Sandbox Summit: Highs, Lows, and Hopes

This week, we attended the Sandbox Summit at MIT for the third consecutive year. As expected, it was an inspiring two days filled with brilliant speakers who helped us reframe what is possible in the world of children’s media. This year was especially enlightening and entertaining, so we decided to reflect on the highs, the lows, and what we’d like to see come next.

While there were many great speakers and sessions, three projects that truly inspired us were Giver, KidZania, and Caine’s Arcade. At the core, these projects promote creative play, but more importantly, hope – hope for more playful neighborhoods, hope for freedom from parents (even for a couple hours), and hope for dreams coming true. They inspire kids to believe that anything is possible and provide outlets to explore untapped creativity, optimism, and confidence. With an abundance of technology and media targeted at kids, it’s inspiring to see adults who put so much effort and passion into providing tactile, real-world experiences that encourage kids to interact with the world in more playful and collaborative ways. Some of the other awesome people/projects that inspired us include The Creative Coalition, Call Me Ishmael, and DK.

With so many great presentations that explored BIG ideas about play, games, learning, and creativity, only one session seemed to miss the mark (and the spirit of the conference). While it is important to hear an executive perspective, it probably makes sense that the person doesn’t spend the time talking about their professional accomplishments and failing to mention their team and collaborators (well, excluding celebrities). Yes, the session was intended to inspire business development strategies but after talking with a number of attendees, it seems creative team building strategies may have been more inspiring. As someone who has started a business and produced dozens of projects, none of it would have happened without a team of talented collaborators. In a conference geared towards creating a more playful society, the presenter had the opportunity to discuss how collaboration (at all levels) results in more playful and creative media for kids, young and old.

So, where do we go from here? Well, we’d like to float an idea for next year’s conference theme: Radical Approaches to Collaboration. Artists, educators, parents, developers, and researchers are not birthed in isolation chambers, and there is a Renaissance-era cultural bias towards the individual that is as compelling as it is pervasive, but times are rapidly changing. Technology has destroyed geographical barriers and computers have made creative collaboration easier than ever before. Teams of people are working together to solve incredibly complex problems and create transformative works of art and media. Collaboration and cross-pollination helps build a foundation for larger creative networks and more powerful cultural institutions. As an industry, let’s celebrate innovative and radical approaches to collaboration and see how this can make all our work more transformative and impactful. Because if we’ve learned anything as a company, we not only need to provide innovative and enriching experiences for younger minds, but we also must inspire each other on a daily basis. 

Either way, we’re already looking forward to the 2016 Sandbox Summit.

Sandbox Summit 2014 Takeaways


The arrival of springtime in Boston gives us many reasons to be excited, and the annual Sandbox Summit is near the top of our list (though warmer weather and ice cream will always be #1 and #2). This year was no exception, with a wide array of thought-provoking presentations and sessions. Even more so than at past Summits, the majority of speakers and workshops had a cohesive message focussed around intertwined core topics including child-driven learning, the importance of play, and the ability to embrace failure. Check out our synopsis (below the break), highlighting key points around these unifying topics.

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OZMAT in the Guardian

OZMAT Guardian

Last Thursday, the Guardian featured OZMAT via a guest post written by Dr. Elias Lipton, the the fictional hero of the web series. In the science-leaning article, Dr. Lipton makes an impassioned case for scientific advancement and OZMAT:

In many ways, 2013 has been a wonderful year for humankind. The Higgs boson has been identified. We are discovering ever more habitable planets across our Milky Way galaxy. Just today I read that a team led by Mike Thewalt at Simon Fraser University held a fragile quantum memory state at room temperature for 39 minutes. Thirty-nine minutes! That shatters the world record! The head tingles at the ways in which ultrafast quantum computing could change our world in the not-too-distant future.

Alas, I now fear that such major technological breakthroughs will be few and far between in the coming years. We may in fact be heading toward a period of prolonged stagnation in scientific advancement. No, I’m not talking about fewer young people interested in mathematics and science. And no, I’m not talking about a sluggish world economy slowing down research. I’m talking about a future without OZMAT. 

Read the entire article here and be sure to check out some of the comments at the bottom of the post. OZMAT was created and produced by CloudKid.

