Touch Press, developers of such apps as The Elements and March of the Dinosaurs, presents X Is for X-Ray (2011), an interactive alphabet book designed to elucidate the ins and outs of everyday objects through x-ray photography. With a series of swipes and pinches (swipe up for natural light, down for x-ray, left and right to rotate, and pinch to zoom in and out), twenty-six images of ordinary objects, one for each letter of the alphabet, transform before your eyes to reveal in striking detail what could accurately be described as the guts of the things themselves.
Hugh Turvey’s stunning x-ray photography pairs perfectly with children’s author Pat Rosenthal’s descriptive and informative essays describing each item and how it works from the inside out. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for Rosenthal’s cutesy (often clumsy) verse, which disregards most of the underlying science.
After less than five minutes of play, it became apparent that this app attempts, unsuccessfully, to reach two audiences at once: young users learning the alphabet and older users interested in the way things work. If you focus on the x-rays and essays, the alphabetical structure becomes superfluous. And if you focus on the alphabetical structure and verse, you lose most of the informational content.
Additionally, some of the objects are better suited than others to demonstrate x-ray technology. For instance, x-rays of machines, such as the combustion engine or toaster, reveal the inner wiring and mechanisms that make the machine function, while less intricate objects, such as the hat or teddy bear, require corny effects (e.g., a red heart in the chest of the teddy) to make the x-ray interesting. The science behind this app is compelling, but sadly diluted in an attempt to reach a broader audience.