Books can mirror the interactivity of video games in the hands of one Ahwatukee Foothills man and his Scottsdale business partner.
Scott Jochim of Ahwatukee, and Robert Siddell of Scottsdale, co-owners of Popar Books, will officially launch the first two titles of their 3-D children's book series on Saturday. Valley residents can demo the books' augmented reality technology at the launch, and the co-owners of Popar and its parent company, Digital Tech Frontier LLC, will be available to sign copies.
The launch party will be at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe at noon on Oct. 22.
Jochim and Siddell's books converge a traditional children's book format, a CD-ROM, a webcam and a computer to create "the same interactivity you could have on an iPad or (a Hewlett-Packard Co.) tablet, but with paper," said Jochim, president and founder of the Tempe-based Digital Tech Frontier.
A webcam relays certain patterns from the books to the software, which then produces 3-D animation on the computer, Jochim said. Readers can use a hand-held "i" paddle to view "MARC-E," a 3-D robot that guides users to both visual and audible information. Siddell, Digital Tech Frontier's vice president, said children "really grasp the concepts. They don't even realize they're learning. They think they're just having fun playing video games."
Jochim said the books also feature 3-D sound, which he demonstrated during an interview by moving an open copy of "Bugs 3D" closer to a webcam. The sounds of a beehive grew louder as the book's bee-related pages neared the camera.
The other title in the Popar series is "Planets 3D." Siddell said a third title, "Construction Machines 3D," will be released in time for Christmas.
"When kids are young, they always want to be astronauts, or be explorers in the woods," Siddell said. "This gives them the opportunity just by flipping the page of a book to fill those dreams."
And Popar's co-owners have dreams of their own for the pages that people could be flipping in the future.
Jochim said the use of augmented reality in content for cooking books, textbooks, or even a book about Shakespeare could "fill those gaps that people are having both in school and out of school."
"It's not just a book we could write," Jochim said. "Somebody else could come to us and say, ‘We have this great new book.' It's the new Harry Potter. Or it's a book about dragons or kitty cats. We could augment any one of those. You could have a kitty cat play across your page if you wanted to."
The business partners envision creating more Popar-branded books, while also expanding the business to produce content for more established names.
"As the market sees these books, and they're open to what we're doing with interactivity and the written word, we think the demand will actually drive what we're going to be doing next," Jochim said. "People will come to us. We've already had some interest from some larger toy companies wanting to take their brands to a book."
Siddell said compatibility with the Macintosh operating system is another goal. The software for the books currently is PC-based, but it works on Macs that run Windows.
Jochim said books with more overt appeal for girls also are ahead for Popar. He and Siddell hope to release a version of the dance-themed "Nutcracker" story in time for the holidays next year.
Even flash cards could enter "the next stage" if augmented reality technology was applied to them, Jochim said.
"The ability with the software is unlimited," he said.
• Kiali Wong is interning this semester for the Ahwatukee Foothills News. She is a senior at Arizona State University.