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    Rooftops: An Interactive Children’s Book

    A book about balancing real life and technology
    The launch screen of Rooftops interactive book app

    In our digital world there is a big, ongoing discussion about the balance of technology and in person interaction in our lives. This applies to all ages but like a lot of things the debate heats up when it concerns our children. A lot argue that too much screen time is detrimental to children’s growth both educationally and socially. But with the right balance you can use technology to your kid’s advantage. Join us as we enter the wonderful world of Rooftops.

    The Story

    Inside kevin's room, he is focused on his tablet
    Inside Kevin’s Room

    This book starts by showing the main character, Kevin, glued to his iPad. However, he forgets to do his homework and loses the privilege of using it. In the absence of his tablet he starts looking out the window of his room and seeing all the rooftops in the city. He starts seeing interesting things that eventually make him want to go explore outside.

    His parents take him out for a walk and head to the neighborhood park. There Kevin gets to interact with other kids who also see fun things from their windows. At the end Kevin learns that there are fun things to do that don’t include his tablet and is excited about exploring the world around him.

    Rooftops Trailer

    Features

    • Listen to the animated story, with narration, music, and sounds
    • Fun, interactive animations throughout the story
    • READ TO ME & READ BY MYSELF functions
    • Play a simple, create-your-own window game
    • Suitable for ages 4-8
    • Absolutely no in-app purchases, hidden costs, or in-game adverts. Perfect for Kids!
    • Created especially for the iPad
    Kevin at the playground

    The Developer

    Rustbot Studios is a brand new studio founded by two brothers, Juan and Carlos. They are primarily focused on developing applications that tell stories and Rooftops is their first children’s book.

    We at Rustbot Studios believe in the positive impact of technology when used responsibly and in accordance with more traditional, healthy habits. We don’t believe in demonizing mobile tech, which is a ubiquitous, complex, and relatively new interactive experience that cannot be shunned with blanket statements without considering all its nuances and implications for the future of the human experience, especially at an early age.

    Juan Santiago, co-founder of Rustbot Studios
    A sneezing chimney

    What’s Divine Say?

    As a parent who’s glued to my own technology, this is definitely a topic that I’m doing my best to instill good habits in my kids with. Balancing outside, learning time, and screen time can be difficult – especially when your child latches onto a piece of tech.

    My eldest, now four, has had a kid’s Kindle since he was 1 and he played baby apps on my old first gen iPad prior to that. (You know, those baby apps you just smack to interact with? lol) He now has to do sight words and have outside or non-screen play time every day in order to earn his video game or Kindle time. (He just got the new 10″ Kindle for his birthday he’s super hyped about!). Luckily he’s not so attached to it that it’s an issue when we cut down screen time.

    I think that this book is a great way to illustrate to kids the idea of balance and try to excite them about the world outside a screen. Hopefully that the developer makes many more to tackle even more hard to explain concepts early on. The art for this was great and the options for narration and reading along are great. I would definitely read these kinds of books with my kids in the future.

    Get the App

    Grab the app on the App Store and read it with your kiddos today!

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    Apps, Books, Featured
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    Chicken Pox Never Looked So Cute

    Get on your tractor and grab some eggs!

    Get ready to rage at a really simple game y’all! Chicken Pox is an adorable little mobile game available on iOS and Android that just released today. It’s developed by Nosy Jones, an indie studio based in Australia. This is their first title to release and brings together talented contributors from more than 12 countries – including Australia, France, Germany, Ukraine, Czech Republic, South Africa, England, Brazil, Sweden, New Zealand, Argentina, and  the United States.

    Main Screen

    Gameplay

    You play as a chicken named Pox and drive around obstacles to pick up eggs. The races are timed and courses make pictures you can share at the end. There’s also hidden blue eggs that turn into in game currency, rude sheep and cows who won’t get out of the way, and unsafe automatic farm gates that like to slam shut in your face (how rude). You’ll also be able to unlock airport and ocean environments later in the game.

    You play via just one finger! Just point and Pox follows your finger through whatever path you take. You literally can’t get any simpler controls wise. Only thing you need to do is make sure you give obstacles a little more room because it’s very easy to ‘fat finger’ yourself accidentally into some flowers or a cow.

    There are vehicles and character decorations like hats and glasses you can purchase in game to change things up. Yes, that means there’s micro transactions but you can also just get things by finding the blue eggs and claiming achievements to get in game currency. Plus there are daily gifts so you do not have to spend any money ever on this game if you don’t want to.

    And of course you can connect this game to Facebook and share the fun with your friends!

    Key Features

    • Drive and fly awesome vehicles – all with their own unique trails.
    • Reveal cool pictures by collecting the eggs in order!
    • Explore stunning 3D environments such as the Farm, Ocean and Airport!
    • Find all the hidden blue eggs in each level for bonus rewards.
    • Compete against your friends to be the Chicken Pox king!
    • Customize Pox and the eggs by mixing and matching hats, glasses, and masks in hundreds of cool and funny combinations!
    • Unlock fast paced mini-games that test your skill and reflexes.
    • New content added regularly!

    Game Trailer

    Do I like it or hate it?

    So I installed the game before release, late Monday night, so that I could get a good feel for it before writing this. I wanted to be able to tell you about my experience with the game versus just about it releasing. So here we go.

    This game is freakin’ adorable. Super easy to play yet tricky enough that I raged a few times last night on a harder level. When you run out of gas taking too long on a map you’re offered the chance to watch an ad or pay with eggs to get more. Your lives, designated by gas cans, are lost if you fail to complete a map and you have a healthy amount of them to begin with that regenerate on a long timer (like 1 per 5 hours). 

    I’ve played through several levels of the game and am enjoying it. I plan to keep it around and collect all the things. ALL OF THEM! So obviously I recommend you go download and give it a try now.

    Category
    Apps, Featured, Games
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    Quick Reviews: Nintendo Labo

    With Nintendo Labo you’ll hear far fewer “I’m bored” whines this summer

    We picked up Nintendo Labo for some summer fun and it’s amazing! Check out the very first of our “Quick Reviews” section on YouTube where we will bring you reviews that are short and sweet.

     


    At $69.99 the cost of Nintendo Labo made me pause. That’s a lot of money to drop on something. After my daughter made just a couple of these cardboard crafts all of my doubts were gone.

    The fact that Nintendo Labo provides the most thorough step-by-step instructions I’ve ever seen is amazing. At eight years old, Hailey was able to complete these without any assistance at all.

    Nintendo Labo has kept her entertained doing one project each day so far. Then she spends the rest of the day showing everyone in the house what she made, and how it works with the game apps.

    As a parent my absolute favorite part about Nintendo Labo is the discovery aspect of each creation. This isn’t just a pile of cardboard, there are high-tech sensors as well, giving my daughter an awesome educational experience as well. She is as excited about learning how things function as she is about playing the games. Clean up is easy too as any unused parts can just get tossed in the recycle bin.

    We have enjoyed our time so far with Nintendo Labo and I believe you will too. This isn’t a sponsored ad. I picked this up with my own money, but if you use our link to pick up your set it helps us keep doing what we’re doing.

    You can pick up Nintendo Labo on Amazon. Use our affiliate link to support the site or just click the image below to shop for Nintendo Labo and start having fun!

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    Care for Our World

    CareforOurWorldGameTheMommyGamers

    My daughter Amber and I received a copy of Care for Our World, an interactive storybook app for iPad, and we had a blast playing around with it. Care for Our World, written by Karen Roberts, was originally published as a book in 2012. It included punch-out animals for children to play with. Sunbreak Games, have brought that creative play to the app with features like Habitat Playset (Amber’s favorite feature) where children can use interactive stickers to create their own animal habitats, Coloring Book where you can color a scene from the book almost anyway you want to, and Animal Encyclopedia where your child can learn about all of the animals mentioned in the story as well as hear what they sound like, and see pictures of them in the real world.

     


    The actual storybook part of the app is well done for the most part, and is highly interactive. Nearly everything you touch has a reaction, and narration. The colors are vivid, and the illustrations are whimsical. In fact, the only thing that didn’t sit well with me was the narration. In my opinion, when you have a story with words that are rich and full of life, you should strive to have a narrator that matches them with their voice. Unfortunately, in this case the narrator falls a little flat, and while his voice is not unpleasant, he’s not far enough away from monotone for my liking. I also feel that since the app is geared for ages 3-8, not having an option for narration in the, Animal Encyclopedia section of the app was a missed opportunity, as younger children will need someone to read for them.

