Can Augmented Reality Change the Conversation Around Screen Time?

Screen time. Two tiny words that are at the heart of many conversations between parents these days. It seems that every week a new study comes out that says one thing or another about how much is too much, and whether or not too much can spell big trouble for a child’s development down the road.

The messages are often mixed, but there’s one thing that most experts seem to agree on: keeping kids active and engaged is paramount to time well spent. Enter Wonderscope. It’s our new augmented reality storytelling app, designed to instantly transform screen time into playtime — an interactive experience where movement and reading aloud are the goals.

“We believe this new technology has the power to open up a whole world of change, not just in the way we learn, but in how we play and interact.”

Built with kids ages 7 to 10 in mind, Wonderscope was created to engage children in real-time, inviting them to speak up and use their imaginations in order to drive the action forward. It’s based around the idea that the screen can be used to activate rather than pacify, and it’s where augmented reality gets really interesting. We believe this new technology has the power to open up a whole world of change, not just in the way we learn, but in how we play and interact.

There are currently three stories in the Wonderscope library, and this year you’ll begin to see content roll out on a regular basis. Once downloaded, these stories turn into interactive worlds as children look through their screens at the fully realized characters that come to life wherever it is they are.

Words appear on screen and kids must read them aloud, sometimes asking questions, sometimes speaking commands, and always helping a wild, wacky or interesting character find his or her own way in a world of unfettered creativity.

A screenshot from the augmented reality story “A Brief History of Stunts by Astounding People,” now available on Wonderscope. Image courtesy of Within.

The Stories

With Wonderscope, words appear on screen and kids must read them aloud to move the story forward. Image from “Little Red the Inventor” courtesy of Within.

Released at the end of last year, “Little Red the Inventor” (created and directed by Tuna Bora, written by Gitti Danesvari and produced by Nexus Studios) takes a fresh look at an old classic, empowering its feisty protagonist as a Little Red Riding Hood for the modern world. The big bad wolf is no match for this inventive little girl as she invites kids to help her stop the wolf from eating her grandmother in the end.

“Children look through their screens at the fully realized characters that come to life wherever it is they are.”
Once downloaded, Wonderscope stories turn into interactive worlds. Image from “A Brief History of Stunts by Astounding People” courtesy of Within.

In “A Brief History of Stunts by Astounding People” (created by Preloaded and written by Beth Garrod) three incredible daredevils are at the heart of the story, which introduces children to the fascinating world of non-fiction through stories like that of Helen Gibson, Hollywood’s very first stuntwoman. In the world of the app, these intrepid characters need kids to perform certain tasks in order to further their fabulous endeavors.

“Wonder’s Land Ringmaster Wanted” is the latest story to be released on Wonderscope, now available free of charge in the App Store.

The third story, “Wonder’s Land Ringmaster Wanted” (created by Flight School Studio and written by Gitti Daneshvari), introduces a zany rabbit that is late for a very important date with a magical carnival. Without the help of his little friends he will never get there on time, and he may never discover just how much he enjoys the world in which he lives.


So How Does it Work?

If you’re confused about exactly what augmented reality is, you’re not alone. The technology is still quite new, but it involves laying virtual graphics over physical reality so that the virtual world appears as part of our own world and vice versa. It’s kind of like those goofy Snapchat filters you use on your phone.

In the case of Wonderscope, the screen acts as a lens to be looked through at images that seem to inhabit the world around you. When you move, so do the images. Also, thanks to our team of engineers, there’s an embedded “Look At” feature, which makes it seem as if the characters in a story are looking directly at you.

“Only as children continue to speak, read, explore, wonder aloud and play, will the story continue to move forward.”
Within’s “Look At” feature allows characters to make eye contact with the reader. Image from “Little Red the Inventory” courtesy of Within.
Augmented Reality allows for virtual world appears as part of our own world and vice versa. Image from “Wonder’s Land Ringmaster Wanted” courtesy of Within.

Within works at the cutting edge of AR, and we’ve been mining it for uses that go beyond novelty in order to help kids learn, as well as to motivate them to stay active and engaged when they interact with screens.

The idea for the app grew out of Within CEO and cofounder Chris Milk’s own childhood experience of dyslexia, which he overcame with the help of books by Dr. Seuss and Daniel Pinkwater.

Bringing fresh, exciting children’s stories to the screen and launching them into the world of imagination is our 21st Century version of those author’s singular visions. Voice recognition technology makes it possible for kids to drive the action of each story by reading aloud. And only as children continue to speak, read, explore, wonder aloud and play, will the story continue to move forward.

Another exciting aspect of Wonderscope is the growing group of creators who have rallied around the app and are currently developing content for it. Flight School Studios, Preloaded and Nexus Studios represent just a few of the artists and technicians who have been empowered by Within’s specialized Storymaker technology to more easily tell tales in augmented reality.

And of course, Wonderscope was created with accessibility in mind. The app is free, as is “Wonder’s Land.” After that each new story can be acquired as an in-app purchase of just $4.99. We think the lack of a hefty price tag democratizes access to this game-changing tool, making sure there’s no barrier to when and where creativity can come alive.

For more information visit us in the iOS App Store or at https://wonderscope.com/.