There’s simply nothing cooler than a robot. Period. Remember the one in “Lost in Space”? And Rosie from The Jetsons? How about Wall-E, the Iron Giant or R2-D2?
Of course, many of us have been waiting for technology to advance to the point that we can all have robots washing our dishes, cleaning our houses and generally taking on every task we loathe. The only thing we have to be careful about is them taking over the world, but that’s another story.
As we approach the end of 2015, we find many “Best and Worst” lists hitting the Internet. Everything from the best and worst films to albums, inventions and apps.
The Apple App Store has announced its winners for 2015, and not surprisingly, there is an app from Tinybop Inc. that has won the coveted App of the Year award. I say “unsurprisingly” as Tinybop has forged a great reputation for itself in the field of educational apps.
The Robot Factory is another winner, with great graphics, many options and a world of mechanics from which to choose. Although it says it is designed for 6-8 year-old children, it will honestly appeal to all ages.
I’m slightly older than its target audience, but I certainly enjoyed it. My first impression of The Robot Factory is that it is indeed worth the accolades it has received.
Now you can try it for yourself.
How it works
Much like other Tinybop apps, The Robot Factory lets the player figure out how it works as they go along. You start off by choosing a robot character and put your name to it, and then you’re straight into the fun.
Your factory, or workshop, is set up with a torso to begin with. If you don’t like the first one, swipe to see what other options there are.
Once you’ve selected one you like, it’s time to build it, using the myriad appendages, tools and other items at your disposal. Look to the bottom left of your screen. You’ll see icons on tabs that represent your toolbox, as it were.
You have “Torsos,” “Appendages,” “Heads,” “Gadgets, Gizmos & Tools,” “Extra-Sensors” and “Chroma,” among other options. How do I know this? Because I found the Technical Manual.
I hit the “Home” icon in the top left hand corner and then tapped on “Vicki.” It took me to a grid with the robots I had created so far, and what appeared to be a robot clutching a book. Could it be?
Well, it was indeed the manual, which was a pretty useful thing to discover. It takes you through all the doohickeys available, and lets you in on a little secret: if you put too much nonsense on your robot, the app will indicate that it’s too heavy to move.
You can spend as much time as you like dragging-and-dropping stuff onto your ‘bot, and when you’re ready to take it into a real world situation, just drag it towards the pipe that seems to promise woodland surroundings, otherwise known as the “Test Environment.”
As you try to move your creation through the scenery, testing its ability to move and fly, keep an eye on the heart monitor in the bottom right hand corner of your screen. As it slowly wanes, you need to look for a green orb to restore your strength. There are anti-gravity geysers, trees, landslides, oil slicks and host of other familiar and unfamiliar topographical features you’ll encounter – some good and some bad. You’ll get a pretty good idea of how they’re affecting your robot based on how quickly its monitor gets low.
If, after taking your robot around the landscape for a bit, you decide you’d like to modify it somehow, tap the pause icon in the top right hand corner and drag it to the pipe to take it back to the factory. You can then remove some appendages and replace them with others, fine tuning your robot for its next foray into the forest.
No doubt one of the most popular features of this app is its ability to record your voice and then play it back in robot-speak. When you’re in the factory, tap the tab that looks like a speech balloon. Three recording options will pop up. One looks happy, the other looks sad, and the third looks surprised or … something. When you tap on the microphone symbol, you can record your voice saying whatever you like. Tap on it again to finish recording, then play it back. Holy cow! Your robot is talking to you!
Not happy with what you recorded? Just send it to the trash and start from scratch.
Kids will love this, I promise.
When I tried it
Being a bit of a geek, I’ve always liked robots, so I was pretty keen to get stuck in. I had forgotten that Tinybop doesn’t give much assistance (I’ve used previous apps by this seller), but it didn’t take long for me to get the hang of what was going on.
My first attempt had the default torso with a transparent dome housing a visible brain for a head, and then I put large, spider-like legs on it, followed by two mechanical arms.
When I dumped the poor thing into the Test Environment, it seemed to be struggling to walk, but I cajoled and pushed it, and finally it got on a bit of a roll.
I didn’t take it far before I sent it back to the factory, prepared to modify it.
In the end, I got distracted by other torsos and possibilities, so I put my first robot on the back burner and tried another one. This time it had a square-ish torso with a springy-necked head and large wings.
I managed to get much further across the landscape with this one. I took it up high into the sky, bringing it down to take a closer look at the geysers while trying to avoid the landslide rocks. Even though the heart monitor began to get pretty low at times, I always seemed to find an orb in the nick of time to refuel the robot’s strength, so on we went.
This is a fantastic educational app for children, but don’t be surprised if you get sucked in yourself. The Robot Factory is very well designed with great colors and mechanics, and thanks to its wide range of options, it’ll be a long time before you’ve exhausted its resources.
I certainly recommend that you give it a go, and if you like it, download the other apps from Tinybop. It’s a somewhat clichéd phrase to say that something makes learning fun, but in this case, it’s absolutely true.
Great design. Kids and adults will love it. Robots.
- More instruction would be nice for the lazy.
- The Robot Factory Cost: $3.99
- Seller: Tinybop, Inc.
- Devices: iPad, iPod Touch, iPhone
- Rating: E for Everyone