Stikbot Studio is a free smartphone app (available on both IOS and Android) that allows children to create short films featuring small, articulated figures called Stikbots. Created by Zing Toys, Stikbots feature several points of articulation and are very flexible, allowing them to be posed in virtually any way the child wants. The Stikbots come in packs of one or two; the larger sets include a small tripod that will keep the phone steady and the shots consistent. The app is designed so that, although the figures have to be manually posed between shots, the film will appear to be seamless (working in much the same way as a stop-motion film).
Children are not limited to posing and filming the toys, however: Stikbot Studio allows the user to create voiceover for individual characters or narration. The filmmaker can even add sound effects to the movie, deciding where each effect occurs and how long it lasts.
According to Zing Toys, Stikbot Studio is “the world’s first social media sharing toy, with the capacity to shape your imagination into endless possibilities” (2015). It would appear that there is no didactic angle to this toy, and that it is meant to be nothing more than a creative exercise.
Although the app is free, the Stikbots themselves are not: a pack of two figures costs $9.99 or more, and individual Stikbots can cost around $7.00. I found these figures by observing Stikbots at local stores; prices may vary elsewhere or online. If the child wants a large cast for his or her film, it might be rather expensive for the parent. The fact that the Stikbots cost money would seem to indicate that the app serves as marketing for a commercial interest.
The Stikbot figures are sturdy and made with durable plastic, but their joints use rubber bands and this occasionally makes them snap back into place; this might make filming more difficult than one would expect (Ulanoff, 2015). Because the tripod’s feet are made of rounded plastic, it is occasionally shaky and unreliable (Burt, 2015).
The app (and by extension, the toys) is marketed toward children ages 4 and up, but I believe that slightly older children should be the primary demographic: the app can be confusing for younger children, as it includes virtually no instructions and requires the user to interpret the meaning behind certain buttons or symbols (Ulanoff, 2015). The app’s layout is difficult to decipher and includes features that might not be useful for children, such as “White Balance.”
While Zing boasts that the toy/app is the world’s first social media sharing toy, the app does not explain how to share one’s videos on social networking sites; I managed to find a button that would allow me to share the video on Instagram, but there does not seem to be an option to share videos on Facebook or Twitter. The social media angle seems to be secondary to the filmmaking element, which is strange given Zing’s insistence that videos are meant to be shared online. I doubt, however, that many young children will care about the social media angle to the toy; I assume they are more likely to see it as a way for them to make funny videos with their toys.
Despite its (many) flaws, Stikbot Studio is a fun app that requires some patience, but ultimately pays off. Children can use the app to exercise their creativity, concocting plots and characters they can visit again and again.
Burt, P. (2015). “Stikbot allows kids to create stop-motion animation with ease.” Geekdad.com. Retrieved from http://geekdad.com/2015/09/stikbot/
n.d. (2015). “About.” Stikbot.com. Retrieved from http://www.stikbot.com/about/
Ulanoff, L. (2015). “Stikbot lets users of all ages create animated videos, without breaking the bank.” Mashable.com. Retrieved from http://mashable.com/2015/08/17/stikbot-review/#eZjFmwLmrOqa