UA alumn looks to future with new reading app “IGIST”

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Courtesy L.S. Larson | The Daily Wildcat IGIST Photo 7

Some of the greatest inventors and scientists in the world were inspired by science fiction stories by the likes of Jules Verne, H.G. Wells and Ray Bradbury. 

L.S. Larson, a University of Arizona alumnus and the president of the technology and weapons company Axon, hopes that his new science fiction book and reading app “IGIST” will be the inspiration for the next generation of great minds.

Larson took his inspiration from his company’s history with the Tom Swift series, a series of children’s books about a young boy who saves the world with his inventions.

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“I looked into the Tom Swift series and discovered it was from the 1910s and had inspired several inventors and scientists,” Larson said.

Larson said the series influenced prolific inventors like Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, futurist Ray Kurzweil and former NASA scientist and creator of the TASER non-lethal electric weapon Jack Cover. Cover founded Larson’s company, formerly called TASER. The company, and Cover’s invention, take their names from Thomas A. Swift’s Electric Rifle.

Larson, who has three daughters, thought the story was missing something.

“Something jumps out from the list of people who were inspired,” Larson said. “They’re all men.”

Larson wanted to create a story with a strong female main character that would not only motivate his daughters but future inventors and scientists as well.

Over the past three years, Larson has been diligently splitting his time between his job and writing “IGIST” with some help from his young daughters Kendall and Kaylee, who offered insight to his finished chapters and even named some of the characters.

“IGIST” takes place in the future, when humans have spread throughout the solar system. It follows the story of young Emi, an earthling who dreams of escaping a plague by attending the Intergalactic Institute of Science and Technology, a school that follows a simple ethos — the right idea can overcome any adversity.

“[Emi’s] a young woman who faces a great deal of adversity, and yet she pushes herself to do what others tell her is impossible,” said Alex Mersereau, general manager of IGIST’s developing team. “She isn’t just persevering to satisfy her own ego or ambition, she keeps sacrificing and pushing herself in order to help people that everyone else has ignored.”

Larson used to see a quote by Socrates every day at the entrance of his graduate school — “I’m not a Greek or an Athenian but a citizen of the world.” Larson said he wanted to instill this principle into his readers.

“IGIST is an app and a story, yes,” Larson said. “But it also is a movement and a mindset. We want to inspire a better future.”

Larson finished the first draft of the book last December, but as a technologist, he could not simply publish a hardcover book, and he said he did not want his work to be limited to an e-reader.

“The existing e-reader is kind of boring, and I didn’t want my book just read on a white page,” Larson said. “Meanwhile, there is all this cool stuff happening on the iPhone.”

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Larson built an “insanely talented team of designers, artists, programmers and animators to bring this vision of ‘IGIST’ to life.” Together, they have reinvented classic storytelling with their new reading app.

The app aims for a deeply immersive reading experience. Entering the app, the story is told in an endless scroll with “stunning sci-fi photorealist illustrations that bring the story and characters to life” and upon finishing chapters, readers can get coins and badges used to aquire Virtual Character cards and AR filters. 

Often, “Sputnik” animations will crawl through the screen — envision a moving plague blacking out the screen during an intense scene and jumping off of it — and make the reader feel like they are a part of the story.

The app will be in beta testing until March, according to Larson, but the paperback version was released in December and includes beautiful illustrations that come to life when using the app’s AR filters over them.

Larson is already working on the second book of the IGIST series and on Jan. 12, he begins his 31-city tour for promoting the book, starting at the UA.

“Our ultimate goal is that 25 years from now there will be scientists, engineers, inventors, doctors and explorers that choose to push humanity forward because they were inspired by Emi’s story,” Mersereau said.


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