Sony’s Wonderbook Brings Reading Into The 21st Century

Nowadays augmented reality is all the rage, but while we’re focussing on Google other big names are employing the technology in a wholly new way. In a world filled with 3D television, social media and increasingly advanced games consoles, getting children (or adults, for that matter) to see the beauty of the humble book is a difficult task.

Popup books were exciting once upon a time but they’re a little bit old hat now, and it looks like Sony are paving the way to bigger and better things to rekindle our love of literature.

The Wonderbook
Announced at Los Angeles’ E3 convention, the Wonderbook is an augmented reality device which embeds AR marking onto thick ‘pages’ which can be read by the camera of the Playstation Move.  Working in conjunction with this and the Playstation 3, the user finds themselves standing on screen with the ‘book’ at their feet and 3D images relating to the page’s content projected in front of them.

From here, the user wields the Playstation Move controller to interact with images on screen and –hopefully – learn a thing or two about the book’s content without really noticing themselves doing it. Sounds promising.

Titles available
The first – and currently only – book to have been demonstrated by Sony was, unsurprisingly, some new work by the wizard of words herself J.K Rowling. Titled ‘Book of Spells’, Rowling’s work has ‘readers’ (or ‘players’ perhaps) wielding their wand on screen to master the art of spellcasting while peering through portals in the book and dodging flame breathing dragons which escaped from the pages.

It’s an impressive piece of tech and it certainly looks to engross the reader, but as of yet I’m not convinced that users have learnt much of value unless witchcraft is their calling.

Uses of the Wonderbook
Sony are marketing the Wonderbook as an educational tool rather than a gaming device, and going by that and the first book title it looks like the primary audience is children.

It’s true that there’s only a limited amount you can learn from Harry Potter, but there’s also a limited amount of excitement you can build by demonstrating such technology working with a science textbook.

The point I’m making here is that Book of Spells might not be the most educational, but it’s a good way of demonstrating the Wonderbook’s ability and I wouldn’t be surprised if a lot of further titles have more of an emphasis on learning.

The book also seems like a conveniently good way of injecting some life into the Playstation move – a technology which never really took off as well as its Xbox counterpart.

When will we see it?
The Wonderbook is set to launch some time this fall and it can be yours for the price of $40, provided of course you already own the $300 PS3 and $100 PS Move kit.

It’s certainly an interesting idea and I imagine it will sell well, but I can’t help thinking it’s a bit of a shame to push children even further into the realm of staring at screens, so until some more educational titles are released I’ll reserve judgement.


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