The Winston Show app is a set of animated sketches during which Winston (a talking yellow blobby character) and his sidekick, Ellington (an orange round guy who talks in gibberish) query the player for responses. The player talks to Winston by holding down a microphone button to respond. Winston listens to what is said and then responds, frequently in a witty and hilarious manner.
The talking takes place in a variety of fun locations as kids visit Winston, the star of his own TV show, at his studio. In one activity, kids sit down with Winston to have a Fireside Chat. The player's face appears (using the video camera) on one side of the fireplace while Winston, sitting on the other side, asks questions about a given topic. For instance, Winston will ask kids what they want to be when they grow up. Or he might discuss what dress-up character kids like to be.
How to Play
In another activity, kids verbally play knowledge trivia games with Winston or with crazy other characters, including a talking Marie Antoinette. When visiting the Writer's Room for Winston's show, players get involved in helping to create a story. In a choose-your-own-adventure type story, the writers start a story, then come to a juncture where there are two possible paths. Kids select a path by talking into the microphone.
Kids can also explore a dress-up activity which doesn't involve talking. The player centers his or her face in a hat and then scrolls through different costumes, including ninja, bunny, princess, and more. Winston makes funny comments about each combination, and Ellington takes a photo.
The Good and the Bad
The Winston Show app is groundbreaking in its use of artificial intelligence and voice recognition to make kids feel as if they are actually talking to characters. While younger kids can explore it, it works best with kids ages 7 and older because some of the language is sophisticated, and the app uses a microphone button that needs to be held down while talking.
This innovative app offers a glimpse of where talking technology is headed; but, being first out of the gate means it isn't perfect. It sometimes doesn't understand or register what a child says. This occurs frequently in the Fireside Chat activity. Winston's response is tagged to certain words, and if he doesn't hear them, he goes to a default mode. When that occurs, he can't move the conversation along; but his default remains entertaining and funny. In the section where kids help the writers of the Winston Show to choose what story they tell, there aren't enough branching decisions; so that the stories feel quite abbreviated.
Another drawback is that the app must be connected to the internet to work. Plus, if you close the iPad's cover with the app open, when you try to resume, the app updates and starts over at the beginning. While you can navigate to any of the five activities, using a scroll button on the bottom, you do have to wait through the introductory load screens.
Revolutionary App Worth Downloading
Even with these shortcomings, Winston Show is definitely worth downloading because it is revolutionary. This is the first project from ToyTalk, a company headed by Oren Jacob, a former Pixar executive. Similar to the Pixar movies that Jacob used to work on, conversing with Winston appeals to whole families because his humor is funny on many levels. The six hours of witty banter make this app a pleasure to explore. With this app showcasing the new possibilities of conversation-driven entertainment, I can't wait for more chatty characters in the future.
All tech products are judged on a five star scale by looking at the following factors: fun, education, ease of use, value, and technical.