It's easy to get lost in a good book. But London-based company Lost My Name is making finding the way back home a truly unique and captivating experience for kids in a what they say is "the most technically advanced picture book ever created."
Lead by CEO Asi Sharabi, along with tech expert Tal Oron, comedy writer David Cadji-Newby, and illustrator Pedro Serapicos, as well as a team of 15 professionals including developers and designers, the company recently released its second children's book that uses technology—and a little help from NASA images— to provide a personalized reading experience.
Lost My Name previously released its first picture book titled The Little Boy/Girl Who Lost His/Her Name about two years ago, a story about a child who goes on a quest to find their name in the stars, as they help enchanted creatures (such as mermaids and unicorns, depending on the letters in their name) along the way. The book has became a global success, ranking as one of the top-selling picture books in the U.K. in 2014.
Now the team is taking children back to space again in a new adventure.
"After the success of our first book, we had the validation that there is definitely a market for high-end, tech-driven, personalized books for children," Sharabi told Tech Times. "So we were looking at other concepts and very quickly landed on this idea of home and the universal values of my place in the universe."
Titled The Incredible Intergalactic Journey Home, this illustrated picture book features the story of a child who travels to space with their robot friend. However, the duo becomes lost during their journey and meets characters along the way as they make their way through the universe and safely back home.
But this is just not any ordinary adventure into space, it's a personalized adventure that uses technology to help tell the story.
"We started to think about different ways technology can help us create a narrative around home and locality," Sharabi said. "Since that day, it was an ongoing dialogue where we looked at the different elements that are available. For example, we can show different satellite images of different parts of the journey from continents to a country level, to even the neighborhood level."
The parent provides the company with their child's name and address to customize the story. That means the child will get to see famous landmarks in their city, along with their neighborhood, including their house, as they fly overhead before landing at their front door.
"Every book is almost like a fingerprint," Sharabi said. "Even in places that are very similar, there's slightly different composition of places."
Lost My Name created a proprietary rendering engine that allows it to bring the visual elements (such as the angle of the Earth from space specific to individual readers) to the pages on the book, and uses Bing Maps to provide the neighbor views, along with NASA images of the solar system to create the illustrations seen in space. To do so, the company remodeled the NASA images found in Creative Commons, turned them into code and put them in different places throughout the book.
"There's a very complex rendering engine that is taking different data points from different web apps to micro services—what we call them in the development language—and creating pretty much on the fly a new book specifically created, where a print-ready file is then sent to the visual printers to actually make it into a physical book," said Sharabi.
The company also included a group of 25 kids and parents in the creative process as early concepts were developed before the book launched to the public.
"We like to think of our books as products of quiet technology. There's thousands and thousands of codes behind every book, but at the point of consumption, it still reads like an old-fashioned book that provides precious bonding moments between a child and a parent," Sharabi said.
Sharabi revealed that the picture book is still very much in beta for the company as it continues to collect feedback and plans to incorporate new ideas in the book over time to make it better. These include things such as using additional satellite images, improving on the engine that renders live landmark images from a database, and using a new way to present the child's front door, mirroring the way facades are presented in Google's Street View.
When the team was first deciding on what its magical bedtime story would be, members joked they would have to send their book to space. And what started as a tongue-in-cheek statement is now becoming a reality because Sharabi revealed that Lost My Name has teamed up with the NASA-endorsed organization Story Time From Space to send a copy of The Incredible Intergalactic Journey Home to the International Space Station, where it will be read by an astronaut to a child in Yorkshire next week.
While this is one very lucky child, your own children can star in their own space adventure by personalizing their own copy of The Incredible Intergalactic Journey Home on the company's website.
Because the book is so data heavy, parents can't preview the entire the book before purchasing, but they can look at the pages that feature the child's neighborhood so they can verify these pages before sending it to print.
The Incredible Intergalactic Journey Home costs $29.99 on the company's website.