    Overall, I think Care for Our World is lovely, and has a great deal of replay value for children. It is well worth the $2.99 investment. You can download it now on the iOS App Store by clicking here.

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    Apps, Books
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    Pokémon GO Plus: The Good and The Bad

    Pokémon GO Plus

    As soon as I heard about the Pokémon GO Plus, I grabbed every game I could part with and went to GameStop to preorder. Niantic hadn’t released a whole lot of details on how the peripheral device would work, but I knew it was supposed to make playing easier, so I was on board. Like many who was excited to get their hands on the accessory, I was disappointed when I heard they were pushing back their original release date from late July until September. However, I waited patiently, have been using it for a few days now, and have come to my opinions on the currently in low supply device.

    The Good

    • Wearing it: Pokémon GO Plus comes with two options for a person to wear it. You can either clip it on your person, or wear it on a bracelet. I love the options, but I have chosen to wear it as a bracelet. It’s lightweight and more comfortable than most watches I’ve worn in my time. I also think it looks pretty cool, as it looks like a cross between a Pokéball, and a map marker on Google Maps.

     

    • Ease of use: Once paired with the Pokémon GO app, the Pokémon GO Plus makes playing so much easier. The device will vibrate and flash with a green light when a Pokémon is near. Then, all you have to do is push the button on the device for a chance to catch the Pokémon. If the device flashes with different colors, it means you caught the Pokémon. If it flashes red, it means the Pokémon ran away.

     

    • Pokémon GO Plus will vibrate and flash blue if you pass within range of a Pokéstop. Again, pressing the button on the device will count as “spinning” the Pokéstop in game, rewarding you with items. However, if the device flashes red after trying to “spin” the Pokéstop, then it means you have already traveled too far away from the Pokéstop in order for the spin to count.

     

    • Niantic’s peripheral also makes hatching eggs easier. While the device is connected via Bluetooth to the app, it acts as a pedometer. No longer do you have to worry about whether or not the app is “counting” how far you’re traveling due to it’s not always so reliable GPS. The Pokémon GO Plus counts your steps that are then read in the app as distance traveled. If someone were so inclined, they could lie on their couch, shake the device, and hatch all the eggs their heart desires.

     

    • Using other apps: While Pokémon GO is connected to the Pokémon GO Plus via Bluetooth, you can back out of the app and it will run in the background. This means you can use other apps on your phone and still catch all the Pokémon that come into range.

    The Bad

    • Battery Life: Since the app has to be connected via Bluetooth in order for the Pokémon GO Plus to work, it does cause a little more strain on the battery. It’s very easy to keep the app going all day to maximize on the Pokémon extravaganza, however, be prepared to charge your phone more than once a day if you do this.

     

    • Disconnects after a time: I’m sure they put this in as a way to help save on phone battery life, but it can become annoying to keep going back into the app to reconnect the Pokémon GO Plus.

     

    • Running out of Pokeballs: Since it’s so much easier to catch Pokemon with Pokémon GO Plus, be prepared to run out of balls more quickly. I accidentally went through 100 balls in just a little over a day. However, if you’re someone who lives close to a ton of Pokéstops, then Pokémon GO Plus will make it much easier for you to keep up your supply of Pokéballs without having to throw money at microtransactions.

    The Verdict

    8/10 Would buy again.

    Pokémon GO Plus is a freaking godsend and I can’t sing its praises enough. Get your hands on one as soon as you can. It has made Pokémon GO fun for me again. If you’re someone who stopped playing because it became a grind, or because you just didn’t have time for it, Pokémon GO Plus might just be what you need to get back into the game.

    Pokémon GO Plus is available at most retailers that sell games for $34.99.

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    Pokemon Go Is Getting A New Update

    The New Buddy System Will Be Amazing

    Pokemon Go

    According to Pokemon Go Hub, an upcoming update for Pokémon Go has been data mined, and will include a Buddy System. Reportedly, the system will allow you to choose a Pokémon to walk along side you. The app will show the Pokémon walking alongside your avatar, flying alongside your avatar, or sitting on your avatar’s shoulder, depending on the Pokémon. As the Pokémon travels with you, it will be earning candies. This will be key in helping evolve Pokémon and therefore filling up that pesky Pokédex.

