I have never taken my almost 2.5-year-old shopping in a physical toy store. Last weekend we aimlessly sauntered into a Toys R Us store and I realized why that had been the case. The plethora of options available is so overwhelming and the toys are not very appealing because there are no star icons and reviews to help your indecisiveness!
I know I sound lazy, but amazon has spoiled us all (you know you are one of us). After circling the store a couple of times with disappointment, a toy salesman hopefully walked up to us. Fatigued, I almost dismissed him until he said the words “augmented reality for kids.” I decided to give him a chance. He opened an app on his smartphone, whipped out a basic looking flashcard with a cartoon tiger on it, and hovered it behind the phone camera. POOF! jumped onto the screen a fiery tiger with a loud roar. My eyes widened, my toddler gasped and then happily clapped; his reality had been augmented and he was amazed. PlayShifu, an augmented reality (AR) start-up was the company behind this excitement. They make AR-based interactive educational toys and games which claim to improve memory, visualization, reasoning, imagination, creativity, and vocabulary.
My son Nuwaib was definitely into it, I meekly asked the price assuming that something with high-tech words like AR would cost a pretty penny. I was surprised that they sell a pack of 20 flash cards for around $5, phone stand included! Okay salesman, I’m sold! Give me one!
Now for the review:
The packaging: Decently attractive, a compact and cylindrical cardboard box with a detailed description of the contents.
The types within the product: It comes in 2 sizes of different categories (automobiles, wildlife, aquatic life, jobs people do, space, etc.). A 60-pack and 20-pack set of square, small-sized flash cards.
Price: very reasonable, when compared to other toys in the market.
How the toy plays: Download free app, activate your pack using the packaging, open the app and start game, place phone on stand, pop a flash card ‘behind the phone,’ in front of the camera and watch the magic unfold.
Magic: Flashcards come to life on your screen. There is a voice that announces the vehicle name, its utility, and guides you through the activities you can do with each flash card. There are two activity modes (at least for the Shifu Ride pack). One allows you to solve a puzzle, or make the vehicle do its task, or change its colors and the other helps you learn to spell the vehicle name.
My toddler’s review: Loves to play Shifu Ride! He has a few favorites he doesn’t tire off. He can self-access the activity mode, which itself mixes things up and is not mono-themed. Squeals with joy at the balloon-bursting spelling mode; balloons float up the screen and can be popped with a touch to reveal alphabets that spell the vehicles. Definitely improves all the cognitive skills that Shifu claims to improve, especially vocabulary and reasoning.
- Interactive enough for toddler to be engaged for a while.
- The narrator or voice in the game and other sounds are not annoying.
- Multiple activity types within the activity mode.
- Unique and effective learning techniques with each card.
- Would be amazing on long flights with a kid!
- The visual effects lack finesse and are not as real-looking as anticipated, which sometimes makes you think that watching a YouTube video is more appealing.
- The touch-prompter is not conspicuous enough for a toddler and sometimes requires several finger pokes to work.
- The visuals sometimes do not align properly and you need to adjust the phone screen a lot to get the whole scene in view.
All in all, definitely worth a buy! I would suggest to start off with the small 20-pack of a theme that your toddler is inclined towards, and then move to other categories. Speaking off which, we just bought Shifu boat safari and are excited to see what’s in store! Also, the augmented reality globe by PlayShifu is definitely on our wait list to try out!
Product rating: 4/5