Popar Books has a new series of augmented reality books that display an animation of the books subjects such as bugs or construction machines using a Windows or MAC computer and a webcam.
Ease of Use, Performance: 10/25
Look & Feel: 20/25
How much I enjoy 10/25
Popar Books has a unique series of books that help kids learn using augmented reality which is simply using a webcam to display the book and animations on your computer screen. Titles of the Popar books are Bugs 3D, Construction Machines and Planets 3D which are all available as the book alone, with a webcam or as a kit.
The book alone has the book with the first few pages of instructions along with a disc for the software and a set of cards in the back of the book to cut out. The cards are for a game, so to speak, where you can get more than one object on the screen but they don’t really do anything other than move when you move the card.
The software is a program and settings for the webcam along with the program that will do the animations and read a sentence from each page when the I card is held over the page. The I card is sort of a pointer to help use the book but the small robot figure that pops up when you hold the card in front of the camera does not do anything other than move when you move the card.
The book I received for review is the Bugs 3D with 11 pages of bugs including informative information about the insects and arachnids that they cover. The program does not read all the information on the pages but a single sentence or set of sentences that are near the pages webcam icon.
Each page has a symbol or icon that the webcam and program uses to identify the pages and the I card icon is used to start the recorded sentence for that page. Each page also has some background sounds to it that are from that bug but it is a five second loop of sound with a very distinctive break when the loop starts over.
If you have not gotten the idea by now I am not impressed at all with this set and would not be able to recommend it as a gift for a young person. Something like this should work right out of the box and people should not expect to have problems with it mainly because they should be able to set it up and have their kids use it with ease.
Adults are going to have to help them more often than not and I did have more than a few problems with use and getting things working including where to put the camera. I used a camera tripod to position the camera as it needs to be about three or four feet from the book instead of just on the monitor your using.
The first computer I tried it on had no sound for the book but the startup menu did have sound so I tried it with my other computer and did get sound. The problem on this computer was the program would crash for no apparent reason when I tried to record a video using the icons on the page.
You can record a screenshot of the book or a video from the program, on one computer it would record the screenshot but crash when I tried to record video. On my first computer it had no problems recording both video and screenshots of the book in use and I highly encourage you to view my video that will be released about the same time as this review.
The use in general is decent but the camera is picky about getting the right light and angle but even then the animations and images flip back and forth for no apparent reason. On one page in particular the spider animation would come up instead of the correct lightning bug animation more often than not and I am not sure why.
I was a bit disappointed with Popar Books Bugs 3D that is advertised as a book and game, the site has a video that mentions play several times and even drive a fork lift. I did not see the same things when I reviewed the Bugs 3D book as the main thing the set does is show an animation on the screen when the book is open to the webcam.
Popar Books Augmented Reality is too finicky to expect kids to enjoy all that much, while it is a neat novelty the first time kids see it the uniqueness may wear off. You are left with a book that has an animation feature onscreen of a computer that will play a sentence or two of audio on each page.
You can tilt the animation or use multiple bugs on the screen and a bug catcher but you really just move them around instead of play with them. I am at a loss as to what game they keep talking about in the review I found on the internet as the only thing I see is an animation to go along with reading the book as well as the interesting fact that is read aloud.
You can also use the additional cards that the kit comes with to create a mask of a grasshopper head when you look directly into the webcam or put up a pair of butterfly wings on screen. You can also record these as a screenshot or a video if your system works with these features which are saved to your documents folder for Windows 7.
I think the main thing I am mostly concerned with about the Popar books is there is just too much that needed setting up including the camera position and room lighting. I just think this should work correctly the first time if you expect to use this with kids in any kind of setting much less with kids in a classroom situation.
I really cannot recommend this series of books as they just did not work well enough for me, this type of kids book with computer connectivity needs to work without any problems. I had too many problems from lighting giving a glare on the book that the camera and software could not read to the crashing while recording video.