Developer Touch Press might just be who Apple was thinking of when they invented the iPad. Their remarkable, acclaimed apps — which include The Elements, Solar System, and March of the Dinosaurs — specialize in making virtual objects tangible, letting you touch and interact with all sorts of fascinating things.
One of Touch Press’ latest apps is called X is for X-Ray. The idea is to x-ray everyday objects so you can see what’s inside them, and learn more about how they work. Twenty-six objects — one for every letter of the alphabet — are given the x-ray treatment, and you can touch and play with every one of them. Sometimes in surprising ways.
The standard page in X is for X-Ray, which I suppose is technically a sort of interactive textbook (only way more fun), shows you one of these objects and then gives you a full page of text containing interesting facts about said object. There’s a page icon at the bottom of the screen, and if you tap that, it changes the page of facts into a short poem. Clearly this latter detail is there for kids, as the poems even come with an option to have the app recite the poem aloud to you, using pre-recorded audio.
The pictures of the objects are stunning, allowing you to swipe-to-turn them a full 360 degrees, and even pinch-to-zoom in. Swipe down over the object to turn on the x-ray effect, which transforms the object into a see-through version of itself; you can spin and zoom in on the x-ray version, too. If you like, you can even swipe just halfway down, and view the image in an overlay of both versions. If you have a pair of 3D glasses laying around, you can double-tap on most of the images and get a stereoscopic version, which (you guessed it) is also rotatable and zoomable. The interaction is super smooth, with zero lag (even on a first-generation iPad).
The beauty of the app is its attention to detail. Almost every object has some unique effect, like the way the car engine’s pistons turn when you rotate it in x-ray mode. Or the zipper, which doesn’t rotate, but actually unzips to show you (gasp!) an x-ray peek at the insides of your iPad. The piggy bank has coins inside that react to your device’s tilt controls. There’s even a page that talks about Hugh Turvey, the photographer who captured all of the incredible images used in the app, and sliding your finger down over his portrait reveals a human x-ray underneath.
I have a feeling there are even more little secrets contained within X is for X-Ray that I have yet to uncover, because that’s how Touch Press works. They make learning fun in a whole new way, and this app is a perfect example of that dynamic. It’s something that both I and my four-year-old have had loads of fun with. It’s brilliant.