    As listed by Pokémon Go Hub, this is what we know so far:

    • Pokemon Buddy System is using the same server side distance calculation as the one used for Pokemon Eggs
    • Walking your Pokemon Buddy will award you with candy. The amount of candy is yet to be determined.
    • You can walk the same Pokemon Buddy multiple times, but there is likely a daily limit for obtained candy
    • You can walk with only one Buddy Pokemon at a time
    • There are various looks of Buddy Pokemon
      • Medium size
      • Big size
      • Flying next to you
      • Rests on your shoulder

    If this report is true, it’s going to renew some people’s interest in the game. I know I haven’t been playing as much, just because it’s become frustrating to try to catch new Pokémon. It’s also difficult to evolve many Pokémon. Especially considering a Magikarp takes 400 candies to evolve. I’m extremely excited for this update and can’t wait for it to release.

    If you haven’t already, check out Episode 135 of the podcast, where we discuss our feelings on Pokémon Go. Are you excited for this update? Let us know in the comments below, and on Twitter!

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    Apps, Games
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    What Is It with This Pokemon Go Thing Anyway?

    Everything Non-Gamers Need to Know…

    pokeGOlogoYou’ve been hearing about it ad nauseum, and you’re shaking your head at the bands of kids trespassing on your property in search of the Pokemon that’s apparently hiding in your backyard. You put up this meme:

    pokemongo

    Nevertheless, at least half the people walking down the street with their phones are clearly not 10, either. Some of us even have jobs. So what is the deal with Pokemon Go? Why do you hate it so much? Why does it feel so invasive? Why is everyone playing it in inappropriate places? Well, before you out yourself as the grumpy old person yelling at kids to get off your lawn, here’s what you need to know:

    

The Basics

    pokemonteams

    The teams are Valor (red – discipline), Instinct (yellow – intuition, and Mystic (blue – intellect). Players can choose a team at Level 5.

    Pokemon Go is a free app available for smartphones, an “augmented reality” game from The Pokemon Company and Niantic, Inc. This basically means that it puts virtual gameplay onto a map of the real world, and players interact with both. Pokemon Go is designed to get people out and about, to make them happier and healthier. It does this by generating virtual “pocket monsters” (that’s what Pokemon stands for), well known from previous Pokemon games and thus already favorites with fans, that appear on the phone screen.

    Players catch Pokemon with a flick of the wrist – throwing a virtual Pokeball toward the target. 

In addition to roaming Pokemon, the game also includes PokeStops and Pokemon Gyms. PokeStops are basically stationary rings that you can spin to get free items such as Pokeballs, which are used to catch Pokemon, along with eggs, which hold Pokemon inside and can be hatched if you do a certain amount of walking, and other enhancements. Gyms are places where players can battle each other. If you win a battle, you can take over the gym.

    Playing Pokemon Go is easy. Open the app, and the GPS finds your location. Your screen shows you which Pokemon are close, and where nearby PokeStops and Gyms are located. Start walking. You’ll find Pokemon along the way. At level 5, you can join one of three teams – Instinct (yellow), Mystic (blue), or Valor (red). Think of it as being sorted into a house at Hogwarts – your identification becomes tied in with these groups.

    

The Good

    artinst

    The Art Institute of Chicago posted a controversial Facebook post this week encouraging visitors to come find Pokemon inside – in this case, in front of its iconic Chagall windows.

    Pokemon Go is a game of discovery. It makes people get out and explore their neighborhoods, and it encourages socializing. My son has actually been getting off the couch this summer and going outside. Last night I took him to Ravinia Festival for an outdoor musical concert, and he talked to at least ten people about the game. We went to the zoo, where I’ve been volunteering every other week 20 years, and I didn’t recognize half the PokeStops because they were at statues and landmarks I’ve ignored in all my visits there. I had no idea they existed. In my hometown, I discovered a war memorial I must have passed 100 times, and never noticed before.

    Anecdotes already abound about how Pokemon is helping people’s mental health. And it’s giving local businesses a boost. Because Pokemon Go is so popular, entrepreneurs are trying to figure out how to utilize it for their own purposes and small businesses are seeing an uptick in sales from people coming in the door to find Pokemon. Pet shelters and museums and retailers are advertising the presence of Pokemon to get people in the door. (If you are looking for ways to leverage the popularity of the game, I recommend making an in-app purchase; spend $1 – 100 PokeCoins- and set off a lure, which will attract Pokemon and customers for 30 minutes after you activate it.) Also, T-Mobile just announced that data used to play Pokemon Go will not count towards its users’ data allowance.

