Developer: Within Unlimited, Inc.
Price: Free (£5/$5 per additional story)
Size: 1.1 GB
Platform: iPhone & iPad
Wonderscope is the perfect illustration of just how far Apple’s mobile Augmented Reality (AR) initiative has come, and where it needs to go to improve.
This is essentially an interactive children’s storybook app, but one in which the action takes place in 3D right there on your living room floor. You get a single story for free up front, with a second available as IAP. A third story is listed as ‘Coming Soon’.
We tried the default free story, entitled Amazing Stunts. It tells the tale of three likable characters from history who each transcended a major barrier – old age, attitudes towards women, gravity – to do something amazing.
It’s empowering stuff, and is presented in a clean, solid style that will be familiar to any young ones reared on Pixar films. There are various interactive points, such as question mark icons that supply additional information when tapped, and simple object-hunt tasks that encourage the child to get up and physically look around the scene.
Voice recognition has been cleverly worked in too, with kids encouraged to talk to the characters in the story. This worked most of the time for us, but it did fail to pick up on our words a few times. Still, it’s good that Wonderscope is listening for specific word replication – we tried to fool the app with gibberish to no avail.
The actual AR setup process is brilliantly integrated into the experience. Everything from activating the mic and camera to choosing an appropriate site for the action is made part of the story, with a friendly narrator gently guiding you (or ideally your kid) through the process.
Talking of choosing a site, you’ll need a lot of space to enjoy Wonderscope. Indeed, for anyone living in a pokey apartment, we’d suggest treating this as an outdoor activity.
While the initial landing zone appears modestly sized, the stories proceed to shift location around that central point. On our own humbly proportioned living room rug, we found ourselves looking down on one character, causing them to crane their necks right back at an unnatural angle. They later landed a plane on our lap, while a little later still a train track materialized right over our TV cabinet.
As always, the AR experience is great and magical right up until it isn’t. We also found that accidentally switching apps for a moment (a not unlikely scenario with clumsy little hands) completely ruined the calibration, prompting an app and story restart.
This is largely an issue with the core AR toolset rather than any great shortfall on the developer’s part, of course. Indeed, as a practical showcase for the transformative potential of AR – and, yes, the limitations it still needs to overcome – Wonderscope is one of the best examples we’ve seen.
- Great presentation
- Clever set-up
- Empowering stories
- Needs a lot of space
- AR occasionally flaky
- Voice recognition good but not flawless