A panda named Genius joins this world to boost a new IMAX movie

A free interactive augmented reality app is helping to promote a new IMAX family documentary about pandas.

The IMAX film, appropriately called “Pandas,” depicts how real-life captive-born pandas are reintroduced into the wild. The movie has opened at IMAX theaters in US museums and will be made available to other IMAX theaters this summer.

To expand on the film’s educational experience, the New York City-based VR creative agency Moth + Flame has created Pandas AR, an interactive experience for iOS smartphones and tablets. An Android version is scheduled for release in a few months. Here’s a video of the app experience:

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After opening the app, the user sees an animated panda called Genius placed against the real world that is visible through the device’s camera.

There are four sets of interactions. In each set, the user taps or reads one of four questions shown on the screen, and Genius’s spoken answers are designed to educate some aspect of the adorable creatures. After the four questions, Genius asks the user a question as a quiz on the material just presented. The user answers by tapping or reading one of several answers shown.

The entire experience takes about eight minutes. Although not open-ended conversational interaction, it points to how characters — overlaid on a real world — might extend the conversation of a film, TV or other story. Cornish told me this Pandas AR is the first chapter of what is supposed to be an ongoing series involving the character Genius.

Pandas AR is the first experience available on Yakables, a new AR app from immersive conversational engine Conversive, which was employed to create the app. The first release using the Conversive platform was an interactive experience called “Fall in Love” for the Oculus VR headset. A brief web version of “Fall in Love” is available on the Conversive website.

Moth + Flame and Conversive were both co-founded by Kevin Cornish, who is CEO of Conversive. Actress Grace Van Dien, who has had roles in “Greenhouse Academy” and “The Village,” narrated Pandas AR, and it was written by children’s author Michael Leviton.

Cornish told me that there is no info yet on the numbers of downloads or users, or how Pandas AR affects a user’s understanding of the IMAX movie. A typical use case, he said, might involve a teacher asking her students to use Pandas AR before or after seeing the IMAX film. The intention is an educational expansion, and there is no specific call to action relating to the movie, like a link to buy tickets.

An open question, he said, is whether there is a higher retention for learning using this kind of interaction, compared to watching a video, and IMAX is currently undertaking a study to find out.

About The Author

Barry Levine covers marketing technology for Third Door Media. Previously, he covered this space as a Senior Writer for VentureBeat, and he has written about these and other tech subjects for such publications as CMSWire and NewsFactor. He founded and led the web site/unit at PBS station Thirteen/WNET; worked as an online Senior Producer/writer for Viacom; created a successful interactive game, PLAY IT BY EAR: The First CD Game; founded and led an independent film showcase, CENTER SCREEN, based at Harvard and M.I.T.; and served over five years as a consultant to the M.I.T. Media Lab. You can find him at LinkedIn, and on Twitter at xBarryLevine.