Project of the week: Bookstore AR

Project of the week: Bookstore AR

British technology studio Big Motive's latest project aims to convince a whole new generation of the magic of bookshops.

The pitch

Bookstore AR aims to recapture the magic once associated with bookstores for a whole new audience. Its augmented reality technology can enhance a retail brand or product by applying a digital layer that leads to "a deeper relation with the content".

Who's the team behind it?

Big Motive, a technology studio headquartered in Belfast with offices in London which boasts a team of designers, strategists, product managers and engineers. "We’re creative people who understand how to plan, design and launch products," summarises Carol McHugh, their Marketing Business Analyst.

What's the gap in the market?

Bookstore AR aims to welcome a generation of kids who have few expectations or indeed experiences of physical bookshops back into the fold.

"Between 2010 and 2016, there has been a notable decline in the amount of children reading for pleasure," McHugh explains. "A drop of nearly 10%. We wanted to create a solution to this problem by enabling kids’ experience of books to be greatly enhanced at the point of purchase. We imagine a future where bookstores become magical worlds filled with talking books that invite children to engage with content, characters and stories - recapturing the magic which once was associated with bookstores.​"

Success so far?

"Seeing the gap in the market we set to work prototyping a solution that would bridge this," says McHugh. "We spun out the characters from our own virtual reality project (PaperVerse) which allowed us to bring children's characters to life. Validating our idea and understanding the user is core to our process. We tested a working  prototype with children in a bookstore environment to gauge their interest and ultimately understand what other opportunities there might be to expand the concept."

Biggest challenges?

The team has struggled with customers' kneejerk negative attitudes towards new technology.

"We found that there was some initial skepticism amongst our test user groups," McHugh admits. "However, once they got their hands on the prototype this was replaced by real enthusiasm, especially as the augmented reality approach involves interaction with the physical space in the bookstore." 

Ultimate ambition?

Big Motive believes that the time is ripe for AR to become a big part of the bookshop experience, not just providing gimmicky attractions but actually providing new and enhanced storytelling opportunities for authors and publishers.

"We believe its potential to engage or reconnect kids with stories is enormous – adding value both in cultural and commercial terms," McHugh explains. "In the future we’d love to see bookstores using the technology to enhance book launches, with in-store treasure hunts helping to increase dwell time and ultimately spending. Imagine the Gruffalo inviting customers to join him as he follows the mouse through your local book store. Imagine Harry Potter showing off his Quidditch skills on the cover of The Philosopher’s Stone, or the BFG reading the first chapter of Roald Dahl’s classic. The possibilities are endless."

Advice to other publishing entrepreneurs?

"Test your ideas with experiments, prototypes and discussion with readers, authors, publishers, booksellers; in short, anyone who has an interest. Getting to the heart of the real opportunity only comes from an understanding of the complex needs of these people. Empathy is key."