    Ultimately, the addictive appeal for Pokemon can be a good thing. The goal of hatching eggs is already making more inroads than my Fitbit Alta in getting me to walk places, and I’ve never seen my son so excited to go places that might have Pokemon. The zoo! The botanic garden! The hardware store down the street, which has a gym! And there will be more ways for small businesses to leverage the game’s popularity, too, such as sponsorships that will turn them into portals.

    The Bad

    Screenshot_2016-07-14-23-02-49

    Here’s a screenshot of my phone, with a promotion that showed up on my feed from Binny’s Beverage Depot.

    As with any other engrossing app, Pokemon Go has people looking down at their phones instead of ahead. This can cause problems, because people not paying attention can cause accidents and such (although that traffic accident supposedly caused by someone playing the game is totally false, bad things are happening to players who are careless or who are putting themselves in danger). In addition, Pokemon tend to spawn everywhere, even places that aren’t necessarily friendly to the public, and Gyms and PokeStops can be located in unexpected locations.

    This is because, by the way, Niantic put out a previous game called Ingress, in which users submitted “portals” to be included on the virtual map that’s now basically being used for Pokemon Go. There are rules for these submissions, so PokeStops and Gyms do not interfere with private property, emergency services, or schools. Not all of these locations are completely current because things change so often in the real world, which is why players may end up in locations that don’t truly exist anymore (Please note: you can now submit requests to create portals in the game).

    There are other issues (for example, click here for the word on the game’s overly broad permissions ask). Different Pokemon are found in different locations, and at different times of day. So it can very well be dangerous for some people to play. I know a white man who feels uncomfortable loitering around parks where women and children are clustered. I’ve heard stories of black men who feel the game is too dangerous for them to enjoy, given the present climate. I’ve heard tales from physically disabled people who literally cannot access places where where Pokemon are found. It is not a perfect situation.

    

The Ugly

    Screenshot_2016-07-15-09-04-32

    A game screen, with map. The blue rings at the bottom are a PokeStop; click on it, and a photo of the landmark appears. You spin it to  get items. The darker blue landmark in the distance is a Gym, and it’s blue because right now it’s controlled by Team Mystic. On the bottom right of the screen, the white box tells you which Pokemon are near. If you click on a Pokemon as it appears, the screen changes to a camera image of what’s in front of you, with Pokemon superimposed and a PokeBall ready to “throw.” I caught a Rattata on my bed this morning…

    In the nine or so days that the game has been available, there’s been been a lot of buzz on the Internet, and much of it is bad. Any obsession, enjoyed without rules and not in moderation, can of course be dangerous, and there is etiquette to be learned and followed. The game is new, and people haven’t thought about the consequences of their actions yet (most of them have never heard of Ingress, so they don’t have experience with a game of this type). On the other hand, Pokemon Go gamers have been called many bad names by people who don’t understand the game’s appeal. The Internet is judgey, as usual. The comments sections should not be read.

    If Pokemon Go players are encroaching on your space, you have every right to say something. If they are breaking rules by sneaking in someplace that requires paid admission, that’s wrong. It’s true that there are currently PokeStops in some places that might be viewed as inappropriate – those places were put on the map by previous Ingress players and are only now being deemed offensive because of the number of people playing Pokemon Go. No one even noticed them before. In the past, however, Niantic (once a part of Google) has been responsive about removing them. The people who placed portals in these places most likely had good intentions – bringing people in, for example. It doesn’t mean players are being forced to use those stops, though. As more people play, and as everyone understands the problems of having Pokestops in these locations, things will change.

    But in my experience, it is both possible to stay out of the way of people while I’m playing Pokemon Go, and also be tolerant of people who are, after all, simply enjoying a fun little game that is getting them out and about. Just give players a little time to adjust. I’ll also remind the naysayers that the novelty will wear off – and although there will be updates and changes (an announcement about trading and other improvements has already been made), Pokemon Go – which is, after all, a fun game but not a really great one – will be much less appealing in the winter. At least, here in Chicago. If you live in Florida, you may be out of luck.

    If some kids do cross your lawn in search of Pokemon, feel free to channel the spirit of the game. Instead of yelling at them, why not ask them about it and make some new friends?

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    Apps, Games, News
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