With its 30-year focus on satisfying the worldwide need for fun, values-based, family entertainment, Green Bay, WI-based Balance Interactive Studios was an early adopter of Augmented Reality (AR) technology. AR was the latest and most challenging addition to their already impressive portfolio of capabilities, which included web design, illustration, branding, social media and third-party content management systems.
The firm's principals, Tina and Darren Lutz, recognized that they would need to showcase their cumulative talents, including their AR expertise, in a user-friendly way that would also be fun and entertaining. They recognized that AR was a significant new tool to enrich their entertaining and educational materials for kids and their families. What they hadn't counted on, however, was that integrating AR into their portfolio would catapult Balance into new territory: they became innovators who could drive new markets and generate new revenue streams.
Balance had already created an animated film titled "DinosaurUs ExploreUs," which included a young character named Gracie, an adorable pint-sized pink triceratops who resonated well with younger readers. Rocks In My Socks is the book created by Balance, specifically about Gracie, who learns about acceptance through some unexpected visitors that show up in her favorite pink and white striped socks. They decided that AR was a natural starting point to connect and communicate with their Rocks In My Socks readers, through a number of games and activities enabled by an AR app. Darren Lutz, Balance's co-founder, director and writer said, "When we started working with AR, we wondered how we would differentiate with it – we wanted to extend the story, to balance the traditional with digital."
After downloading the Rocks In My Socks app, your device transforms into a "magic looking glass" where the AR activity jumps right off of the page. The book offers eight AR-enabled activities with sound, animation and game play. Looking for the right platform upon which to develop these activities was arduous, but ultimately fulfilling. When selecting an AR partner, Lutz explained, "We explored every AR option and now only work with Vuforia, due to the platform's ease of use and our outstanding relationships with their tech team."
Released in January 2012, Rocks In My Socks has been a groundbreaking success, receiving an award nomination for "Most Innovative Use of AR Technology" at the UK's Augmented Reality Summit. Balance co-founder and producer Tina Lutz said, "The book has opened so many doors to the possibilities of entertainment, film, consumer-based goods, children's media… We're seeing lots of success in different ways."
Darren Lutz agreed, adding that "the idea for this book came from a TV show. We’ve flipped the typical model, from selling IP from film to ancillary markets, to the other way around." When they incorporated the Vuforia AR platform into their oeuvre, Balance realized that it was an incredibly powerful tool, offering them a chance to not only challenge their creative limits but also to alter the status quo of their industry.