Award-winning director creates voice-activated AR experience that boosts a child’s confidence.
At first glance, Little Red the Inventor is a rather sweet-looking little AR interactive story where you get to help out Little Red Riding Hood as she tries to make her way through the forest, out of trouble, and ultimately to her grandma’s house.
But this is a bit more than just the retelling of a classic fairy tale. For one, it was created and directed by Tuna Bora, whose work with Oscar-nominated Pearl won her an Annie Award for Outstanding Achievement in Production Design. This gives the project some notable pedigree, as does the fact it was produced by Nexus studios, which has a growing reputation for producing beautiful and thought-provoking interactive experiences using immersive tech.
The story is part of a new voice-activated AR app called Wonderscope. Released recently by Chris Milk’s immersive storytelling company Within (their first major foray into augmented reality), the experience encourages user engagement through movement, reading aloud, and interactive play.
In this particular re-imagining, Little Red is an inventor looking to take her Grandma’s gardening to the next level. But to do so she’s going to have to learn to stand up for herself and venture beyond her own garden into Wolf Forest. Her mix of strength and vulnerability is something that I found quite refreshing, as it challenges many of the stereotypes we’ve come to expect not only in fairy tales (where there is some excuse), but also in the way modern media still tends to portray young girls.
“It was an exciting fit to restructure a fairy tale since I had strong views on female-centric-entertainment,” Bora explains, adding that an animated AR project felt like a natural fit for her after her work designing Pearl for VR.
Described as a “modern day AR fairy tale,” Little Red the Inventor engages children by making them empathise with the vulnerable character as her confidence falters and she begins to beat herself up for her failings in quite poignant ways — a theme that may resonate with young girls.
I also liked the fact that the character was allowed to make mistakes, and that part of the fun of the mission was finding ways to fix them — like when Little Red is coaxed into telling the wolf where her grandmother lives. All is not lost, and that’s a good message of resilience, persistence, and adapting to challenges that kids (and grown-ups) can surely benefit from. By helping the character find and activate crucial objects, assisting her in completing difficult puzzles, and providing encouragement when she becomes disheartened, children learn and build their own confidence without ever realizing it. It’s a rather empowering use of the empathy factor for which the medium is known.
“Letting the audience sit with Little Red at the moment she hits rock bottom felt like a great opportunity to explore empathy in an interactive medium,” agrees Bora.
There is also a bit of a retro vibe to the experience that people of my generation (you know you’re old when you start saying things like that) might appreciate. Tuna collaborated with Pollen and sound designer Andrew Vernon to create a soundtrack that was inspired by some of her favourite early 90’s games. That might be an added bonus for parents keen to participate in the adventure alongside their kids.
Little Red the Inventor is available now for $4.99 via the free Wonderscope app available on iOS. Kids can take a tour of histories greatest stunts with A Brief History of Stunts by Astounding People available free on the app.
Image Credit: Wonderscope / Within