The Jim Henson Company creates great educational apps in conjunction with PBS Kids, including Dinosaur Train Camera Catch! which uses virtual reality technology. Most recently, the Company released Pajanimals: Light in the Sky, an interactive extension of the TV series, which airs daily on the 24-hour preschool television channel Sprout, and is produced with NFusion Interactive Entertainment.
Anna Jordan is the subject of today’s Developing Minds Want to Know. She has more of a production role than a development role, but she still discusses with us how long she’s been producing apps, how she harnesses innovation and which apps have inspired her journey.
Key Company Facts:
Name and Title: Anna Jordan, Interactive Producer, The Jim Henson Company
Company: The Jim Henson Company
Location: Hollywood, CA
Size (Revenue and/or Employees): not specified
Primary Apps/Platforms: iOS
APPOLICIOUS: How long have you been producing apps, and what is the most significant difference between now and when you began?
ANNA JORDAN: I started to get involved in the production of apps at The Jim Henson Company in late 2010. I had been managing website production for several of our children's properties, and as apps started to become a real priority as a way to further extend our brands by providing new content and ways to interact with our characters, my role at the company broadened. In just a short time, technological advances have obviously made a huge difference in what we can do – for example, last year we created Camera Catch, a virtual reality game made to teach pattern recognition that uses the gyroscope feature of the iPhone 4. But aside from advances in technology that allow us to engage users in new ways and come up with unique gameplay, I think consumer's perspectives are changing. People expect high quality products, especially for a paid app, but they are also willing to pay a premium price for a high-end, engaging, very re-playable experience.
Here’s a video from PBS Kids of Dinosaur Train Camera Catch in action:
APPO: What apps (outside of those that you produce) inspire you the most and why?
AJ: There are so many! There are a number of great tool-type apps that I use on a personal level for a variety of purposes, but I am inspired more by apps that extend gameplay or interactivity in a superb storytelling experience, like The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore app, which also happens to be visually stunning. There have been a number of really great interactive story apps published this year. Open-ended games that are full of surprises, like Toca Train, are also great and provide such a rich play experience for kids that they want to explore and play over and over. I also love multi-level puzzle games like Where’s My Water?
APPO: Where do you see the most innovation in the app sector?
AJ: I think there is still a lot of room for growth in interactive educational experiences. We’ve seen so many great products come out already – as an example, we’ve produced several apps made possible through PBS KIDS’ Ready to Learn grant funding, which focuses on teaching math curriculum. But as technology advances, there will only be more and more opportunities made available to further how we engage users in a meaningful way to help them learn something new, whether it’s a preschooler learning counting or numbers, apps that help you learn a foreign language (like Mind Snacks is doing), or using an app as a tool to learn a new skill or to help even with professional development.
APPO: How do you harness that innovation in your own titles?
AJ: For many of our apps, our goal is to provide an educational experience while being fun (and funny), sticky, and a place to interact with our characters. I mentioned the Camera Catch app earlier, which ultimately teaches pattern recognition, but through silly, fun gameplay of seeking out dinosaurs flying all around you via virtual reality. We’ve recently released a new app Pajanimals: Light in the Sky that is a 3D interactive version of an episode from the Pajanimals television series. Using Unity the developers of the app, N-Fusion Interactive, were able to extend the world of the show in a way that makes it really accessible to our audience, where they can play with the characters in their world. We want to continue to make meaningful, thoughtful media for our fans, but to find new and interesting ways to present it. As we start to develop apps for properties outside of our preschool audience it will be really fun to experiment with new ways to tell our stories.
APPO: In such a crowded space, explain how you generate awareness and drive downloads to your applications.
AJ: Well, it helps that we’re starting out with strong, trusted brands. We reach out to bloggers, use our social media channels, send out press releases, etc. It also helps to work with a publisher with a strong user base – many of our currently available apps have been published by PBS KIDS, who have a track record of creating great, educational content for kids.