Within's newest title, "Clio's Cosmic Quest," is an augmented reality (AR) space story, a read-aloud where children befriend a young star, and become a hero in the process. And even though it's late July — weeks before the title's official launch — Within's Jonny Ahdout can't wait to show off the app.
So, inside the conference room tucked in a small building off Motor Avenue in Los Angeles, Within's director of development taps on to the iPad in his hands, and starts moving around the offices as the story unfolds. The team may have designed this for children between 6 and 8 years old — but that's clearly just a suggestion.
Children read responses inside each of the Wonderscope stories to move the tale alongGearBrain
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"Clio's Cosmic Quest" is the fourth title in Within's line of AR story books, built for its app Wonderscope and designed for iOS devices. Children are pulled into a story by speaking back to the characters, aloud. Each tale in fact can't progress until a child has responded to questions and prompts from the characters on the screen.
These aren't choose-your-adventures, however. There are correct responses to give the characters, written clearly on page. The words don't narrate the story, but place each child firmly into the timeline, transforming them into a character of their own.
Ahdout calls the tales a library of "conversational stories," and says that children told Within they "wanted to react to the characters."
While the AR imagery is the draw, buried deep inside Within's stories is a proprietary voice recognition technology. Children must not only say the words, Wonderscope's system needs to understand them.
"We're looking for you to say specific words," says Ahdout.
In "Clio's Cosmic Quest," these words center around resilience, hope — and quite a bit of fortitude. Clio is a grain of stardust who dreams of one day becoming a star. But she's small, and there's a larger particle of star material, Lewis, who plays the bully in her life, taunting her that she'll never reach her dream.
Children help Clio on her quest to become a starWithin
A star is born
Those experiencing the story read aloud lines that show their support for Clio, giving children a pattern of positivity that they can take with them in their real-world friendships. That's because they grow to care for Clio as they would any friend
"Kids will see something in their room that has feelings and interact with them," says Ahdout. "They treat the character as living and breathing in front of them."
Even with these social and emotional learning tools woven throughout the story, there's some solid science education embedded in there as well. Children learn the basics of star formation, with words like nebula, particles and supernovas used and taught as the tale unfolds.
Clio eventually meets the Sun who helps Clio on her quest. And at the end of the story, children are left inside a virtual image of the Milky Way, what Ahdout calls an "interactive sand box," and they can stay in that space as long as they want, tapping the screen for information on our solar system.
"Clio's Cosmic Quest," also teaches children about the science of our solar systemGearBrain
More titles coming
Wonderscope, Within's first AR app, launched in 2018, and was built using Apple's ARKit. It's free for every AR-enabled iOS device, including the iPhone 6s and above, although buying the actual titles that play in the app are extra.
"Clio's Cosmic Quest" is available now — as are all of Wonderscope's titles — for just $.99 through August 25th. After that, priced will return back to their regular price of $4.99.
Within also has other titles in the works for the remainder of 2019, with new characters that children will be able to step into to drive these AR tales forward.