There were plenty of cool new tech toys on show at the London Toy Fair 2017. But one thing which took our fancy was a new line of augmented reality storybooks. The books look like any other bedtime read, but come to life on the screen of an iOS or Android device which is pointed at their pages while running a companion app. This allows kids to interact with the characters and scenes from the books.
The AR tech used in the upcoming Mardles Stories That Come To Life books isn't anything new, as we've previously seen similar tech with AR Jigsaws, Chromville coloring pages, Sony's Wonderbook, and other AR books. However, the implementation here is as slick as we've seen, and seemed to be creating quite a stir, so we had to have a go with the books ourselves, to see how they could change story time.
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In good news for parents, the companion app is free, features no in-app purchases or registration, and once the app is downloaded there's no need for a Wi-Fi or data connection. This means you can let kids read and play, without the fear of being hit by an unexpected bill. The app's also available via Amazon, meaning it runs on the Amazon Fire Kids Edition, which featured in our recent pick of the best tablets for children.
When the Mardles Stories That Come To Life series launches globally in June, the five books will cost £6.99 (or US$8.99) each, and will include titles such as; The Copycat Parrot, Don't Be afraid Little Snail, and The Cow That Said How. They are all rhyming books and suitable for kids aged up to eight, with younger users obviously needing someone to read it to them (and hold the tablet).
While the literary merits of the books might not quite be up there with the likes of Dr. Seuss or Julia Donaldson, they appear to be well-written with pleasant enough illustrations, and can be enjoyed just like any other book. However, it's when you point a smart-device running the Mardles app at the pages (which we'd advise you don't do right at bedtime) that things really get interesting.
Five of the nine double pages in each book are interactive, and after three seconds of pointing the camera at them, come alive in 3D on the screen. Users can then interact with the scenes, tapping on things to make them move, such as opening a farm gate or shaking a tree. There's also the option to control the characters using on-screen controls.
We found the upcoming Mardles books an interesting and fun use of augmented reality technology, and a good way to get kids to engage more with books. Given they are set to cost around the same as other storybooks, the interactive AR features are a bonus which add value and could mean the books are of interest to children for longer, which is always a good thing.
The Mardles Stories That Come To Life series is due to launch worldwide in June costing £7.99 each in the UK and $8.99 each in the US.
You can check out a video demo of Mardles Stories That Come To Life storybooks below.