Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Sideways' Buddy Reading allows parents to read books to children remotely using their iPhones and the iPad

Here is an ingenious and fun use of Apple's new mobile devices, as well as software solutions, combined with some original additions from the Cleveland based software company Sideways LLC. The Sideways' Buddy Edition allows two people to read aloud together using their iPad and either an iPhone or iPod touch. The first app featuring this has just been released: the Peter Rabbit: Buddy Edition of the Beatrix Potter classic.
This $1.99 app is for iOS devices, but to take full advantage of all the app offers you need two separate devices -- one iPhone or iPod touch, and an iPad. Once the app is downloaded and installed (it only weighs in at a modest 93.7 MB), children can read the book themselves or have it read to them by the app itself. There is also a "Learn to Read" function that allows children to touch objects in the books and see and hear the words.

The app also features a built-in coloring book with line drawings from Beatrix Potter’s first version of the book -- which thankfully comes with an eraser for people like me!

But the main event is a demonstration of what Sideways is calling 'Buddy Reading'. The process to set up Budding Reading is a bit complicated, but is clearly explained in the app.
Buddy Reading takes advantage of Apple's new Game Center, which was introduced to the iPad through the iOS 4 update. The first thing that must occur is that the user has to register with Game Center if they have not done so already. Both devices used -- the iPhone and iPad, for instance -- must have separate accounts because both users will be accessing Game Center at the same time.

One person then invites the other to become friends through their accounts. One person then opens up the Peter Rabbit: Buddy Edition app; they tap "Read the Book", then "Buddy Reading". The first person chooses the second person to read with, waits for that person to accept, then they hit "Play Now". A security code is then required on both ends.

I told you it was a bit complicated. But Sideways advises walking through the process together the first time before trying to do this remotely. The key is that it works.

“Nothing can take the place of a parent reading a bedtime story to a child. Now with the Buddy Reading technology, it’s possible for traveling parents to keep that intimate, precious connection to their children at home, no matter the distance,” Charles Stack, CEO and co-founder of Sideways is quoted as stating in a release. “The new generation of multi-media devices offers great ways of telling classic stories. We’ve taken the century-old delight experienced when reading Peter Rabbit and respectfully extended it using new technology, which can be efficiently applied to books new and old.”
At two bucks this app is obviously a bargain. But this app is really a demonstration of the Sideways' own publishing solutions. The company is courting authors to use their "Anigraphic Engine" to create interactive books. The company's website lists some of the technology they can offer.

I've written about Sideways on a number of occasions involving their own tablet-only magazine, also called Sideways. Back in June CEO Stack said that the company was working to see what Apple's new tablet could be when it grows up (my words).

"We're really interested in experimenting with the form, what this medium wants to be when it grows up," Stack said in June. "The iPad medium wants to be something, like when sculptures talk about letting the sculpture out of the wood. It's the same kind of model, we're trying to figure out what this hardware platform is really good at, or best at."

Both the company and the tablet has already come a long way. It will be fun to see this technology continue to be pushed and developed.

Here is the company's own promotional video for their new book app: