Children who grew up before the turn of the millennium are familiar with the pleasures of playing with modelling clay. By fuelling imagination and creativity, it helped keep them glued to a spot for hours. But kids today have it better. Besides creating their own physical clay creatures, they can put it to life on their iPads. They can watch it dance to music, run amok in a forest, jump and squeal and fly. It can make friends with other clay creatures and discover new worlds.
Popular crafting clay brand, Play-Doh, from Hasbro Inc., has taken the excitement of clay modelling to the digital space. It has announced the launch of an app called Touch, for iPads and iPhones, aimed at children over three years (with no upper cap on age).
With this app, you can animate your clay creations.
To complete the set, Play-Doh has also released a Shape to Life Studio Set, but you can make do with regular Play-Doh clay tubs. The Studio set has shape cutters, stampers in the shape of characters, and seven coloured clay tubs.
The app starts off with a blank slate. Let's say you have created a clay character—a purple-coloured three-legged monster with one eye. It doesn't even have to be perfect, because the app converts whatever you create into something fun and entertaining.
Place the creation on a white background surface with adequate top lighting, or on the platform provided by the Studio set, and click a picture of it on the app. It takes a few seconds to process, as the app adjusts the image for light.
Once it is uploaded to Touch, the real fun begins. The app identifies features of your creation, such as legs, eyes and faces. It brings the character to life and gives it a voice, animated eyes and a funny gait.
You can take your creation through the various levels, unlocking “worlds”. You can change backgrounds and objects such as trees and waterfalls. You can make and add up to five characters in each level, and access more characters and background options in every world.
The intelligent app not only accurately scans and animates blobs of clay, but also identifies colours to attribute features to it. For instance, you can make musical notes in different colours, which can change the background music accordingly.
There's a lot that can be done, which you can learn through tutorials, to understand the various features and explore the possibilities. However, perhaps because it is aimed at kids, the “game” has no objective. It is limited in the sense that all you can do is explore different worlds. Maybe, with more upgrades, the creators would add more features and result-oriented games.
Currently, the Play-Doh TOUCH Shape to Life Studio is available exclusively at Apple stores and on itunes here.
The app and the Studio set will be released on other platforms and at other retailers some time next year.
Even without an objective, this app marks the beginning of an exciting future that fuses physical play with virtual interaction. Children will have better things to do with your iPads and iPhones now. And so will you.