Ubooly is a toy like I’ve never seen before. Designed by teachers, it is truly unique, fun and interactive product that engages a child’s imagination and gets him learning through play. The company is a startup and a Kickstarter page is available for fundraising purposes.
Ubooly is a soft plush toy with a pocket for a smartphone or iPod touch. A cutout on the face of Ubooly makes the screen of the device its face, which makes the little Gremlin seem very lifelike.
The basic Ubooly app is free and is available for Android, iPhone and iPod touch. Additional content packs can be downloaded, some for free and some via in-app purchase.
What Does Ubooly Do? Cool Stuff!
Ubooly talks with your child and uses voice recognition to “hear” the child’s responses. She may give your child a choice of listening to music, hearing a story or playing a game, and responds according to your child’s command.
Ubooly also makes use of the accelerometers in your mobile device to sense and respond to touch and motion. More plainly, it uses sensors in your smartphone to know when the toy is being touched or moved. For instance, during one activity, Ubooly prompts the child to pick her up and throw her in the air–the toy can sense when that happens. Don’t worry though, there’s lots of padding and the screen is recessed enough that the device is safe.
Ubooly can find music files on your device automatically and play them on command. If the child becomes bored with an activity, he can double tap her face to skip to something new. She can also go to sleep by long pressing the screen and wake with another long press.
Ubooly is Fun and Funny, Like Really Funny
The games are entertaining and your child will learn about language, math, science, music and history. In one activity, Ubooly asked Kid Tester #1 to pretend to be in a jungle and to imitate various animals to avoid being eaten by them. As he did that, Ubooly presented some facts about each animal as they appeared in the story.
One of the things I liked best about the Ubooly toy was that she was programmed with a silly, random sense of humor that will be sure to make the parents laugh, too. There are definitely jokes in there just for the grownups.
At one point in the jungle game, Ubooly told KT #1 that sloths are vegetarians, but we need to get away quickly because “even vegetarians have cheat days.”
In a pretend fishing adventure, KT #1 caught a mermaid and threw it back, prompting Ubooly to say, “Hey, that mermaid just took my watch. Wait, I don’t have a watch. Or arms. Or wrists. Anyway…”
A Few Tiny Little Oops-a-Ubooly’s
There are a few small things that we found slightly frustrating about Ubooly, most notably that the smartphone pocket is snug. (Of course, it’s designed that way so your device is protected, but if you have a protective cover already on your device, you will probably need to remove it before putting the device into the toy.)
There are also several option buttons in the app that appear on the bottom of the screen that are inaccessible when the device is in the plush creature. This feature is also probably intentional so that your child can’t accidentally press buttons while playing, but it’s inconvenient to have to remove your phone to change to a different content pack.
Ubooly is Uber-Fun
All in all, we had a blast playing with Ubooly. Our three year old kid tester, while under the target ages of 4-10, could follow along and really got into the games, and I was in stitches at some points listening to Ubooly’s hilariously quirky delivery.