 
The technology makes it possible to add virtual additional information such as images, videos, spoken texts or 3-D objects to the visible reality. The user points a sensor, usually a camera or a scanner, at a section of his environment. A location module recognizes the position of the user as well as two- and three-dimensional structures in space. In addition to what the user sees with their own eyes, further virtual information can then be shown on a display.

Bring the pictures to life with the app

There are some pioneers in the German publishing landscape who would like to use this technology to lead children's books into the digital age. They include the publishers Carlsen, Kosmos and Oetinger. In addition to capital, they also need creative minds for the new developments. Markus Dömer is one of them. The industrial engineer and freelance artist has been working for Carlsen Verlag since 2011 and is now in charge of a newly created area for augmented reality. With the LeYo! the publisher has launched a new product in Germany for children between the ages of five and seven.
 
With the help of a smartphone or tablet computer, the children can scan certain parts of the illustrated non-fiction books and call up so-called hotspots. These are elements of an image that serve as markings for the image recognition program. When the hotspots are called up, narrative texts, voices, noises or songs are played and animations are displayed on the screen. In addition, games can be started in which the children recognize and collect objects or, for example, have to assign a certain egg to a species of bird.

Learn English with the children's book character Conni

The virtual extensions of the books also offer many possibilities for teaching. An English learning book with the popular children's book character Conni was published in the series. The texts and songs were recorded with native speakers, the memory and listening comprehension of the English learners are trained with games.
 
Such new media for children are still fighting for acceptance in Germany. Many parents and educators struggle with digital formats. Markus Dömer refers to Asian countries where children naturally own and use mobile devices at an early age. For parents in Germany, on the other hand, books are the most serious medium. LeYo! seems to offer a compromise here: the book format gives parents security if they want to choose the "right" one for their children from the abundance of multimedia offers. The “hybrid books” can be used in different ways, they are suitable for looking at and reading aloud as well as for the child to occupy himself with the book and app for a longer period of time.

Preschoolers as test users

Carlsen built up a team of external employees for the project. The books are designed with augmented reality in mind from the start. Lecturer, author, illustrator, game designer, programmer and product manager use processes and tools from the gaming and IT industries in their close cooperation. An important step in product development is testing by preschoolers. “You just have to let the children do it and watch what happens,” says Dömer. Difficulties in intuitive use can only be discovered by trying out real users. The findings then flow into the further conception and programming.
 
Tigerbooks Media, a subsidiary of the Oetinger publishing group, has also ventured into the digital world. Since 2013, the Hamburg company has been offering TigerCreate, a software solution with which children's book publishers can turn existing books into an interactive e-book or app. In doing so, they are bringing well-known children's book heroes onto the digital stage. TigerCreate has also enabled the use of augmented reality since 2015. In addition, Tigerbooks ensures a joint marketing and sales presence for various publishers under the SuperBook label. It helps to explain the idea and application of reading innovation.
 
With such developments, the book trade hopes to participate in digital change. That's why most of the apps are free, the customer just has to buy the book. Small publishers will be left behind for the time being with the rapid development, which is associated with high costs.