Say hello to Bobo, your kid’s new best friend! Well, maybe not quite, but he is the star of a new iPad app out now from developers GameCollage, which they’ll definitely love. Bobo is a cute little robot who is both your guide and fellow adventurer as you explore various aspects of one of science’s fundamental concepts – light.
The first thing that struck me about Bobo Explores Light was the design of the app. The illustrations are super cute and colorful and the animations are very nicely done, with excellent motion physics and inertia. When you first fire it up you are taken through a brief tutorial before launching into the fun with a space flight all the way through our solar system to our most important source of light – the Sun. Along the way there’s a small factoid about each planet, as well some info on the sun itself.
The app divides itself into 21 major light-related topics, including lasers, photosynthesis, bioluminescence, auroras, the human eye and reflection and so on. Each section has a interactive element at its core. In the first one, all about lightning, you can touch the clouds to fire out a bright bolt and make the dark clouds swing on their little strings. My chief tester loved this and spent ages firing off bolts. That is, until one of them struck poor Bobo, at which point she started to explore the pull down panels at the top of the screen that contain all the interesting facts about the topic in question. These can be in the form of videos, animations, narrated slideshows or just plain old text and words – all put together by a team of educators with tons of teaching experience.
The interactive parts get especially fun as you go through the app, and the hands-on experimentation really helps to build a deeper understanding of the concepts. The sections for reflection and refraction allow you to play around with mirrors and lasers, bouncing the beam all over the place and you can even get Bobo grooving to a disco tune complete with a mirror ball to really get those lasers going. There are nice little touches everywhere in the animation and audio, as shown when you switch off the music – Bobo lets out a sad ‘ooh’ and looks genuinely dejected for a while. On the reflection screen if you leave him alone for a few moments he cheekily rearranges the mirrors, chuckling away to himself.
Like any self-respecting robot, Bobo has an antenna atop his domed head, which lights up at various points. When it does, a quick tap fires up his “3D hologram projector,” which essentially adds another layer to the screen, sometimes showing an x-ray of the object in question, sometimes an animation explaining how it works. The one on the screen about the lightbulb displays some of Thomas Edison’s other inventions in one of those ‘info spheres’ that were popular on the web for about 10 minutes, many years ago. The 3D bit is the least satisfying part of the app – it works using the accelerometers to just alter the display a bit similar to the way the i3D app does, but not as well as it doesn’t make use of the camera for head tracking. It’s glasses free so at least you can comfortably ignore it and not miss out on anything.
The Twilight screen has sliders to turn the scene from sunset to night and through to sunrise, with different sounds on tap and a slowly changing background soundtrack, and also answers that eternal question, “Why is the sky blue?” The aurora page translates your touches into glowing, swirling patterns in the sky, and the finalé is a grand fireworks spectacular where each tap on the screen results in a loud bang and burst of color. I think we probably spent a little too long on the fun interactions as opposed to the learning stuff, but the app is aimed at 8 years and up, so I think my little tester was maybe a bit too young for it.
The attention to detail is carried through into the menus as well. After your first play, the app starts up into an intro screen (shown at the top of this post), with Bobo dragging in a crazy cart of options, all lovingly rendered and animated – there are at least 3 different versions of this animation too. The ‘Start Reading’ option takes you right back to where you left off, but the ‘Table of Contents’ (also accessible from any of the sections) takes you through to a little mini-app all of its own. It has a magnifying glass frame showing the current section and swiping up and down switches to the adjacent section with a satisfying bounce as they snap in to place. In the background you can see some cogs and gears turning as the you move up and down and we discovered by accident that you can also change section by turning the big cog – just like an old school iPod scroll wheel, complete with the clicking sound.
We loved playing with Boba and hope that he gets to explore some other scientific concepts soon. Bobo Explores Light is available now in the App Store for $6.99/£4.99 – which is a little on the pricey side, but well worth it. Check out the video below to see Bobo in action and find out more on the Gamecollage site.
Disclaimer: GeekDad received a review code for this app
Hat-tip to @HolaRobert for the heads up