Austin couple’s PopUp Play app creates playscapes kids customize


Our kids love apps, right? Anything they can manipulate on a tablet or a smartphone is usually right up their alley.

And we, as parents, want to scream at the top of our lungs, “Give me the iPad and go play.”

Austin husband-and-wife team Bryan Thomas and Amelia Cosgrove aren’t parents but they understand our kids and they remember with fondness how they used to play as children.

In fact, Cosgrove remembers an old cardboard shipping crate that her grandfather gave her and her sisters. They called it their flying phone booth — yes, our kids today would ask, “What’s a phone booth?” — and they would travel all around the world using their imaginations.

Thomas and Cosgrove wanted to give that same experience to today’s kids, while tapping into that love of apps. They created PopUp Play. It started as a $25,000 Kickstarter campaign in May and June and opened for non-Kickstarter campaign orders this month.

Kids can go to the App store on an iPad and download the PopUp Play Build Lab app. There they can create the castle, gingerbread house or rocket of their dreams. For a flat fee of $99, plus $10 shipping, their design will be created using fiberboard and arrive at their doorstep in a flat box within days.

The playscapes are made to be easily assembled by kids themselves — and can be disassembled and reassembled multiple times. The structures store back in that flat box for those times that don’t call for a 4-foot-by-4-foot-castle in the living room.

Each castle, gingerbread house or rocket is unique to that kid. Kids can decide how many windows and doors and what other amenities their structure might have, as well as where each amenity will go. They can add Medieval things like dragons, knights and archery ranges to the castle. The gingerbread house, which is being offered in time for Thanksgiving and Christmas, has all kinds of candy decorations from which to choose. The rocket will be available early next year. The price doesn’t change — regardless of how many features are added.

Kids can personalize their design by adding their name or creating scenes on the walls of the structure using the available art. What Thomas has seen so far has gone beyond what they expected. One kid named his Tornado Shelter. Another kid used art of bricks to create a pattern on the wall. One kid’s castle had three drawbridges.

“The way we do this, there’s no limitation on what a kid can design,” Thomas says.

Kids get to further personalize it because the walls become giant canvases with the amenities they added in black-and-white line drawings that they can color with crayons or markers.

More ideas are on the horizon, such as a pirate ship and a submarine. The Android version of the app will happen next year. PopUp Play also is working on a feature that lets kids can stand in their creation with the app on their tablet and have things happen, such as people invading their castle.

“Tablets are important part of today’s life,” Taylor says. “We need to find a way to use it and play actively and socially.”



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