Within Shows How Apple’s ARKit Will Change Kids Entertainment

A sneak peek of an upcoming augmented reality experience shows it can be the 21st Century pop-up book for kids

Now we know why Augmented Reality — computer graphics intermixed with a viewer’s real world — makes Apple CEO Tim Cook want to “yell out and scream.”

Apple is set to launch its ARKit when its latest operating system rolls out later this year, allowing developers to create AR apps for the iPhone and iPad. The world’s largest company is primed to make AR more prevalent than it’s ever been, and developers are already working on having experiences ready to go from day one.

TheWrap was able to get a sneak peek of one of those experiences at Within‘s Los Angeles office recently. Within is best known for virtual reality — with high-profile partnerships with director Kathryn Bigelow and “Mr. Robot,” among others — but Chief Exec Chris Milk is bullish on the ARKit’s ability to bring the technology to the masses.

“It’s a huge thing,” Milk told TheWrap. “Granted, it’s the beginning of AR through a phone or a tablet. But it’s introducing people to a completely new concept, and a new form of medium that does not have a storytelling structure.”

It’s why his team has been working on an untitled Goldlilocks-themed experience that only needs an iPad and a flat surface to show AR’s potential. Milk — cutting a figure of a taller, more svelte Zach Galifianakis with his pulled-back hair and impressive brown beard — pointed his iPad at a table and started reading along to the story on the screen. Voice activation followed his words and a digital forest began popping up on the iPad, with Goldilocks wandering through trees before heading inside a two-story house.

Milk then took a few steps forward, allowing us to peak through the window and see inside  — as if  it was a tangible dollhouse sitting on the table, and not a computer animation. If we reached out and touched the screen, we could move the items in the story. Goldilocks then took a seat at a table and, well, you know the rest.

Admittedly, I was caught off guard by how cool I found the experience — especially since I’m about 20 years older than the target demo. But Within tapped into how AR can create the 21st Century version of a pop-up book, with users able to turn their kitchen table into a fantasy world. “Goldilocks” was a hybrid production — part-book, part-cartoon, and part-video game. Why wouldn’t a six-year-old reach for the iPad instead of “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” if reading is going to be this immersive? It’s easy to imagine this becoming a standard form of entertainment for kids, especially as they’re increasingly digitally-savvy.

As Apple is poised to make hundreds of millions of devices AR-enabled by the end of the year, don’t be surprised if your kids start asking you to download experiences like this to read them stories around the holidays.