Banana Standoff: IGIST Hosts Competing Banana Stand at Amazon HQ
If Adam Smith was looking down upon Amazon’s headquarters in Seattle on Monday May 13th, he would have been pleased. The company is accustomed to a monopoly on South Lake Union’s banana market every day of the week, but not this day. On this foggy morning, there was a surprise competitor with origins from Forks, Washington. A new immersive novel app IGIST set up shop, handing out free banana smoothies until they were kicked off Amazon’s home turf and banished down to 7th Street. However, the IGIST folks were able to hold their ground for about a half an hour to the delight of the passersby starting their morning. “IGIST rocks,” said Jordan Rheese, one of Seattle’s firefighters who received a free smoothie and a fresh banana. “The smoothies were delicious and refreshing,” he said. GeekWire also covered the event in this article.
Indeed, the banana stand was a microcosm of IGIST’s grand operation. The IGIST movement has set out to reinvent the digital reading experience with the galaxy’s first Immersive Novel: IGIST (pronounced “eye-gist”). In contrast to traditional E-Readers that have a history of minimal innovation, IGIST’s Immersive Novel app includes stunning photorealistic illustrations and cinematic animations called “Sputniks” that depict compelling scenes as the reader scrolls through each chapter. As they advance through the story, readers also earn badges and coins which they can use to attain virtual goods like Character Packs with behind-the-scenes concept art, backstories, and interviews featuring IGIST author L.S. Larson describing how each character came to life.
And the best part? Readers can enjoy the entire story for free by downloading the IGIST app which is available on both iOS and Android platforms. Furthermore, the IGIST app offers groundbreaking Augmented Reality features that transform the black-and-white illustrations in the paperback book into colorful animations. The IGIST app brings IGIST gear to life as well, playing CGI animations over t-shirts and backpacks. Both the paperback book and IGIST gear can be purchased here.
Author L.S. Larson’s inspiration to write IGIST stemmed from his day job as the President of Axon, formerly called TASER. The inventor of the TASER device, Jack Cover, a former NASA scientist, named the device after his favorite book series from his childhood: Thomas A. Swift And His Electric Rifle. The Tom Swift series, which the Stratemeyer Syndicate published from 1910-1971, also inspired Steve Wozniak, the technical cofounder of Apple, and Ray Kurzweil, the head of Artificial Intelligence at Google. At first, Larson thought this was just a cool series, following the adventures of the eponymous Tom Swift who, in every book plot, comes up against an existential crisis and then saves the day with one of his inventions. But then something interesting happened. Larson’s oldest daughter, Kendall (10), happened to be in the car with him during a conference call with Axon’s Board of Directors. Listening to the call on speaker phone, Kendall made an astute observation. “Why aren’t there any women?” she asked after the call was completed. Larson described the exchange as a “big wake-up call.”
“I thought wouldn’t it be cool if I could reinvent the Tom Swift series with a strong, smart female protagonist for my daughters to look up to,” said Larson. And so, Larson spent four years, starting his day at 4:30 AM, mapping out his futuristic Sci-Fi series centered around a fourteen year-old Earthling woman named Emi Swift. Set in the near future when humans have colonized the solar system, the first book in the IGIST series follows Emi as she’s determined to escape the plague-ravaged Earth, make it to an elite space academy called IGIST (Intergalactic Institute of Science and Technology), and win the school's prestigious science competition by creating an antidote to save her fellow Earthlings from the deadly plague. The book has earned a plethora of acclaim from critics, book bloggers, and Sci-Fi fans. The Readings of an English Teacher characterized the novel as “Star Wars meets Harry Potter.” With the story of IGIST, Larson’s main objective is to inspire the next generation of innovators to build the future they want to live in. “My ultimate dream is that the first person who walks on Mars is a scientist who was inspired by IGIST,” said Larson. He’s currently writing the second book in the series.
When Larson began plotting the first IGIST book and thought up the external force of antagonism, an amoeba-like plague that gobbles up anything in its path, he envisioned the monster jumping off the screen, surprising the viewer in a reimagined digital reading experience. In this way, the first of twenty “Sputnik” animations was born. “The Sputniks are my favorite part of the book,” said Larson’s middle daughter Kaylee (7), with whom he’s now reading the Immersive Novel. “The Sputniks are super fun, but my favorite part of IGIST are the photo filters. I love turning myself into a hologram like Hans,” said Kendall, referring to one of the scout characters—deep-space explorers who attend IGIST remotely via hologram. Readers can also add their favorite characters to their photos with Character Stickers in the IGIST app. “Smartphones have all these amazing technological capabilities which are crucial to apps like Instagram and TikTok. I wanted to augment the digital reading experience with these incredible functionalities to immerse the reader in the stellar IGIST universe,” said Larson.
Larson is now presenting his creation to the world in an epic thirty-city Book Tour featuring Balin, a character from the story who serves as a Warden of IGIST or a half-man-half-yak gatekeeper of the space academy. Larson launched the IGIST app in Phoenix on April 20th of this year and has already hosted events in Salt Lake City, Maui, San Diego, Washington D.C., and New York City. This summer, the IGIST crew is descending upon Europe with launch events planned in Amsterdam, Edinburgh, Geneva, London, Paris, and Rome. This past weekend, Larson, who grew up in Forks, Washington, hosted an event on Mother’s Day weekend to bring IGIST to fans at the Pacific Science Center. In the week leading up to their Seattle Launch, the IGIST crew also surprised fans at five local middle and high schools, in addition to rival Amazon’s headquarters. You can see when IGIST is coming to your city and book your free tickets today before they run out. Also, be sure to follow @igist.studios on Instagram for a chance to win sweet prizes. “Next time we’ll hand out Venus Thirst,” said Larson.