My rating: 5 of 5 stars
There’s something rather wonderful about a book which elicits a “Whoah” from everyone you show it to. Transformers : Robots in Disguse : Where Crown City Comes To Life is a non-fiction media tie-in with one very unique aspect: augmented reality. For those of you yet to come across this, the most overt example of augmented reality within the media recently has been Pokemon Go. Through the usage of an app on their phone, people are able to look through the camera onto a scene and ‘see’ an introduced virtual object into that scene.
I’ve not seen much work with augmented or interactive realities in children’s literature, fiction or non-fiction (perhaps the best one I know of is the The Search for WondLa though that’s a few years old now), and so when I heard about this title – and its contemporaries – I got in touch with the publisher who kindly provided me with a review copy. And oh, oh, it’s really brilliant. This is the sort of book that challenges the opposition between books and technology by integrating the two; the book is used as a book, but as a space for interactive play, and for investigation, and as a game. It is the sort of book that you give the child who will play a game for ever and yet, struggles with books for one reason or another. It’s a bridge, this, but it’s immensely spectacular in its own right.
Format wise, it’s fairly traditionally presented nonfiction and it’s the AR element which makes it. It’s not the biggest of books, but it’s well produced and robust. It goes through several of the key autobots and decepticons, and certain pages have embedded AR elements on them so after downloading the free app, you’re able to hold your phone over these pages and ‘unlock’ a further element of them. This ranges from being able to walk and transform bots, through to driving around the room. Additional features of the app let you have robot fights with another party. I tested all the options but the latter and found them all excellent. Some of the finer detail / handling was a little complex, and there’s a brief learning curve to cope with so it might be useful to have a parent / savvy elder sibling round if needs be. But, I loved this. This is exciting, savvy work, and I’m thrilled to have a book out there in the world that does it so well.
I’ve added some pictures here of some of the AR features on the Sideswipe page. The first shows the page as it is, the second and third with the AR activated.
My thanks to the publisher for a review copy.