Toy Fair 2012: Popar Toys brings augmented reality to paper books

[From Consumer Reports; an extended interview with Scott Jochim, president of Digital Tech Frontier and Popar Toys, is available in GamesBeat]

Toy Fair 2012: Popar Toys brings augmented reality to paper books

Jan 31, 2012 – Carol Mangis

Popar Toys, a new line from tech company Digital Tech Frontier, is taking an innovative approach to meshing book-reading with technology: Instead of bringing books to the device, a la Amazon Kindle Keyboard and Barnes & Noble Nook, it’s using devices to enhance the books. We had an early look at the how it all works before Popar’s debut in a couple of weeks at Toy Fair 2012.

The company’s paper books, most of which have an educational bent, are embedded with visual markers on each page that a webcam can read and translate to a computer screen, bringing the literature to life. In a book titled “Planets 3D,” each new page brings a new 3D animation on your display: a whirling planet or a solar system that you can move and view from different angles by tilting the book.

If you close the book, the animation stays on screen, which is slightly magical. Flash an included card with a similar marker in front of the webcam, and a little robot avatar reads the book aloud. Another card held under your chin dresses onscreen-you in an astronaut costume.

Kids can also create videos and digital photos of themselves to keep and share. And perhaps most innovative in this day and age, if there’s no computer handy, they can just read the books—no Web connection or charging needed.

Each book costs $28 and comes with a software CD for PC or Mac; the target age range is 5 to 14 (though I suspect these will be bigger hits with younger kids). The company will also be offering a Starter Kit ($40) that includes one of four books (“Bugs 3D,” “Planets 3D,” “Princess & Her Pals 3D,” or “Construction Machine 3D”) as well as 12 3D cards, a Be It Costume Card—and a webcam.

You can try out the Popar technology at Digital Tech Frontier’s website or watch an online video demonstration on YouTube.

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