Here’s a great game that brings the things kids draw using markers alive in a video game.

If you aren’t familiar with Dr. Panda, your kids or grandkids probably are.  Dr. Panda is an award-winning video game developer that focuses on creating educational apps that help teach kids everyday skills.

Now, they’re turning their attention to augmented reality toys – toys that bridge the distance between physical and digital play.

The first app in their new series is called  Home Designer. 

This app is available for free for Kindle Fire, Android phones and tablets, and iPhones and iPads.  While the app itself is free, the app works with a special kit (this one has a $39.99 suggested retail price). Users can install the app on up to three devices simultaneously.

The two main game modes are design and quest. Design mode is basically what’s called an open sandbox experience (similar to the popular Sims game series) where users are given a great deal of freedom to move through a virtual world and try various tasks like constructing and designing houses.

There are multiple houses in each “neighborhood” so each family member/child can get their own house for their creation sessions. Each house contains four rooms.

The quest mode has more structure where users make various choices among varied exercises where users often find answers by flipping through the 51 cards.

Users create their home with various characters and customized items from double-sided flashcards they color and customize with 12 dry-erase, non-toxic markers. Coloring the flashcards helps kids learn to color within the lines.

Once the flashcard is finished, you can send it to the game using the camera on your phone or tablet. It becomes a 3D object that can be used in the game.  (though these creations cannot be stored once place in an environment – a noticeable omission in an otherwise great game) Most games of this type have item storage libraries, but hopefully, users will get them in future Dr. Panda Plus installments.

There are cool animations when you design an item and users can rotate the camera view around the object in a game. The educational part kicks in because users are required to spell the object by placing letters in the correct order before they can use it.

Now, for the best part of this augmented reality experience – the interactions. Children love watching the characters react, use, and interact (e.g. change clothes) with the various objects.

Older children probably won’t find this very challenging), since the target audiences are ages three to eight years old. The objects include standard tables, chairs, lamps, etc. (over 50 total) with the ability to change the wall and floor colors in any room.

For the set-up, be sure you do not throw away the box. You will need the information on it, especially the QR code, to get everything fully set up.

Users can also customize their own stories, recognize words, learn new words, spell words, learn phonics and distinguish between uppercase and lowercase letters.

I highly recommend Dr. Panda Plus: Home Designer.  It offers engaging interaction with a simplistic interface that maximizes learning. Definitely worth the $39.99 kit price. It’s great for repeat play thanks to to the many creations via the flashcards and customizations with the environments. Available for iOS, Amazon and Android devices.  Rated Ages 4+ and E for Everyone.

Parents can follow Dr. Panda on TwitterFacebookInstagram, and Youtube, or learn more at http://www.drpanda.com.

~ Mike Siebenaler