Bottom line: A terrific app for older kids interested in engineering and robotics. Plenty of information to keep your little nerdling occupied for days on end and liable to interest parents as well.
If you would like to learn more about artificial intelligence and other cool things download Robots for iPad ($1.99, iPad only) using this automated link which supports Smart Apps for Kids:
I don't know anything about robots. To me, they're still the stuff of science fiction – C3PO, R2D2, Hal from 2001: A Space Odyssey. I don't even own a Roomba vacuum cleaner. But thanks to Robots for iPad from IEEE Spectrum, I've now had a crash course in them, and it was pretty interesting stuff, even for an aging English major like me.
Robots is a veritable encyclopedia of all things robot, featuring 126 real-life robots and every piece of information about them you could ever hope to know. Designed for users 12 and older, this app has the potential to spark a lifelong interest in engineering, or inspire a kid toward further study in robotics. If you have a child who's interested in this sort of thing – or a kid you'd like to see interested in this sort of thing – it's a must-have.
The app opens up with a game, asking the user to rate pairs of robots on things like "which robotic dog would you rather take for a walk?" or "which robot would you rather hug?" The user gets to see how his preferences compare to those of other users, and he can click out of the game at any point using the tabs at the bottom of the screen. Options there include two tabs that lead to info about the robots themselves, as well as a "learn" tab, which leads to general information on what a robot is, what types there are, and a really interesting (and sometimes funny) timeline of robotics. There's also a section on how to get started in robotics, which could prove inspirational for your little engineer in training. My favorite tab is the one for news, which takes the user to a daily edition of "Robot News," updated every weekday with the latest in . . . well . . . robot news. In that regard, the app is new every day and never the same experience twice.
The "robots" tab takes the user to photos of the 126 robots, each of which in turn leads to detailed information, photos, videos and a multitude of other interactive stuff about each robot. (The "ratings" tab essentially leads to the same info arranged in a different order.) Most of the photos are 3D enabled which means they can be spun and viewed from all angles. I can't imagine how long it would take a kid to work his way through ALL of this information. I've been playing with the app for days and don't feel like I've made a dent. The amount of information available is truly astounding, and that's before even taking into account the ever-changing daily Robot News.
There's also an "about" tab, which offers some information on the IEEE (the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) and IEEE Spectrum, the group's flagship publication and website. The page includes a link to the group's blog, which is where most of the Robot News articles originate. Those interested in app development should keep in mind that EE majors are frequently the guys behind the scenes porting the best video games to iOS.
In general, the app's writers and developers do a great job of keeping things light, entertaining and written at a level that people like me can understand. But things do get a little overly technical on the specs page for each robot. If the app is going to lose a 12-year-old kid, this would be the place where that would happen.
The only other flaw I would point out is the color scheme. Everything is gray and very technical-looking, which, of course, I understand comes with the subject matter. But a little splash of color here and there wouldn't hurt if they're trying to draw in users on the younger end of the spectrum – especially girls. Users should note that a Wi-Fi connection is required to access the many videos and receive news updates.
The app is well-organized, easy to use and highly interactive, and so full of information it will entertain users for weeks. If Ellie were old enough to review it, I'm sure she'd give it two thumbs up, and I give it four and a half stars. It's nice to see an app aimed at big kids that's both informative and fun. Even non-techies can appreciate rating robots on their creepiness factor and watching a robot that dances as badly as John Travolta did in Pulp Fiction.
Emilie Davis has a degree in English literature. There are no robots featured in the writings of Shakespeare. smartappsforkids.com was paid a priority-review fee to complete this review in an expedited manner. No robots were harmed in the writing of this review.