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Mom Augments Reality to Spark Activity in Autistic Children

by Muriel Vega

Remember those pop-up storybooks from when you were little? Nostalgia hit you hard just now, didn’t it? Well, PlayPointe is taking those pop-up storybooks and bringing them into the 21st Century with the help of augmented reality.

Technology entrepreneur Sarah Jackson, inspired by her three autistic children, saw the need for more interactive, engaging books and educational games aimed at differently developing children. “Head in the Clouds: Jack & Abby Dream of the Circus” is PlayPointe’s first augmented reality book with interactive images, games, animations, and printable coloring pages. All features help children develop fine motor skills, joint attention, and language skills.

Currently, Jackson is working out of the Atlanta Tech Village, where she says, “there is no better way to grow and access the entrepreneur and tech startup community than working at ATV.” Below, the founder talks about going into the children technology industry, working with augmented reality, and what kind of funding she’s looking for.

What inspired you to go into the children technology industry?

As a mother of 3 autistic children, I have repeatedly been disappointed with the content, technology, delivery and price point of children’s technical products.

In learning more about Autism, I realized that every child learns differently, that is why we focus our books and applications on children who are differently developing.  With the increase in children with developmental disabilities, it is a great opportunity to better understand how kids today are motivated and inspired.

Let’s face it, today’s kids are more tech savvy than adults. There is nothing wrong with using technology, but there is a right way to use it. We can’t sacrifice the experience of reading a traditional storybook, but we can extend the experience through Augmented Reality or Virtual Reality. Just as Pop-up books existed in my childhood, Augmented Reality gives that same 3D view but now even better with interactions, coloring and game play.

playpointe-interactiveWhat’s your current funding situation?

PlayPointe is currently bootstrapped. We had hoped that our development would have moved along much quicker. We are in final stages of beta testing the application with a few additional changes to incorporate. PlayPointe will launch a Kickstarter campaign to continue the growth and go to market for “Head in the Clouds.” I would be very open to discussions for angel funding and bringing in investors.

What’s your pitch?

PlayPointe’s goal is to improve access to quality educational resources for children of different learning styles and abilities. Our mission is to create fun, engaging books, applications and games all while harnessing dynamic content and the newest innovative technologies. Those are some of the many goals of PlayPointe as we hope to inspire children to learn language and increase their skills as they are discovering the joy of play.

What problem are you solving?

We are bringing children’s books and applications to market incorporating technology with rich content, interactivity and early education principles.  I too often hear, “kids with Autism love iPads!”  It isn’t just having a good device it is all about the applications and the content.  When you have children with disabilities, every minute counts.  You need to keep them engaged and part of the world.  I hope that my experiences and raising 3 children with Autism can bring dynamic applications that can be enjoyed by families.  One thing I have learned throughout my research is that the foundations for Early Childhood Education and Early Intervention are not that different.  Still, we are not creating educational products that are affordable to families.


How does Augmented Reality make your books different from others in the market? How does game play help children who are differently developing?

“Head in the Clouds” is unique in the fact that it is what we call a Playbook. It is a traditional storybook, coloring book, application with 12 animations, and game play for 10 animations.  While there are other books on the market that have Augmented Reality, PlayPointe’s focus was to use the AR to extend the child’s experience. Think of a pop-up book where the folded cardboard opens up each page.  The book engages the children through the story then each page provides an opportunity to color, play and interact with the animations.  Head in the Clouds is the first book to incorporate all of these elements with the rich content in the story and world-class animations and technology.  We worked diligently to ensure that both the content and the technology enhanced the child’s opportunity to learn and to use their imaginations.

Who are your competitors and how do you stand out?

We sit in a market between toys for “typical” children and special needs books and toys.  We are different as the 1st company to create an Augmented Reality book for children who are differently developing.  The quality and details in our books, applications and future products will always differ from the market due to the extraordinary resources both in technology and disability in Atlanta.

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