It’s a toy, it’s an app, it’s Zimmi. What in the world is a Zimmi, you ask? I was curious about that myself, so after a little research, I was able to discover some interesting facts and make it a Top Pick.
Zimmiz are the brainchild of Big Foot Toys and developer David Smith. A Zimmi is a plush alien toy (sold separately at www.planetzimmi.com ) that has a slot to insert an iPhone or an iPod Touch for its face. The app is free, but there is an in-app purchase (IAP) available for $0.99 that offers unlimited facial combinations. The first step in creating your Zimmi involves choosing features for eye color, nose shape, and lips, among other things. Once that’s accomplished, the real fun begins. Zimmi has a personality similar to a child’s. It alternates between being sweet and goofy, hilarious and stubborn, charming and silly.
Zimmi is 100% interactive. Depending upon what the child does, Zimmi will respond in a lifelike way. Tickle him and Zimmi laughs, turn him upside down and Zimmi is afraid, shake him and Zimmi gets dizzy. According to the developer, there are 300 different responses it can make.
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I deviated from my regular review process this time, and I want to explain why. Normally, Fun Educational Apps limits its reviews strictly to apps; in this case, however, I was having a hard time getting a sense of the app’s capabilities in isolation. We contacted the publicist for the developer, and she graciously agreed to furnish me with a plush toy so that I could get a better idea of the whole effect. I was frankly amazed. What looked cute on the screen of my iPhone looked absolutely adorable in the plush body. It has been designed to look child-like, with chubby cheeks and a little round body (picture a cousin to a Teletubbie). The body protects the iPhone or iPod, so even young children can play with it without any danger of damaging or dropping the phone.
And then, something magical happened. As I was interacting with my Zimmi, an idea started forming in the back of my mind: what if this little alien with a touch screen face could get a child with autism to focus on the facial expressions that it makes? Using Zimmi for this purpose is not something that the developer had in mind, but I think for some children with autism, this technology may increase their interest in facial expressions. To most people that sounds silly, but trust me, that’s huge for a child with autism. Due to time constraints, I didn’t have a lot of time to try out my idea, but I was encouraged by the responses that two of my students with moderate autism had to Zimmi. Both of them were fascinated by the technology and kept staring at it; one child even started to interact with Zimmi, while the other child just wanted to watch Zimmi “do his thing.”
This is a brand new product, and I found that there are some refinements to the app I’d like to see, specifically with the touch sensitivity; sometimes it was difficult to get Zimmi respond to my touch. I’d also be interested in getting some discussion going within the autism community about anyone else’s experience using Zimmi with their child with autism. Zimmi goes to the head of the class as a Top Pick for Fun Educational Apps.
Zimmiz is available for download via the iTunes App Store - iPhone and iPod Touch App
Free to download - Contain in-app-purchase
Julie P. - I am a speech/language pathologist (SLP) currently working in a school setting, serving children with special needs ages 6-14. My iPad has become my favorite therapy tool. I am passionate about my work and my students, and I am excited about the possibilities for using technology in education.
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Disclosure: This review was move up the waiting list priority-services. All opinions expressed are purely that of the author