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Entries in interactive (14)

Starry Night Review - Plus 5 Copies to Give Away

Starry Night (interactive animation) for iPad from Petros Vrellis on Vimeo.

With hypnotic relaxing visuals and audio, Starry Night (interactive animation) for iPad is our new favourite thing to play with on a rainy Sunday afternoon.

What's it like?

In this truly immersive experience, beautiful melodies tickle your ears (especially if you wear headphones) whilst the lush colours used in Van Gogh's original 'The Starry Night' painting are pushed together and mixed into a river of moving particles guided by your touches on the iPad's screen.

It is easy to imagine there is real paint under the glass as you push these fluid colours around the screen, the motion cleverly creating what seems like resistance as real oil paint might. Using clever algorithmic calculations, the app can either continuously flow the paint at different speeds or in another mode the paint slowly returns to its resting state before starting off in motion again.

It is hard to describe what a wonderfully immersive experience it is getting hands-on with an art piece like this, you just have to have a go.

Reactive music

The music reacts to the motion you introduce too, so if you go crazy and madly swirl the paint around with all 5 digits on one hand, for example, the music gets louder and more intense, then fades and simplifies as the motion slows. We found that it could be a little intense at full speed, but around half speed or even slower it is a much more gentle experience.

If you prefer, you can turn the music off altogether, but there are three different patterns to choose from and we think it adds a great deal to the hypnotic effect of the app.

Take time out to explore

Suffice to say we love playing with this app and exploring Van Gogh's painting in this fully interactive way. It can even serve as a musical picture frame on your desk when your iPad isn't being used.

If you allow yourself time out of a busy and hectic day to just lose yourself in the experience that Starry Night offers you, we are sure you will love it too.

We've been waiting for this app to be updated before reviewing it here, as the first version wasn't quite Retina iPad ready, but now with Version 2.0 we wholly recommend downloading a copy

But wait, before you do, read on for your chance to win a free copy of Starry Night for your iPad.

Giveaway time

To be in with a chance of winning 1 of 5 copies of Starry Night (interactive animation) simply leave a comment below naming your favourite Van Gogh painting.

Please remember to leave your name and e-mail address (your e-mail will not be visible to the public) so we can contact you if you are a winner.

We will randomly select 5 commenters to receive a copy of Starry Night (interactive animation) after this giveaway closes at 1900 GMT on Friday 27th April 2012.

Thank you to the App Developer, Petros Vrellis, for providing a review copy and the 5 promo codes for our giveaway. 

App Store Link: Starry Night (interactive animation) $1.99 / £1.49

The piTrio Perform for Free and You Can Join Them

If you are anywhere near Plymouth in the UK next weekend you might want to check out the Peninsula Arts Contemporary Music Festival, specifically the piTrio (Plymouth iPad Trio).

Put together by Alexis Kirke, a Composer, Poet, Critic and Writer (amongst many other things), the piTrio will be performing a three part audio/visual piece inline with the Festival's theme of Explore, Dream and Discover.

You are invited not only to join the audience but also to bring your own iOS device along and become part of the performance:

...come to the Roland Levinsky Foyer at Plymouth University at 2:15pm on Saturday 11th Feb. All welcome! Bring your iPad or iPhone and technical help will be available so you can put music software on your iPhone / iPad and join in with Alexis Kirke, Oliver Quinland and Jules Burt (the Plymouth iPad Trio - www.pitrio.com). We'll be done by 3:30pm. No musical skills required and all ages can join in. For more info contact support@pitrio.com Part of the Peninsula Arts Contemporary Music Festival 2012.

Check out the video below from Alexis about some of the apps being used in the performance and the thoughts behind it:

Cinderella 3D iPad Book - Kids Will Love This

When we saw the above trailer for Cinderella for iPad by Developers Nosy Crow we knew we would have to try it out for ourselves (or rather, we had a certain little Princess who would love to try it out).

