Imaginary friends aren’t so imaginary when they can actually
answer your questions. IMAX’s new augmented reality (AR) project, launched to
coincide with the giant screen documentary Pandas,
has taken the concept of extending the learning experience beyond the theater
to a whole new technological level. With the AR app, kids interact with a panda
named Genius to learn more about the pandas they just saw in the theater. The
free iOS app from Yakables (the Android version will be available soon) is
IMAX’s first foray into AR and is a first-of-its-kind AR experience.  

The voice-activated app, developed in partnership with
conversational technology company Conversive, allows kids to view Genius on a
mobile phone or tablet screen and chat with her in a real-time, real-world
setting. By overlaying an animated panda into the environment using input
received from the phone’s camera, kids can interact with Genius in the car, in
the park—anywhere they point the phone or tablet—and learn interesting facts
about pandas. Genius guides users through some questions and then quizzes them on
what they’ve just learned. Kids can also tap the screen rather than interact
with Genius verbally. 


Watch the promotional video for the app below:


One of the earliest adopters of virtual reality, IMAX saw AR
as a logical and organic progression. “It’s safe to say that over our 50-year
history, IMAX has really continually been an innovator,” says IMAX Chief
Marketing Officer JL Pomeroy, “and that spirit is always going to be alive at
IMAX.” She adds that AR is a great opportunity to amplify the learning experience
out to larger audiences.

“Kids love repetition, and if they love something, they want
to see it again and again,” Pomeroy says. “So we looked at how we could extend
the engagement of seeing an IMAX educational film like Pandas in an institutional theater and then give them a way to go
home and talk about it. Kids fall in love with the subject matter and share
that with their parents, siblings, and friends. The app takes that engagement
and extends it.”

The Pandas app
targets 3rd-5th graders, but IMAX is finding that older
and younger kids use it and enjoy it as well. Pomeroy points out that kids are much
more technologically advanced and comfortable with technology than most adults
and easily swipe, speak to, and figure out the apps. “It’s a natural engagement
for them,” she says. “It’s exciting to see kids interact with it. It makes
education fun.”

Promotion for this pilot program has been grassroots, with
no full-blown marketing campaign. IMAX has relied primarily on word-of-mouth to
institutions, letting them know visitors can download it for free. While the
company isn’t able to disclose usage data just yet, Pomeroy shares that
downloads are modest for now because it’s a reined-in network, but engagement
is high with the users who have downloaded it.

asked if IMAX plans to develop AR applications for future documentary releases,
Pomeroy enthusiastically replies, “100 percent. We’re working on things that will put IMAX front and center with AR going forward. We’re
excited to lean into this opportunity to explore new ways to provide
educational tools to kids who’ve enjoyed the film in the theater.”


Download the Pandas iOS app here