Tinybop Plants is a new iPad app that will make you feel like a kid learning science for the first time again.
I can’t remember a single science book I read as a child, but I have an idyllic mental image—we all do, don’t we?—of a book filled with timeless illustrations of plants and animals that was as cozy to my young geek brain as a sweater in winter.
Maybe this book was real. Maybe it was really a collection of books—Golden Books, Wonder Books, and Ladybird Books—mashed into one in my mind. But it’s an informational aesthetic I’ve long craved, and which Tinybop's iPad apps satisfy. The company is creating what they call the Explorer’s Library—an encyclopedia set for the iPad generation—in which scientific illustrations become breathing, touchable worlds for you to explore. The company has just received $5 million in series A funding to build out this idea.
Their first app explored the human body. Their second takes us into interactive dioramas of the world’s biomes—2-D environments that were illustrated by Marie Caudry in Ligne claire (clear line), a style defined by its simplistic, ink-traced characters devoid of additional texture. You may recognize Clear Line from The Adventures of Tintin or, more recently, The Simpsons. But the app is as defined by its interactivity as its aesthetic. Its scenes appear as mostly still, save for an occasional rustle of leaves or visit from an animal walking into the frame. Like nature itself, the environments are tranquil but alive.
"Our apps are what we call a quiet play apps," explains Tinybop founder Raul Gutierrez. "They often confound adults, but kids seem to get them right away."
To explore this environment, children can touch the animals (and lead them around), tap on plants to read a bit more about them, or even plant seeds and then grab a raincloud to help them grow. But while you can fast forward through day and night cycles, the human touch is rarely immediate. There’s no flashing, blinking, cause-and-effect instant gratification—as in in most apps. For the most part, you’re bearing witness to nature through a slow experience that you can revisit again and again. In this sense, it really is a classic book come to life.
Plants is available in the App Store now for $2.