We were given the chance to see a pre-release copy of the app and we handed the iPad over to our more discerning 6 and 3 year old testers to see what they thought.

Beautiful Animation and Voices

The book is beautifully illustrated and presented, the animation is colourful and appealing with a classic pop-up book look that comes in large part from the stunning 3D illustrations.

You really just want to sit and take in the artwork, whilst the kids will find themselves drawn to the character animations with their retro, yet modern, feel.  The characters are really well voiced too, with the child voice actors fitting very nicely with the warm and friendly feel of the book.

Packed full of Interactivity

Unfortunately for my little boy, he didn't really get a look-in on this book as his older (and really rather bossy) Sister claimed the Cinderella app for herself and she is in love with it. It has become her main bedtime story.

In fact, when I removed it temporarily from my iPad to make room for a very large music app I was testing, she got quite upset. Fortunately, the Cinderella app is Universal, so you can put it on your iPhone/iPod Touch too.

Much of my Daughter's adoration of the Cinderella app comes from the plentiful interactive elements within the book. These aid the telling of the story so that your little ones will feel much more immersed in the story and its progress. The sheer range of interactive elements also makes the app ideal for repeated viewings.

Favourites here were the garden scene (lots to discover and do) and the dance scene at the Ball (with the choice of dance music).

A Special Feature

For those using an iPad 2 there is a very special interactive feature that the kids will love. Using the camera they can actually appear in the story themselves (see the mirror in the screenshot below) with the story's characters even saying "Who's that in the mirror?", a very nice touch that literally makes your kids a part of the story. 

Final Thoughts

We were really impressed by Cinderella for iPad, but more importantly the target audience in our household loved the app and keep coming back to it. That makes it a hit for us.

At $7.99 (£5.99) in the App Store, Cinderella for iPad is about the same price as a well illustrated children's print book. It is definitely one of the most enjoyable, beautiful and engaging iPad picture books we have seen.

If you have kids who use your iPad and like the story of Cinderella (who doesn't), we think it will enchant any little Princess (or Prince for that matter), keeping them entertained for many hours.

As always, if you get this app, let us know what you and your little ones think in the comments below.

Discover Music History with 'On the way to Woodstock' iPad App

On the way to Woodstock is the new reference/coffee-table iPad book from 955 Dreams, the developers of the History of Jazz, which became one of our favourites earlier this year.

Ws 01 Landscape
Much of what we said about the History of Jazz in our review applies to the Woodstock app, it utilises a similar UI, integrating with YouTube and iTunes in the same way.

If you take the time to read through these extra pages it adds a whole new level of understanding of the topic and this is where the reference value and depth of this app make it a unique experience.

For those too young to remember this era and/or with a passion for music and its history, it is a fascinating read!

Being such an interactive experience, it is difficult to explain exactly how the app works in words, so we made this video for you. We hope you enjoy it and if you have had a chance to try 'On the way to Woodstock' be sure to let us know what you think of the app.

Quick Look: The Monster At The End Of This Book

A quick look at the iPad interactive version of the classic Sesame Street book 'The Monster At The End Of This Book', developed by Callaway Digital Arts and which has recently been updated.

Grover

We have not mentioned this app before now because, frankly, it was a bit disappointing and crashed repeatedly on the same page every time we read it through with the iPad Creative kids.

This caused no end of annoyance and frustration for little kids and big kids alike.

That changed though with the recent upgrade to version 1.2 a few weeks ago and now we feel we can recommend the app for your little ones, with a few caveats.

Fun and Interactive

The app has some great voice acting by Grover and really makes our kids giggle as his sense of panic heightens the closer you get to the end of the book. The interactive elements are fun too, encouraging you to move the story along by breaking down the various obstacles that Grover puts in the way to try and stop you turning the page, something which the kids really liked.

The text is highlighted as it is read by Grover and the synchronisation of this with the voice narration has greatly improved in the new version. The illustrations are as per the original book and are animated in keeping with the feel of the paper version.

