A favorite tale of children’s book publishers and parenting blogs is set in a land not so far away, where the evil e-reader is a slayer of the bedtime story. In another version of the telling, however, joining forces with the wise and age-old printed book is a powerful piece of hardware capable of storing an infinitely appealing range of adventures to be guided by a child’s imagination—perhaps more interactive than a sleep-ridden invention conjured by an overworked parent at the end of the day.
The market is now, of course, flush with digital storytelling inventions. But few deliver quite like the InfiniScroll, a new app with a seemingly endless number of illustrations spliced to create a story and flashing pictures that unravel as a child scrolls up and down the iPad screen.
"We wanted to break the linear format of traditional storytelling and create an app where kids were both taken in an ever-changing visual journey and in control of the narration," explains Luca Prasso, CEO of Curious Hat, the makers behind InfiniScroll and other kid-themed apps.
InfiniScroll comes loaded with 80 drawings, each depicting a different object or character, say, a big-nosed astronaut or a smiling elephant head. Combining these with each other and narratives leads to a vast array of permutations.
By vertically stacking the illustrations, the Infiniscroll makes it easy for both parents and children to not just choose but construct their own adventures. One story consists of five connected panels that unfold from the bottom up. Scroll up and a new drawing appears; scroll back down and you get a different image than before. Drawings can be locked in place, anchoring storyboards together (or not) when you’ve written a keeper (or not). Kids can even record and insert noises at each step of the narrative to help the imagery come alive.
The drawings were conceived and executed by Italian illustrator Francesco Chiacchio. Prasso and the InfiniScroll team brought Chiacchio onto the project after discovering a series of what Prasso describes as "infinite illustrations." These sketches, entitled bestiario, imagine dozens of peevish creatures whose curving, serrated, and patterned features evoke a vibrant world of wildlife.
Chiacchio’s original artwork for InfiniScroll further builds on these themes and forms. He produced a cast of friendly characters that can be easily mixed and matched. As a story progresses—or conversely, derails—it’s impossible to tell where one illustration ends and another begins.
The drawings are refreshingly simple and don’t resort to flash to keep the kids engaged, unlike the kinds of digital beasts that populate the latest computer animated films. It’s an irony Prasso is well aware of, having previously worked with partner and Curated Hat CTO Erwan Maigret at Dreamworks on developing the technology that powered such titles as Shrek and other landmarks of the genre.
Together, the two have released several interactive apps, like Phlip and Eye Paint, which both integrate the iOS camera for creative ends. "We believe that with mobile devices we can go beyond the passive experience of watching a movie or reading a linear book," Prasso tells Co.Design. "One of our goals in designing apps for children is to connect them with their parents, to create more meaningful opportunities to create and interact."