MagicFriends, the first App I was ever hired as a writer on, was launched this week on the App Store. This is exciting enough but really, the magic is in the game itself, and that's how I got hooked into the project in the first place.
Essentially, you get to talk to your child as a fantasy character, one that you control, one that you 'voice' and one that you can make dance or twirl or leap in the air. Effectively, you become a digital puppeteer and witness the magic occur!
Here's how it works. You connect two i-devices via wifi - you and your child could be in different rooms or even different countries. Your child rings Santa or Prancer, Sam the snowman or Candy the elf (Xmas edition) and when you answer, having morphed your voice in real time via the in-app voice-changer, your child sees and hears the character they called on their screen talking to them. By swiping and tapping, you can animate the character and she or he dances, twirls, winks, jumps, laughs etc on your child's device.
But the real magic is what happens when the conversation begins. Because you know your child, because this - for them - is real - anything can happen. Candy the elf may be making the sort of toy your child dreams of getting. Prancer might have spotted a dog just like yours last year when he was on the roof. Santa might even guess what your child would really like while Sam might need your child to cheer him up with a terrible joke because he can't go into the grotto to watch the toys being made.
There are sample conversations and stories on the website about life in the North Pole (Xmas edition), jokes and anecdotes about sharing a shed with eight other reindeer or working in a section of the toy factory or trying to wake Santa up in the morning. These are there to help you get started if you need them, but once the child starts engaging - and it's pretty instant; after all the world of imagination is just as real to them as the real world is - it just takes off and it is sooooo much fun, on both sides of the conversation.
At a technical end, it's using new technology developed in Maynooth, the engineering is done by Marino Software and the animation by Giant Animation...
If you want to see the video about how it all works, it's on the MagicFriends website . To download, the app is 4.99 per annum but Sam the Snowman is free if you want to try it out here - and new characters will be added through the year.There are a couple of Bunglalobs and a toothfairy called Penny in the wings.
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