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Review: ‘Bot Garage’ for iOS

Bot Garage was released within days of Lots of Bots!: A Pop-up Counting Book. I’m not sure if that’s a firsta (nearly) simultaneous release of a book and it’s companion app, but it may be. The book features an assortment of whimsical bots designed to assist children clean their messy rooms, wash for bedtime, and to help them feel better when they’ve had a bad day. It’s also a counting book.

Both app and book are the work of David A. Carter and Noelle Carter. Readers familiar with the art of David A. Carter have come to expect some dazzling paper engineering. While Lots of Bots! (Robin Corey Books, 2011) may not equal the artistry of some of his more abstract works, young children will delight in its kooky pop-up characters with googly eyes and mechanical hands and hearts. As expected, the last page of the book is an extravaganza: “10 amazing Acro bots perform high and low”juggling balls as they leap off the page.

The book and app share a few bot parts and background scenes and while there are a few flaps to lift in the book, the app is all interactivity.

Title: Bot Garage
Author: David A. Carter and Noelle Carter
Illustrator: David A. Carter and Noelle Carter
Developed by: Random House /Smashing Ideas, Inc.
Platform: iOS, 4.0 or later
Version: 1.0
Price: $.99

PreS-Gr 1—Young designers can create 100,000 different robots with this app inspired by David A.Carter and Noelle Carter’s Lots of Bots: A Counting Pop-Up (Robin Corey Books, 2011). Though, to be clear, this is not a book, but rather, a somewhat disappointing game in which children can create their own robots, or bots.

A child’s voice instructs users to begin by choosing one of 10 possible bodies, then prompts them to select a head, arms, legs, and spare parts. Each component offers 10 permutations accounting for the vast possibilities. Bot builders can scroll through the choices by tapping the arrows located at the bottom of the screen or simply swiping the screen. Users tap their choices to add a part to their work in progress, which appears against a blue graph-paper screen. Heads pop or twirl, horns honk, arms and legs rotate or swivel, and eyes blink…and when the robot is complete, builders choose a name and a background setting, then touch “save” to store their creation.

Once a bot is named, viewers must hit return on the keyboard to proceed; there is no verbal prompt or arrow, which may frustrate or confound youngsters. The finished bot jumps around and dances to one of many discordant, repetitive sounds. Children have the option to “share,” (via email) “edit,” or “destroy” each product. (“Not quite ready? Now don’t hurry. You picked those legs in quite a hurry.”)

While an adult might be needed to help with the spelling of a name or with the initial instructions, children will quickly understand how the app works. As the instructions never vary, they soon become unnecessary, even tiresome—but can be bypassed with a quick touch to “next.”

In the end, children are mechanically repeating the steps to add robots to their library, where “Here’s a place for a parade of all the bots that you have made….” The “parade,” is just an opportunity to make the individual creations jump and dance, one at a time. While there are few surprises in store, children will enjoy making and sharing a nearly unlimited number of possible bot creations…until they get bored.—Barbara Auerbach, P.S. 217, Brooklyn, New York