In the ultimate combination of reading and watching a film, The Snow Fox is a picture book that comes alive as you read it. Where was this when we were young?
Digital creative agency AKQA released the storytelling app, which uses SiriKit in a rather sweet way – to animate a children’s bedtime story about a fox, on a phone or tablet.
SiriKit is the coding which builds an extension that allows apps to communicate with Apple’s personal assistant technology, Siri. The extension means that an app can be opened and controlled with the voice, in the same way that Siri herself is used.
Usually this technology is used to enable hands-free day-to-day admin – “Siri, directions to Cornersmith Cafe”, “Siri, call Simon” – but in this case, it’s used to progress through the story within the app.
SiriKit was made available to all app developers last year, which suddenly made The Snow Fox possible.
“The idea came first, then the technology,” AKQA creative director Johnny Budden told Cool Hunting.
“We created the app at AKQA last year, but the voice recognition that was available wasn’t quite advanced enough to bring the vision to life. But when… they opened up the use of SiriKit to all apps, we knew we could pull it off in the way it deserves.”
Other storybook apps offer animation, but The Snow Fox appears to be the first digital book that is voice activated. As the child (or, um, curious grown up) reads the story, the app responds to the voice, and keeps the tale going.
“When we realised we could turn voice into a reading gesture, things got very interesting. Sentences and even words could become triggers for anything. To make a character grin, to dim the sky, to hear a noise. We tried to reimagine a book with no pages, just a continuous adventure brought to life with your own voice,” Budden said.
The app is a great way to encourage children to read out loud, because as soon as they stop, so does the story. Instead of being able to turn the page to see the next image, the story plays out on the screen and requires the child’s voice to continue. This instils a sense of responsibility in the child to get the words right and keep the story going.
The app allows you to enter the child’s name and gender to personalise the story. It will even record your child’s voice over the animation so you can listen back to it later or send it as a gift to friends and family around the world.
“Children are eager to tell their own stories. Their minds are ready. The interest is there,” Budden added. “We just knew we had to find a way to create a story that can capture the attention of little ones during a crucial time in their lives when skills and interests are developed.”
They’ve had a very positive response so far, particularly from parents of children with disabilities or reading problems who find that the app gives them a boost of confidence in their reading, and the app has been used in some classrooms.
AKQA developed The Snow Fox as a passion project, and as a result the app is available for free on iOS.