NASA releases the first interactive graphic novel that can face robots, space suits, and lunar outposts

NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, has always been known as the most marketing government agency, and it frequently enters our field of vision with the image of "not doing business properly."

In order to reshape the public image, the puppy Snoopy with a space dream has become a safety mascot; as a socialist, he has opened more than 500 social accounts to play popular science; known as a cross-border joint madman, and toys, Home furnishings, fashion brands, and luxury brands all cooperate; we are fully aware of the romantic feelings of mankind towards the universe, and present the universe on your birthday on the 30th anniversary of the Hubble Space Telescope.

Recently, NASA, which explores space while operating its own IP, has entered the literary world and released the first interactive graphic novel "First Woman: NASA's Promise For Humanity" (hereinafter referred to as First Woman).

Face to face with robots, spacesuits, and spacecraft

The definition of graphic novel is relatively broad, but it is conceptually different from comics and cartoons. According to comic history researcher Stephen Weiner, "a comic with the thickness of a book and a complete story… A form of the characteristics of literary works."

▲ Picture from: Hou Lang

First Woman has only 40 pages. The protagonist Callie Rodriguez is a fictional female astronaut. She dreamed of becoming the first woman to land on the moon since she was a child. Perseverance and love made her dream come true. Accompanying Callie in space travel is the robot assistant RT. First Woman not only showed their scene in space, but also went back in time about Callie's childhood, school and the process of entering NASA.

The plot alone is actually not special. What really makes it stand out is the interactive experience in the graphic novel.

▲ Callie and RT. Picture from: NASA official website

First Woman can read it online or download the PDF version on NASA's official website . There are QR codes or XR codes everywhere. QR code is a type of two-dimensional barcode, and XR is a general term, including AR, VR, MR and other technologies. According to statistics, there are 12 QR codes and 4 XR codes in the novel.

▲ Scan code prompt. Picture from: "First Woman" APP

Readers can scan the code and interact with the content of the novel through the website or download the "First Woman" APP, so as to get to know the robot RT, understand NASA's moon landing technology and overview the lunar environment.

RT, who has come to the real world with AR technology, will introduce yourself to you and let you feel its quirky personality and humorous cells in the novel. Immediately afterwards, three objects appeared behind it-a spacesuit, a lunar outpost, and a launch system. Click on the picture to see their 3D form.

▲ RT in the real world.

These objects can be rotated, enlarged or reduced at the fingertips. Click on the exclamation point bubble to learn more about each part.

▲ The backgrounds are all white curtains.

We can also observe 4 environments on the moon immersively-the surface of the moon, the interior of the moon base, the Orion spacecraft, and the moon craters.

▲ The surface of the moon.

However, most QR codes are not so interesting, but at least you can scan out interactive pictures, jump to official website articles or watch videos.

In the process of exploring, interact with various environments and complete hidden challenges to earn collector badges.

A NASA communications director stated:

We have carefully crafted graphic novels and digital ecosystems to share NASA's work in a different and exciting way to make the content both fascinating and accessible. We hope that space enthusiasts of all ages can enjoy some fun.

The current 40 pages are only the first part of this graphic novel "Dream To Reality". At the end of this part, Callie lost contact with Mission Control, and RT mysteriously ceased operation, adding drama to the originally warm story. If you want to know what is going on, let's listen to the next breakdown.

▲ Ending. Picture from: First Woman graphic novel

NASA is still the same NASA

Although Callie is a fictional character, she was born on the shoulders of real women. The first Soviet women, American women, and African American women to enter space… These are the real First Women.

▲ Women in space. Picture from: NASA's official website

Callie, as the first woman of color to land on the moon in the story, heralded part of NASA's new moon landing program "Artemis"-sending a woman to the moon. NASA announced the news in April this year. Before this plan was realized, NASA first gave people the opportunity to see what this might look like in the form of graphic novels and interactive experiences.

The NASA technology involved in the graphic novel has helped Callie and will help real astronauts maintain life on the moon; the robot RT is named after Callie's father Arturo, and also represents the expectations of the "Artemis" project.