Introducing iRead


Back in 2011, we partnered with Scholastic Education to help develop groundbreaking reading software for K-2 classrooms. Scholastic’s had tons of success with intervention software for older students who have struggled with reading, so the natural next step was to create a product for younger audiences and help prevent reading ability gaps altogether. The big challenge was creating a property that would engage the K-2 audience. Enter CloudKid!

Over the course of nearly two years, we collaborated with the team at Scholastic to create iRead, an interactive, character-driven program that takes place at Beastie Hall, a school for monster readers-in-training. With Scholastic, we developed the IP, designed the characters and backgrounds, created an avatar system, made an animated program opener and designed dozens of interactive activities that reinforce reading lessons. We put a ton of work and creativity into this program, and we’re so excited that it’s finally set to launch in classrooms across the country in fall 2013!

We were lucky enough to observe a pilot of the program recently. Kids seemed to love everything about iRead, and watching them enjoy and learn from something we helped create was amazing to witness. We can’t wait to share more on this exciting project closer to launch!

Fizzy’s Fresh Pick Launches!


Back in October, we told you all about Fizzy’s latest gaming experience, Fresh Pick: The Search for the Next Lunch Labber! We’re super excited to announce that Fresh Pick has finally launched on! The game and cinematic-packed experience is also available for iPad, Kindle, Nook and Android tablets.

We put a lot of time and love into creating Fresh Pick, and we’re so excited that it’s now available across so many platforms! From self-leveling games to extensive analytics, Fresh Pick included a lot of firsts for us, and as always, we’re excited to hear everyone’s feedback.

Think you have what it takes to be Fizzy’s next apprentice? Check out Fresh Pick and put your skills to the test in your very own quest to become the next Lunch Labber! Oh, and don’t forget to tell us what you think!

Independent Projects

It’s been an exciting three months here at CloudKid. During this time, we’ve been focused on producing internal and independent projects. We’ve been working very hard on these three very different projects that have enabled us to take big risks and expand our skills.

1) Negative NimbusNimbus is CloudKid’s first independently produced transmedia property. After launching the iOS game in October, the reception and reviews have been fantastic. Since the launch, we’ve added two new worlds, dozens of comics, new achievements, and Game Center compatibility, and expanded to Android. A Nimbus-themed weather app is also in the works.

2) Social Sharing App – We’ve also been building a truly unique social app and website that revolves around avatars and social content sharing. While not implicitly designed for kids, this experience utilizes many of CloudKid’s design and user experience strengths. It’s a collaboration with a NYC-based tech incubator and is slated to launch early 2013.

3) Sci-fi Web Series – Finally, we’ve been producing a general audience live-action/animated web series that follows the story of a government researcher. The narrative unfolds via a variety of content including video logs, animations, audio clips, and documents. It’s been our most ambitious and challenging project to date, and is slated to launch in 2013.

While these projects are very different from one another, they have one thing in common: they were designed for all ages, not just kids. These new projects have utilized the skills we’ve developed while producing children’s media, but they’ve pushed us to think about a broader audience. In the coming year we hope to produce more content for tweens, teens, and beyond, so we can continue to challenge ourselves as filmmakers, artists, and technologists.

App Store Double Feature!

It’s a big day for us at CloudKid HQ: both Negative Nimbus and Hectic Harvest had app store releases. As of today, Negative Nimbus is now available on iPhone and iPod Touch (in addition to iPad). We’ve also released a new world with 8 additional levels, along with more hats, comics and achievements. We’re so excited to bring Nimbus and the Sunnyland crew to an even larger audience with this latest release, and we hope you all get a chance to play!

Today also marks the app store debut of Hectic Harvest, a Fizzy’s Lunch Lab game that we ported and optimized for iOS devices. We’re really excited to bring one of our favorite Lunch Lab games to this new platform, and really hope everyone enjoys playing as well. We can’t think of a better way to spend this rainy day than with two awesome new apps!

Meet Romo

Earlier this year, we excitedly partnered with Romotive, an innovative startup working on an amazing smartphone robot. As the Romotive team got their robots ready for launch, we worked on the design and animation of the “Romo” character, who will be the face of the experience.

The new Romotive website and Kickstarter just relaunched, and we’re super excited to see the new character designs and animations showcased. We’re currently working on even more cool features and new characters for Romotive, and we can’t wait to share those as well! Stay tuned for more information, but in the meantime, you can find out more about Romo here.