A Bit Slow

Although there have been some major improvements in speed and crash prevention in this version, the animations still take a relatively long time to load whilst you stare at a blank page. It is only a matter of maybe 6 seconds or so at worst, but it feels a lot longer when you are waiting and is still long enough to annoy, especially impatient youngsters.

Some of the interactions can be a bit slow to respond too with our little testers touching the screen repeatedly when it didn't respond quickly enough meaning that by the time the app caught up, the wall (in this case) had already collapsed.

We have to say, this didn't happen every time (we have taken the Developers' advice and restarted our iPad after install) but occasionally these issues did still pop up.

Overall

All things considered though, we liked the app and, more importantly, our little ones like it and keep going back to it, a sure sign that something has been done well enough to appeal to its target audience.

The Monster At The End Of This Book is available for $3.99 (£2.39) on the app store.

If you have tried this app on your iPad and would like to add your thoughts please leave us a comment below.

The History of Jazz Sets The Bar

The History of Jazz app is a sumptuous, beautiful and thoroughly engrossing experience that has fired up our innate interest in this rich and sometimes enigmatic musical art form. We tell you why we liked it and what makes it one of the best iPad interactive books we have seen so far.

The History of Jazz developed by 955 Dreams (a three person team made up of two coders and a UI designer) really ups the ante on the iPad 'coffee book' front, but it is so much more than that.

History of Jazz does feel like a quality, heavyweight coffee book in that it has gorgeous visuals and an extraordinary amount of depth to it's content. When you are turning the pages of a book though it is easy to lose the thread and this app has a clever navigation aid to help you here.

UI Design

Along the bottom of the screen is a piano-keys inspired 'dancing' timeline which enables you to jump around between different Genres and time periods within Jazz's History.

Particular care has been taken with this UI to create a lively and colourful interface that just begs you to interact with it impelling you to explore, and this we did. We found it easy to lose several hours digging deeper in to the multi-layered interface, watching videos we had never seen before about people we had only vague knowledge of and we loved it. 

There are some great videos in this app, some real rarities, but this brings us on to an interesting point. All of the videos and most of the text used in this app are sourced from YouTube and Wikipedia respectively. So you could ask "Why am I being charged $9.99 for information I could find myself?".

Well, yes you could probably find a lot of this content yourself but really, would you want to? And how long is that going to take you? We would much rather view this content in a wonderfully curated interactive 'book', with the context of Genre and History integrated carefully and set out for us all in one place.

Unlike a printed book though, revisions and updates will not cost you the total purchase price again, the Developers are keen to add new content in the future. This is one of the key advantages of digital content publishing.

iTunes Integration

Each musician's profile has a link to more videos, 'Essential Songs' and 'Essential Albums'. Clicking one of these two links pops up a window inside the app with iTunes audio previews for each of the available tracks. From here you can click on the Purchase link and you are taken into the iTunes store, which is useful.


One Thing Missing

But what we really wanted from this app (and it is something that we are teased about in the app instructions) is the one thing that is missing. We would dearly love to be able to play artist tracks in the background whilst exploring and browsing the app.

There are obvious Copyright issues with this request and it is possibly why this feature is missing, but it would be just perfect to have this functionality and it would enhance the experience so much more.

We would also love to have this background music feature available whilst playing the Slideshow that is built in to the app, which is a very nice feature for when your iPad is idle. We hope the Developers can sort something out so that this feature can be added.

The Price of Development

The History of Jazz is admittedly one of the more pricey iPad apps but how much would that still image, not-at-all-interactive and importantly (given the subject) silent paper book cost you? Probably upwards of three times as much for a hardcover full colour edition.

This app really plays to the iPad's interactive strengths by using audio, video and the touch interface to involve you and aid your exploration so that there is more to discover each time you visit the app.