▲ Picture from: NASA official website

Therefore, NASA launched graphic novels to promote the new moon landing program and encourage more young people with the goal of exploring space to join NASA, as NASA Deputy Administrator Pam Melroy said:

Callie's story reflects passion, dedication and perseverance and how to turn dreams into reality, and her diversity is reflected in today's astronaut team. It is very important that we can regard ourselves as a star explorer.

This has always been the style of NASA. In addition to being a "design company delayed by the aerospace industry," "a cross-border co-branded madman," and "social expert", NASA is very good at popularizing science, education, and publicity through technology products.

In April 2020, in order to protect the disappearing coral reefs, NASA designed an AR real-world game called "NeMO-Net".

▲ Picture from: Shuying

NASA uses a "fluid lens camera" to monitor the coral ecosystem, but manual analysis is slow and laborious, so it resorts to players in the form of games. Players use 3D images to identify and classify corals, and take the Nautilus to navigate the ocean virtually. NASA collected the classification done by game players on the server, and quickly provided a large number of research samples centered on human recognition to the supercomputer to draw more accurate coral distribution maps.

NASA, which seems to be out of business, can always intervene in "food, clothing, shelter, transportation, and play" in a clever way, allowing people to participate willingly, so it gives people a positive impression that "the sideline is doing well and the serious things are never perfunctory." With technology, understanding of marketing, and following trends, its routines are indeed worthy of reference.

When comics and novels are also proficient in digital technology

However, although NASA is innovative this time, it is not as amazing as before. It is a simple and straightforward, science-based process for interactive graphic novels. In fact, interaction can be a creative technique, not just icing on the cake.

"Ice-Bound" is an example of a more in-depth link between AR and novels. This is an iPad interactive application that combines novels, games and AR. It is also a "novel about novels".

The protagonist KRIS is an artificial intelligence, who needs to complete the novel "Frozen" for a dead writer. The player's task is to interact with it and guide it to complete the novel. There is also an 80-page book on sale with the app, which contains information on the biography of the deceased writer, unfinished chapters of the novel, and more.

▲ "Frozen".

This is the key to the entire interactive application: the book and the application are not independent. Players scan the pages of the book with the camera on the iPad, and they will see many hidden information in the book pages through AR—another layer of reality. This is the application of augmented reality, which breaks the gap between paper and electronic screens and connects the two closely.

In short, through digital technology, books are no longer static and flat, they are given the possibility of infinite extension, we can interact with them, and there is a sense of suspense and gameplay.

▲ The dynamic comic “Long Song Xing''.

The same is true for comics. When comics connect to the Internet and face the impact of other forms of entertainment, they have tried various genres such as comic strips, sound comics, dynamic comics, comic animations, etc. It is actually very suitable for bringing readers immersion through digital technology. A text of experience.

"Liangzhu" produced by the domestic team is an interactive work that is directly operated on the comic page. By dragging the objects in the comics and replacing the text in the dialog box, players can change the direction of the story and achieve different endings. The exquisite ink painting style is also impressive. But it has not been officially launched yet.

▲ The animation is produced from: TAPTAP promotional video

At present, there are not many excellent interactive novels and comics in China, and they are still in the testing stage. Most of them are based on IP derivatives and launched under the name "Fans to Welfare". The interactive form is immature-readers have low degree of freedom and branch lines. The plot is not rich enough, lacks a sense of participation in suspense solving and so on.

▲ Interactive comic “Looking for the Lost in One Person''.

Interaction is an experience that extends from visual images to multi-faceted senses. In essence, a successful interactive narrative is to gamify the content through digital technology, create an environment where reality and falsehood are intertwined, and bring readers a sense of reading substitution from multiple perspectives.

AR cartoonist Stuart Campbell once said:

The reason why I create such a story is to hope that readers will not be confined to the still pictures of the print edition. The screen represents a canvas of infinite possibilities.

After NASA's interactive graphic novels, there may be more such novels and comics in the future. The rapid development of technologies such as extended reality, virtual imaging, and human-computer interaction will provide a broader imagination space for e-reading methods.

Grapes are not the only fruit.

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