This educational AR experience lasts about 10 minutes, and it is designed for players ages up to 10 years old. The game is designed to teach its young players about the star cycle by allowing them to interact with cosmic beings and accompany the protagonist on her voyage to become a star.
Overall, Clio's Cosmic Quest is equal parts adorable and sublime, ambitious and restrained, and it is a compelling addition to the three stories that Within featured in its November 2018 rollout of Wonderscope. Created by Preloaded and written by Joe Waechter, Clio's Cosmic Quest shows a possible route to scalable educational AR. All one needs to play the game is an iPad or an iPhone, a free download of Wonderscope from the App Store, and a $4.99 in-app purchase.
For first-time users of Wonderscope, a fun-loving monster appears to outline why camera and microphone access need to be enabled for the phone to become a window into an augmented reality. All of Wonderscope's stories make use of Apple ARKit's tracking feature, which measures the position and orientation of the player's phone and thus allows in-story characters to look, listen, and respond appropriately to speech and movement in the player's real environment.
After orienting players in Wonderscope, a larger portal opens up, and a new character swims onstage. She is confused as to how she arrived on Earth, but affectionately refers to the player as "buddy." This charming character is Clio, and she is about to embark on a cosmic journey.
Soon, Clio invites players to help her engage a bully, learn the secrets of the star cycle from a dying red giant, and join the scattered particles of a supernova into one "super awesome nebula of interstellar teamwork." After the player helps Clio reach her goal, she reveals herself as the sun and invites players to learn about the planets that now orbit her.
Clio's Cosmic Quest also threads the hottest topics in education, using STEM knowledge to impart social and emotional learning (SEL), teach literacy, and craft multi-sensory, multi-media tools for "differentiated learning" (wherein teachers offer multiple points of engagement to reach students with distinct learning styles and abilities).
Like the other stories on Wonderscope, Clio's Cosmic Quest pairs dialogue cues with scripted closed caption text, making reading and recitation more comfortable for language learners, reluctant readers, and students with dyslexia and autism.
Within's Wonderscope app is both timely and positioned at the leading edge of educational AR. According to The Chronicle of Higher Education's 2018 marketing trends report, "Self-Directed Learning and Augmented Reality: How to Teach Gen Z," today's students seek flexible learning environments and immersive stories told through tools they already use.
While AR has inspired fascinating work by educators and artists who use design and various technologies to engage students, re-think curricula, and bring about positive social change, it is still the norm for teachers to decry the overlap of screen time and class time. Some teachers express a particular contempt for smartphones, in some cases even working to systematically remove students' easiest entry-points to an augmented classroom.
Nevertheless, as secondary and higher educators are slowly coming around to the demands of today's students, companies like Within are already creating rich platforms and content for the undergraduates of tomorrow. You can download Clio's Cosmic Quest through Wonderscope here.