The level of research coupled with the development of the look and feel of the app is also a major factor in the added value that the book brings. Robert Scoble did an interview with the development team and there are some interesting insights in his half hour-ish video, if you would like to know more about the creative and technical processes behind this app you should definitely watch it.

Although it may be near the top tier for this kind of niche, interactive book app, we think it is a fair price, especially when compared to the cost of a printed book of this stature. 

Final Thoughts

As we said at the outset, this app has really captured our interest and we find ourselves dipping back into the History of Jazz while we are sat with iPad in hand, looking to relax and chill out of an evening. It is the best feeling, interactive book app we have yet seen on our iPads and for its educational value and immersive experience we can highly recommend it, even if you have just a passing interest in the Jazz medium.

History of Jazz is available now, currently at version 1.0.4, for $9.99 (£5.99) in the app store. A demo of most of the screens and features can be seen in the video below.

As always, if you have any comments about the History of Jazz, let us know in the comments.

 

2 Gorgeous iPad Books reviewed

Teddy's Day and new Teddy's Night are two of the most visually appealing, beautifully illustrated, interactive Children's books we have seen so far on the iPad, and my kids love them!

Geek Factor

The developers of these two interactive books, Auryn Inc., have created software that uses special techniques to animate 2D and 3D art so that pages from the book literally come to life. An element on a page, say a book or a drawn character, are suddenly animated when you touch them with no obvious jump cuts, blurring or stuttering in the animation.

These techniques have been used to create full animated DVDs and other stories by Auryn, it is fascinating stuff and you can see more detail and samples (when using a Computer) of the DVDs by following the links on their Products page.

Interactive Fun

All of this builds into a seamless, involving experience that fascinates young ones (and the not so young) and encourages them to experiment by touching different parts of the illustration on the page in front of them to see which elements will respond.

Sometimes, my youngest who is three years old, found this frustrating because he was wildly tapping parts of the screen and nothing was happening, so a little guidance was needed to point him towards the interactive elements of the page.

When the reader turns the lights off and on the colours and light transitions are fabulous and it really looks like that is what you are doing, it is an effect the developers are obviously fond of as it is used quite a bit.

Other pages have a TV remote which actually switches the channel to another programme, the bathroom scene in Teddy's Night is packed with interactive elements such as a matching game on the bath tiles, bubbles that bounce around the screen and are popped when you touch them and a few other surprises (hint: try seeing what the boat does, and the Moon on the Title page of Teddy's Night).

There are creative opportunities too, both books have a drawing page with coloured crayons, variable crayon widths, eraser, etc. which add the saved picture to the wall in the little girl's room. We thought this was a nice touch and added a personal element to the book. 

  

Teddy's Night includes a building blocks game which has some slightly odd physics but kept the kids interested for a while trying to rebuild the tower.

Auryn do help out by circling the main interactive elements after the narration has finished on the page, but there are some things which are not indicated, which we think is a good thing because play and discovery of 'hidden' interactivity keeps curious children interested.

Just one problem

There were a couple of times when we came out of the app unexpectedly (the Home button seems very attractive to little hands) but neither app remembers where you were so, frustratingly, we had to wait for the book to load and then go through all the pages until we got to the point where we left off. It isn't the end of the world, but when you have two impatient children under 6 who keep stabbing at the screen it can be a real annoyance.

Recommended Reading

This doesn't stop us recommending these books wholeheartedly for some gentle fun, eye-pleasing visuals and repeated distraction for children and their 'grown-ups', be sure to check out the video previews and let us know what you think if you do buy either of them.

Teddy's Day is currently in the app store for $1.99 (£1.19) and Teddy's Night, a more recent release, is currently on offer for $0.99 (59p) but both books will be rising soon to $7.99, so we suggest grabbing them now.

How to Make an Interactive iPad Book

We mentioned yesterday how much we liked to see the Creative process in action, which is why we have been fascinated to watch the journey behind the production of new Interactive iPad book Astrojammies from Demibooks.

