Tell us a little about yourself and your role at the company.
I’m the co-founder and software expert of Avokiddo. Together with Elpida (technology director) and Vagelis (creative director) we created Avokiddo sharing our passion for the development of quality apps that would both educate and entertain kids. My main focus is on the design, testing and quality control of our apps.
Was Avokiddo Emotions the first app you worked on?
Avokiddo Emotions is actually our second app. The first one is called “Beck and Bo” and is available on iTunes and Amazon Store since last September. Beck and Bo was well received by both kids and parents. It received many wonderful reviews and won a number of awards including a 2013 Parents’ Choice Approved Award. It was certainly an inspiration for us to keep going and continue developing quality apps for kids.
What were the main aims with this app?
In Avokiddo Emotions kids interact with three expressive animals through a variety of everyday objects including food, accessories, toys and musical instruments. The main aim of the app is to allow kids to explore the animals’ reactions and emotions in a free, creative and fun way. The app is based on an open-ended free style of play, imposing no rules or predefined tasks. This kind of freedom combined with a great degree of interactivity mixed with loads of fun is what makes Avokiddo Emotions so unique. We hope that through these fun and engaging interactions kids will begin to grasp the patterns of the animals’ behavior and thus be able to predict reactions and trigger specific emotions. By watching the animals react to various stimuli, kids practice reading facial expressions and learn to associate them with feelings and events. While experimenting with different situations, kids are likely to identify their own feelings and personally relate to the animals’ emotional behaviors.
Was it important to utilize a language neutral interface?
By developing an app that targets reactions and emotions we wanted to create something that would not be restricted by the barriers of different languages. Emotions are universal and apply to all kids regardless of their place of birth. This is why we tried to develop a simple, intuitive interface that all kids can easily understand and interact with.
How long was the development process?
It was about 6 months. It all began with long discussions trying to first conceptualize the main aims of our app and then transforming these ideas into a fun, engaging and fully interactive application that kids would enjoy.
How do you think Emotions can be applied to a classroom setting?
We consider emotions to be a critical integral of a child’s personality. It is important for kids to be able to understand emotions and also be able to recognize the cause and effect relationship between actions, reactions and the various feelings they trigger. Our app can provide teachers with a useful tool that can help them introduce kids to these concepts in a fun, interactive way. It can be a great conversation starter arousing questions like “What does the zebra feel and why?”, “How would you feel about that?”, “What would you do to make the zebra happy?”. Kids can also practice labeling and using everyday objects, turn-taking and following directions.
Do you feel that the app can be harnessed particularly well with special needs children?
Avokiddo Emotions has already received very positive reviews from teachers and SLPs. They see great potential on how the app can be used as a tool that can help kids’ emotional development and free expression. Using this app kids can practice their abilities to recognize a range of emotions, facial expressions and also some social cause and effects. The app also promotes and encourages conversation as parents and teachers can discuss with the kids what the animals are feeling and why, predict emotions and reactions and also relate these to real life situations and how a child would feel in the real world.
We’ve heard from many special educators that children with autism find it easier to read facial expressions when cartoon animals are involved and are more likely to personally relate to their emotional states. According to Deanne Shoyer, a distinguished contributor in the special needs app community and founder of Small But Kinda Mighty, Avokiddo Emotions can really assist autistic children recognize emotions and body language. She believes it motivates kids to imitate sounds, facial expressions and various oral motor activities. You can see her son Oliver having fun with the app in this wonderful video that will surely put a smile on your face: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f7u40W8ONUE
Are there any updates planned for the app?
We have already released a first update which was mainly focused on graphics and performance optimizations. We are now working on the next update which will be ready in a few weeks and will enrich the app with additional items.
What other projects have you got lined up?
We are currently on the first stages of our next project. All I can say right now is that there is a great deal of brainstorming going on. Our main focus is to continue producing unique, quality apps that will educate but also entertain kids. For our next project we try to build on our current experience, keep the positives, reflect on the feedback we’ve received and never forget to keep a high spirit and have fun in the process.
Dionisis, thank you so much for taking time to speak with us.
Find out more about the app at itunes.apple.com/us/