Thursday, 1 February 2018

Travel the Globe with Orboot and AR App - Review

Orboot is an augmented reality experience with a physical globe and mobile app. We first saw the project on Kickstarter, which got fully funded. Play Shifu is now making the Orboot experience available to anyone.

The idea of mixing a physical and digital experience to learn something is becoming more popular and in my opinion a much more engaging way for children to consuming information. I took a closer look at Orboot with my two kids (ages 7 and 9).

Disclaimer: Play Shifu send us an Orboot globe with accessories for this review. As always our opinions are our own.

I love traveling and have had the privilege of visiting many places around the world. I want my children to have an understanding of the world and where places are. Sure you can do this with a regular map or like we've done before we had Orboot - a single inflatable globe and an AI device. We found a place on the map and then asked Google/Alexa question about it.

Orboot refines that process and brings the two together with a physical globe and freely available app.

PS. The video below has a great explanation why a flat map doesn't provide an accurate measure of the scale of continents and countries. It's a real eye-opener.

So, you see, studying the world with an actual globe is really useful (not old fashioned!) Let's look what you get in the Orboot kit.

What's in the box

Orboot comes with a real globe, a passport, sticker book and stamp (all neatly stored in a canvas bag) and a free app which is available on iOS, Andriod and Amazon.

My son loved the passport and wants to take it on our real travels and add the stickers of places we've visited. The passport and stickers add great value to the set.

The Globe

The globe comes unassembled, but we had no problem following the instructions and putting it together. Once assembled, you don't need to take it apart. We received the EPS globe (most basic), but there is also a chrome plated version and an illuminated globe which you can plug in.

The graphics on the globe are fun and bright and will look really nice in a child's bedroom. If you're looking for an accurate globe with country borders and city names, then Orboot is not the right globe for you. It does, however, give you a sense of where places are in relation to each other.

The globe should be used with the app to get the full experience.

The App

The Orboot app is available on Google Play, the App Store and Amazon App Store. We've tested the app on my iPad Air 2, iPhone and our Amazon Fire tablet and it all worked as expected.

I was really surprised that the Amazon Fire app worked so well, which is a really good thing, as I wouldn't want a younger child using an expensive tablet unsupervised.

Orboot is suitable for 4+. In terms of usability and safety the age recommendation is right, however, some of the information may be too much for a 4-year-old.

When you open the app the first time, it prompts the child to get an adult to help with the setup. There's a security question (which doesn't change, so you child may figure it out if they watch you enter enough times!) You need to sync different categories, like animals or monuments or cultures, to activate when you scan the globe.

We recommend you pick only one category to begin. They can take some time to download (it's a huge app) and if your child is desperate to get going there will be plenty to explore in a single category. We picked monuments because my son was learning about famous building around the world at school. If you want to add more categories you need to close the app and start again.

The parent page will pop up every time you open the app until you have downloaded all the categories. After this, a child can easily open and use the app without assistance.

Categories currently included are animals, monuments, inventions, cultures, maps & climates and there is two others, cuisines and natural wonders coming soon.

How it works

The app prompt you to scan a small area of the globe to reveal AR items on the screen. It depends which category you downloaded, what you will see. When we hovered over England we saw Big Ben.

Then you click on the image you want to learn more about and another screen opens on the device with a voice over telling you about it. This part was quite funny as there were several different accents used for the audio. Although my husband and I found it quite amusing my son said: "The only thing I don't like is the funny voices!" We'll let you decide!

When you're done, close the screen and scan another part of the globe. My boys did this for hours and I just left them to explore and learn about different parts of the world.


Orboot is an interesting experience and makes a great start at bringing learning into the 21st century. Really this is how children should be learning. Hands-on, immersive learning. Knowledge is very accessible these day with the internet, it's how we engage our children with that knowledge and the impact it has on them, that will matter.

Anybody can ask Google to tell them about Big Ben! Using Orboot my son was able to find out where other important building were around the globe. He had some 'ah-ha' moments where he shouted "I didn't know The Taj Mahal and was in India!" He now wants to go to India for a family holiday!

Orboot isn't the largest of globes, so the surface area is somewhat limited, but there is enough content there to keep you engaged for days!

Play Shifu also do a range of flashcards on different topics using their AR technology. If you're looking for something a bit different and educational, then Orboot is a fun 'toy' to consider.

Orboot is available to purchase from Play Shifu online store.

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