I am enjoying interviewing professionals about their line of work or their side hustles. Today I am sharing an interview with the creators of the Paired app.
Tell us about yourselves and the Paired app.
We are J.C. Diaz and Andres Rovira, co-creators of the free kids AR short-story app. Although we ourselves are not mothers, we appreciate the opportunity to share our passion project, which we designed with families (and mothers!) in mind.
We met in high school in Miami and re-connected a few years in LA. We never thought we would combine our careers (filmmaking and tech) into the creation of an AR film. “Paired” is an augmented reality short story that explores the lives of two socks, Saul and Sadie. These “solemates” do everything together around Randy’s feet, but when they are accidentally separated at the laundromat, Sadie and Saul find themselves plunged into the world of lost misfit clothes. On their adventures, they learn the value of taking risks and how to appreciate the true love of solemates.
Aside from the story, what makes this app special is the ability to place the virtual ‘pop-up book’ into your real-world space using your smartphone camera so that the family can read along, interact with, and become part of the story! The most common (and rewarding) feedback we’ve received is that it’s made reading fun for kids who don’t usually like to read.
The app is currently available for iOS but we are hoping to launch on Android very soon! Here’s a link to the iOS app store page (https://apps.apple.com/us/app/id1480173520) to download for free.
Check out the video trailer:
What inspired you to launch your app together?
We both live for great storytelling. J.C. works at Disney, where he gets to tell stories using technology and Andy is a professional film maker where he gets to tell great stories for the screen. We always knew we wanted to combine our strengths to tell a great story and this is the first of (hopefully) many.
At the root of it was always the desire to tell a universally heartfelt story that audiences of all ages would respond to, and better yet, one they could interact with in their own space.
We’d love to hear about the learning journey and creative process for your project.
Every step of the way was a learning experience. We have professional experience making films, but augmented reality was pure uncharted territory that we had to teach ourselves, from the animation of the characters, to building out each scene. Some of the most fun parts were working with our voice talent to bring the character voices to life. Recording sessions were all done remotely, and we directed the sessions and giddily watched as our visions came to life, thanks to incredible voice talents from actor Ray Tezanos and influencer Jenny Lorenzo.
We also learned a lot by testing the app with friends and families. We learned a lot about: setting up cues for letting users know when to turn the page; making it easy for people to set up the experience and use the app (which can be difficult in AR for first timers); and lastly, we learned about how to make reading the book easier for people with learning disabilities, such as dyslexia – you’d be surprised how far such small things, such as text alignment, can go to make reading simpler.
How do you balance your full-time jobs and creating your project?
Balancing our jobs (Digital Innovation Product Lead at Disney + Film Director) with the creation of Paired was tricky, but we are accustomed to the side-hustle life. We always have creative projects in the works, so by now we have developed the time management skills. It involves a lot of late nights, early mornings and freshly pressed coffee.
We have to thank our amazing wives (Lissette and Lisa) for putting up with us working on weekends and playing/testing the app out loud too often! They both actually contributed to the app, which makes it even more special to us as Lisa designed our beautiful posters and Lissette helped with some of the story elements. We also can’t forget about J.C.’s miniature schnauzer, Baxter, who is the star of our video trailer!
How does your app help parents make reading fun for their kids?
The feedback we’ve gotten from parents is that because this is a ‘book disguised as an interactive experience’, kids find it fun to read the story over and over again. In the app, kids place a digital book in their real space using the camera on their phone. Once the ‘book’ is placed on a surface, the child or family can read along with the narrator and characters, while having fun turning the page and jumping into the scene! With every scene comes exciting visuals that pop out of the page, giving incentive to finish each page and keep reading.
The other reason we’ve found this helps parents make reading fun is that they can experience this story together as a family (we’ll get more into that in the last question!).
What are some of your favorite things about running your business together?
It helps to be friends, understand each other’s visions and speak each other’s language from a creative and spiritual standpoint. The compassion and adventure of a good friendship rubs off on the product. So far we haven’t gotten at each other’s throats. Not yet…
What were some challenges you ran into when starting your business together?
We are self-funded and have done 95% of the work ourselves over the last year and half. We also did not set out to create an app that we could sell or profit off, but to instead create something beautiful that we could share with the world… in hopes that this would allow us to pitch investors to fund more stories.
In order to best set ourselves up to drive engagement and downloads of our app, we made a difficult decision to give this app away for free. Even so, it’s been wildly difficult to drive downloads and awareness of this app. It’s tough to compete with a lot of the bigger players in the app stores and people are still discovering and understanding what augmented reality (AR) is.
All that being said, we are excited about completing the project and sharing with the world. We hope to create even more fun stories for mothers, children and family to enjoy together!
Any advice you want to give to parents?
While screens may not always be the healthiest place for a child to grow up, if used properly, they can be very educational, profound, and allow them to learn way easier than they would in a classroom. With the right story that tells the right message, augmented reality (AR) is a format that can really take children and families to other worlds and expand their imaginations. This will ultimately benefit their childhood and always keep them curious and full of wonder.
Download for free on the iOS app store (https://apps.apple.com/us/app/id1480173520) and keep an eye out for our Android version later this year!
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