(Photo by Tajha Chappellet-Lanier)
Steve Buckley has four grandkids, “so that had a lot to do with it.”
Buckley is the Rockville-based founder of Bangarang Books, a new company that’s developing virtual and augmented reality children’s books. Through an accompanying app, Buckley’s books (like Blackbear the Pirate and other titles) transform from a traditional illustrated children’s book into a multi-dimensional tech-enabled adventure. They call it INkMOTION — it’s sort of a pop-up book for the modern era, if you will.
We sat down with Buckley over coffee to hear how he became a children’s book author in the first place, and how INkMOTION evolved.
Buckley has been writing his entire life, but until more recently the output was proposals for federal contracts. It was in the federal contracting space, in defense, that Buckley got his introduction to AR and VR. About 15 years ago, he said, he began filling journals with his own writing. He then found an illustrator and started writing children’s books — and at the end of 2015, with a partner, founded his own publishing company (Bangarang Books).
Buckley wrote the Blackbear the Pirate series himself, with illustrations by Ruth Palmer. But he’s also bringing on other authors and illustrators to create stories for Bangarang Books. “The books stand on their own … but then we have this whole new element,” Buckley said.
That new element — the free accompanying app build by London-based VR Studio Amplified Robot — grew, at least partially, out of Buckley watching children like his own grandkids interact with mobile phones and tablets. “Kids are using these as toys,” he told Technical.ly, wielding his iPhone, “and what we’re trying to do is turn them back into tools.”
Yes, INkMOTION’s “peek,” “pop” (AR features that allow a reader to see inside and on top of an illustrated image, respectively) and “go” (the VR component) features are fun. But the app-and-book combination offers unique educational capacity as well, Buckley argues. The app will “read” the book aloud when pointed at the page, highlighting words as it goes along. This is great for the beginning reader — and what’s more the read-along feature is available in multiple languages (English and French, for now).
“Nothing like this has been introduced to the children’s book field since, you know, pop-up books,” Buckley said. “It’s gonna do something in the industry that’s going to wake them up.”
Just how much INkMOTION disrupts the children’s book industry remains to be seen. Bangarang Books officially launched at the New York Toy Fair on Feb. 18.
Is this the children’s book of the future?