As well as creating a gorgeous and truly interactive storybook, Demibooks and author/illustrator Stacey Williams-Ng have shared the creative development process of making the app with us via a blog and videos as they went along.

About the App

Astrojammies for iPad tells the story of young boy, Jimmy, who believes that his pyjamas are magical and make him an astronaut who can fly off into outer space (actually a very normal fantasy for many of us as we grew up). The illustrations are sumptuously coloured and make the book very attractive and pleasing to the eye.

Here is a bit about the app from the iTunes description:

"..this story includes a dreamlike original music score by Steve Dixon, professional narration and amazing special effects. Readers can launch a rocket, squish and poke a planet made entirely of goo, and help Jimmy escape the jaws of a hungry space baboon... all with the tap of a finger! These interactive features help advance the story and enhance reading comprehension."

There is a 'read to me' mode as usual but you can turn this off so that you can read it yourself, or your kids can, if you let them have a go. The interactive elements have been designed to be engaging, but importantly great effort has gone in to making these elements a progressive part of the story, and this leads us on to...

The Process

What Demibooks and Stacey Williams-Ng have done to make this project stand out for us is to share their progress towards launch of the app in a series of blog posts and videos discussing some of the thinking behind decisions being made, how they tested the app with their target group (children), what this taught them, how they responded to it and its impact on the development of the app.

The posts also cover how the illustrations were developed and animated with some interesting learning points for the team.

The whole process is summarised in the video below, but if you want a really interesting read and further insight into the creative process behind Astrojammies then we would highly recommend reading through the 9 posts on Demibooks' website, we have really enjoyed it.

If you or your kids have tried out the Astrojammies app we would love to know what you think, let us know in the comments below.

Peter Rabbit Pop-up Digital Book

The problem with paper pop-up books in our experience is that they can easily be damaged by over-eager little hands and, whilst that may also be true of the iPad, we think that the future is in digital books, if not in small part for their durability. The latest iPad interactive digital book to catch our eye is PopOut! The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Loudcrow Interactive.

This is a 50 page digital book that uses the original books' beautiful illustrations and has some really nice features that we feel will definitely appeal to children (and the young at heart). These include pull-tabs, spin wheels and 'spring-mounted elements' plus a classical piano score which is complemented by realistic ambient sounds.

This is apparently the first in a series of the 'PopOut!' digital books from Loudcrow Interactive so we can expect more of the same quality apps in the future.

The best way to understand the interactive features of this app are to watch the video.

PopOut! The Tale of Peter Rabbit is available on the US app store for $4.99 (not available in the UK store at the time of posting).

Main Features:

  • Touch and drag objects to make them “spring” to life or tilt to watch them slide and move
  • Objects that literally PopOut!™ of the page to delight you and your family
  • Beautiful vocal performance, music, and sound effects will immerse you in the story
  • "Read to Me" with word highlighting to help improve reading skills
  • Or read it yourself and hear individual words spoken with the tap of a finger
  • Over 50 pages of authentic text and illustrations with realistic page turning interactions just like the original hardcover book

T3 now on your iPad

One of the best things for gadget obsessed geeks like us when we are going on holiday and waiting for a flight, train, etc. is spending a good deal of time browsing the newsagent's shelves for gadget mags.

Our all time favourite here in the UK is T3. It is a veritable treasure trove of futuristic, unobtainable, expensive and sometimes downright stupid gadgets written about in a humorous and often irreverent manner that makes us happily part with the dosh for the dead-tree version.

Now, we can combine our love of all things shiny and technological with our greatest gadget, the iPad. See the post on T3's site for more details, you can also see a very brief preview in the video below:

T3 is available now in the app store as a free download with a sample version of the new interactive magazine. Each issue will be released at the same time as the monthly paper version at the same price, £3.99. We think it's a good price for such interactive and engaging content.