Founder Raul Gutierrez said that he observed his own children treating their house like a living thing — listening to the water moving through the pipes, for instance — and realized they were curious about how people lived.
“Being from Brooklyn, my kids are particularly interested in homes around the world,” Gutierrez said in a release. “When we travel, even small differences between homes become the object of intense study. They want to know how children in other places live, how they play, how they sleep.”
Homes looks to provide that outlet, without the plane travel. The app has places of residence for kids to digitally explore in Brooklyn, Mongolia, Guatemala and Yemen. Past apps from Tinybop have come with additional updates later on.
We reached out to Gutierrez for some behind the scenes insights about the new app.
One aspect of Tinybop’s work that stands out for us is this: while the company uses gaming engines to build its products, Tinybop is not making games, per se, but rather digital toys.
“Games have distinct goals or rules. They are puzzles to be solved, races to be won,” Gutierrez explained in an email. “Through play kids figure out how things work. In our Homes app, kids can cook, clean, make a mess in homes that carefully model real homes around the world. Through play they might notice cultural or economic differences, but we’re not beating kids over the head with the educational goals. There is nothing to win, only things to do.”
On the backend, the team also made the shift to Apple’s Swift, from Objective C. Gutierrez described this as simply working ahead of what they would have to do one day either way. “It also allows us to future-proof and to pick up the look and feel of a proper iOS app,” he wrote. “The hardest part about using Swift was that it’s still being developed and it doesn’t necessarily play nice with Unity yet. So a significant amount of MacGyvering to make things work.”
One interesting aspect of Tinybop’s workflow (which speaks to the distinctive look of its apps), is that the team leads with illustration first. When they have the look they want, then they move it into technology. Not the other way around, Gutierrez told us.
Reflecting its global sensibility, Homes is available in more than 50 languages. Additionally, the company is careful to observe the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act.
Over the summer, we showed you Tinybop’s new space on Atlantic Avenue.-30-