Harry Potter beaten by Augmented Reality? Dara Technologies lets imagination fly off the page!

Harry Potter can wrap up his bag of tricks because Dara Technologies presents: the Time Tub Twins! Flying bath tubs, scurrying dogs and of course a crazy adventure. Father Christmas should place his bets on Augmented Reality children’s books!

Augmented what? Books where the characters fly straight through your living room. Armed with iPad and special book, the founders of Dara Technologies Margara Tejera Padilla and Dennis Ippel, try to adjust our reality so that it seems as if the protagonists launch themselves into ‘your reality’. And that makes reading a lot more multidimensional!

Maragara Tejera Padilla, Dara Technologies

Aren’t we nipping reading books in the bud? Not according to Padilla and Ippel. In a time where children spend a considerable amount of time on ‘screen time’, a connection between book and screen might just offer that little extra that evokes kids to rediscover the book. And with such a funny and amusing concept like the Time Tub Twins, that step becomes very small indeed!

Augmented Reality is the technology that enables to superimpose virtual elements onto the real world

So what’s Augmented Reality exactly?

“Augmented Reality is the technology that enables to superimpose virtual elements onto the real world, such as images or objects”, says Padilla. “These virtual elements are linked to the real world. For example, if a 3D scene is linked to an image, if this image rotates or translates, the 3D scene rotates and translates with it. In my opinion, this is where the magic of AR resides.”

Dennis Ippel, Dara Technologies

But what about the underlying technology? How does that work?

Padilla continues: “Augmented Reality is generally powered by image recognition algorithms. These algorithms can recognise an image when a set of features are identified in it. These features can be, for example, the most apparent contours of the image. Once these features are found and the image is recognised, these algorithms have also the power of tracking the movement of these features, which makes possible what I mentioned in the paragraph above: when the image moves (translates, rotates, etc.), the 3D content linked to it also moves with it.”

Sounds like a technology that could be used in medical product development or engineering. Why children’s books?

“Dennis and I are particularly passionate about the creative possibilities of this technology and its potential applications in educational entertainment”, Padilla says. “We believe children are the right audience for AR-displayed content: they don’t judge; rather, they simply enjoy the experience of witnessing how the screen of their tablet becomes a magical window that displays content that is not there when looking with their bare eyes”.

“Moreover, we are very keen to explore how this new form of storytelling we’re offering can be exploited for children to learn. This could be in the form of educational add-ons to the book, e.g. maths, languages and more.”

Our app enhances this experience by offering an additional layer of information, fun and entertainment

But are kids still really reading books if they’re looking at an iPad screen? Does this still count as a book?

“What differentiates us from pure storytelling apps is that we want our app to be an enhancement to a physical book, rather than a substitute.” Padilla explains. “The book is the medium through which the story is told, but our app enhances this experience by offering an additional layer of information, fun and entertainment. Also, out of 40 pages of the book, 17 will be augmentable, so it’s not necessary to use a mobile device for each page.”

“We are thinking very carefully about how the reading/tablet dynamic is going to work in the book. Children will read the book directly on its pages, not through the screen. Rather than being a substitute to the book, the app (screen) will offer something the book can’t: the ability to interact actively with the story. We like to think of it as making the imagination of children a reality: they read a page, imagine it in their little heads, and then we realise these thoughts in the form of interactive content on top of the pages of the book.”, Padilla concludes.

What will you be achieving in the next 6 months? How’s the crowdfunding campaign going to help with that? 

“We have two very ambitious objectives for the next 6 months: finishing the development of our first book and completing our seed round of investment. A successful crowdfunding campaign (on 37% after 4 days, ed.) is part of the plan because it will enable us to prove there’s a market for a product like ours, which is something that investors need to see. We’ve received an initial small investment which has helped us to get to the point we’re at right now, but we need the funds raised through crowdfunding to complete the development of the book!”

The book will be available arond the end of July 2016.