While the various app stores out there are simply overflowing with astronomy apps aimed at adult astronomers, both professional and amateur, the market isn’t quite as saturated when it comes to apps aimed for younger audiences. Star Walk Kids – Explore Space aims to fill this small gap in the market by offering fascinating introductory astronomy information aimed at the younger audiences. This isn’t a plain, textbook-like experience however: the app’s interface is every bit as dynamic and interactive as paid-for astronomy apps, offering up answers to some fascinating questions about the night sky, and all packaged with a simple interface and a cartoon-like visual style to further cater for its intended audience.
Star Walk Trimmed to the Bare Essentials
The meat of Star Walk Kids comes from a redesigning of the original Star Walk app. What’s effectively been done here is a careful trimming away of some of the more complex features of Star Walk, leaving planetary and star-based information that’s easy to digest and presented in a simple fashion. The biggest change, in terms of aesthetic anyhow, is that the whole app has been designed with a cartoon-like feel to it, instantly making it more child-friendly from the get-go, and making the otherwise less-palatable space-facts a little easier to take in.
This repurposing doesn’t take away the core functionality of the app, however, which is a GPS/Gyroscope-powered map of the heavens that changes dynamically according to the location and orientation of the mobile device. Point it at the sky and you’re treated to a simplified rendering of the various constellations in the sky. Instead of grids and complex facts/figures like you’d find in the original Star Walk, however, you’re instead presented with simple, easily recognisable drawings of the constellations, as well as major planetary bodies and satellites such as the Moon. Star Walk Kids is therefore presented in such a way as not to overwhelm the young astronomer, even making learning fun with its cartoonish design.
Plenty of Information to Be Assimilated
Star Walk Kids isn’t simply a toothless, fact-less version of the original Star Walk, however. Tap on any of the cartoon constellations displayed over the night’s sky and you will reveal further information about the selected object/formation. The information isn’t complex or scientifically demanding in any way – you can learn the name of the constellation/formation, the number of stars that comprise it, and also the name of any notable/bright stars in the constellation.
In addition to the (admittedly brief) factual information included about each constellation/planet, Vito Technologies also make use of other media in order to augment the educational experience. This is namely done in the form of videos. You’ll discover these cartoon-ish video renderings of various objects such as the sun as you browse, though it isn’t anything on par with the kind of snaps and real-life video footage you’ll find in the NASA Smartphone App, which is arguably more complex in its design and content yet still preferable to what is perhaps the oversimplified Star Walk Kids app.
Fit For Purpose, But Perhaps a Little Simple
Whether you will find Star Walk Kids a worthwhile download really depends on how it’s going to be used. The simple cartoon design and the stripped-down information in the app will definitely appeal to the much younger audience, but as is the case with spending money on new shoes for a growing child, Star Walk Kids will soon be outgrown by its young audience. The cartoonish design is probably the main attractive point for parents looking to purchase this app for their children, but it may be worthwhile skipping this child version and opting for the regular Star Walk app instead. In fact, Star Walk 2 wouldn’t be hugely out of the league of many young children out there who are thirsty for astronomical knowledge.
It’s difficult to conclude in any other fashion about Star Walk Kids: it’s a well-designed app fit for the very young learner, but its information is likely to be too stripped-down in nature to appeal to many parents/children. The existence of the regular Star Walk and the much-updated and hugely improved Star Walk 2 is likely to overshadow Star Walk Kids. Star Walk 2 is just as easy to navigate, and though some of the data may be unnecessary/overwhelming for children, its interface impressively allows you to customise/tailor what is displayed to suit the younger audience. Star Walk Kids will find its niche, but the adult Star Walk apps simply offer too much overlap, or indeed a completely superior alternative for the young astronomer.