I had an opportunity this winter to attend a presentation by Interbots. Founded in 2005, Interbots is a spin-off of the Carnegie Mellon University Entertainment Technology Center. The company specializes in the design and construction of custom interactive characters, both physical and virtual, as well as interactive multimedia content.
What I was specifically interested in was “Popchilla’s World,” an iPad app designed to help children with autism learn skills for daily living. I spoke with the design team and offered to consult with them as they continued refining the app. We’ve had numerous conference calls over the winter months and the opportunity to make recommendations as the app was under construction.
Recently, two of the Interbots co-founders, Sabrina Haskell and David Culyba, visited the Barber National Institute campus in Erie, PA to test the app with two classes of our school-age students. In the game, a friendly creature named Popchilla needs the child’s help to complete everyday activities, such as brushing its teeth, making its bed or even saying “hello.”
As the children successfully complete these activities, they are rewarded with in-game reinforcers and new activities to explore. Our students were very excited about this opportunity and really enjoyed themselves. The developers were able to glean a great deal of information from this field test, which they plan to share with rest of the team upon their return to Pittsburgh.
We plan to work closely with the Interbots team in the upcoming months. Popchilla’s World is expected to be available for sale later this year in Apple’s App Store.