Disclaimer: We received the Utopia 360° 4D+ Augmented and Virtual Reality bundle for free so that we could check it out and let you know what we thought of it. All of the opinions below are my own.
We’re in the final stretch of summer and sneaking in some fun learning opportunities to get all the brains in the house warmed up for the school year. The folks at ReTrak sent us this fun Utopia 360° 4D+ Augmented and Virtual Reality bundle so the kids could try out this virtual zoo and it was so fun to see their faces when the animals popped up out of the cards!
The idea is that you combine an app with these special cards and they work together to make virtual animals come to life on the screen of your phone or tablet.
There are a ton of animals to choose from and the app can handle more than one animal at a time but we found it was usually easier just to focus on one and move the tablet around to see all the different angles. The animals move as well and make sounds so it was fun to have conversations about what vultures sound like and how whales speak/hear underwater.
There’s also an interaction mode where you can use food cards to feed the animals. It took us a second to figure it out because not all of the animal cards work with the food cards but once we got it the kids were able to figure out who eats what. That was an eye-opener because they usually guessed wrong. For example, based on trips to the farm they assumed that horses eat carrots but the virtual horse wasn’t interested in the carrot card at all. It wasn’t until we brought the virtual grass in that he pounced (galloped? trotted?).
You can also change the angle of how you view the animal, which is Eva’s favorite feature. In addition to giving you a peek at the animal’s tummy, it makes it look like the animal is actually crawling around on the tablet screen.
The cards are alphabetical so they would be a good tool for kids who were still working on letter sounds and reading the names of the animals. Both of the older kids are farther along but they had fun lining the cards up and going through the ABCs.
There aren’t any additional facts about the animals built in (i.e. no voice comes up and tells you where an animal lives, etc., if you tap on it) and the cards don’t have any extra information so this would be a fun learning toy that you would probably want to pair with something else. I tried to pull out our huge animal encyclopedia but the kids were having too much fun to be distracted. Next time!
We mainly used my iPad to make the app work since it has the largest screen and the kids were able to share it. Calvin has a hard time remembering where the iPad camera is, though, so I switched him over to the VR headset that came with the bundle. You put your smartphone in and then the kids are able to use both their hands to play with the cards without having to fuss with the camera.
It worked great until Calvin attempted to walk around and pretty much walked himself into our piano. A little tip – you might want to cover virtual reality basic safety if your kids aren’t used to the headset! He was fine, but I more worried about my smartphone so back to the tablet he went and we put the headset in Eva’s room.
The company makes three different bundles and the other two are space and dinosaur themed so I know the kids would really like them. The bundles are available at Barnes and Noble, Brookstone, Staples, Walmart, and on http://www.utopia360vr.com/.