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Sony's Wonderbook aims to captivate children

The company teams up with J.K. Rowling to deliver a potentially innovative story-telling experience and unique peripheral aimed at children.

Sony announces Wonderbook to a surprised crowd.
Photo by James Martin/CNET

Sony Entertainment of America announced today at the E3 show a new educational peripheral for the PlayStation 3 -- the Wonderbook -- that focuses on educating children through interactive books and documents.

The Wonderbook appears similar to a book, but rather serves as an augmented reality (AR) pad that works with the PS3's PlayStation Eye camera (and PlayStation Move) to display an interactive book on-screen. The $39.99 Wonderbook and Blu-ray, due later this year, represent a new direction for Sony, a company that in the past primarily used its gaming devices to deliver entertainment content.

The actual Wonderbook appears similar to a book, but comes to life on screen as seen here. The woman holds a PlayStation Move controller which transforms into a wand on-screen. Screenshot by Christopher MacManus/CNET

House showed off a lengthy demo for Wonderbook named Book of Spells, made in collaboration with Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling. Each chapter of the book, written over 200 years ago by fictional character Miranda Goshawk, guides the user through the art of learning twenty magic spells, dueling, and a few other twists and turns.

"Wonderbook: Book of Spells is the closest a Muggle can come to a real spellbook. I've loved working with Sony's creative team to bring my spells, and some of the history behind them, to life. This is an extraordinary device that offers a reading experience like no other," said Rowling in a quote provided by Sony.

During CNET's live blog of Sony's E3 press conference, our editors at the show seemed mostly impressed with Wonderbook. However, one may take pause after editor Scott Stein noted that Wonderbook "is really just creative repackaging of existing ideas from other games and products."

Now playing: Watch this: J.K. Rowling leads off Sony's Wonderbook series