Inside the World of Dinosaurs: Absolutely No Expenses Spared

I don’t know a great deal about dinosaurs, however, I do remember being fascinated by them as a child. I grew up with Jurassic Park in the cinema and often went fossil hunting on the beaches of the south coast of England.

Understandably then, I jumped at the chance to take a look at a new app: Inside the World of Dinosaurs for iPad. The app’s description promises;

The most comprehensive interactive dinosaur encyclopedia on the iPad.

Complete with in excess of 60 “photo realistic” animated, 3D dinosaurs. So does this app really give you a view of what it was like inside the world of the dinosaurs?

Read on to find out…


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Features

The app features Stephen Fry as its narrator which, in my opinion, alone makes the app worth the asking price. Stephen Fry talking, at length, about dinosaurs; what could be better?

Quality of narration aside, Inside the World of Dinosaurs launches with an impressive series of 3D dinosaur animations and a soundtrack that could be straight out of Jurassic Park itself. Straight away you can tell that a not insignificant amount of money has been invested in making this look and feel like a quality application.

Inside the World of Dinosaurs title screen

Inside the World of Dinosaurs title screen.

Finding a dinosaur to read more about couldn’t be easier. You simply select the era you’re interested in (Triassic, Jurassic or Cretaceous) and then select a species from the horizontally-scrolling list you’re presented with. Each species has an enticing (and often terrifying!) picture, invariably with rows of sharp teeth.

Choosing a species

Choosing a species.

After choosing a dinosaur, you’re presented with a detailed description of its habits and diet, an animated 3D model, various facts and figures and often, several highly detailed interactive models of fossilised remains, dinosaur eggs or the animal itself which you can move around and zoom in on. While listening to the narration and viewing the animated 3D model, you also hear what the dinosaur may have sounded like as it chirps, cries or roars at you. All of this really makes for an engaging user experience.

It’s not all 3D animations of dinosaurs, though. There are also sections on fossil hunting, excavation techniques and famous fossil hunters through the ages, while the Articles section contains information about the landscape that dinosaurs lived in and a particularly interesting 3D model of the Earth showing what the continents looked like 250 million years ago.

Narration

The narration is pretty much perfect, in my opinion. Well paced and clearly read, you can pause, rewind or skip forwards through the text which can be followed on-screen. This makes it ideal for younger children who can see the words as they are read out. If left to its own devices, the app will read through each page of the app from start to finish – great for long car journeys to keep you entertained, and much more engaging than reading a website or a regular text book.

User Interface

The 3D animations of each dinosaur are fantastic. While you watch, the dinosaurs walk, run or pounce on their prey, each giving their own distinctive cries or roars. It would be great if you could move around the animated dinosaurs using the touchscreen, however, only the static 3D models are movable.

The traditional iOS bottom tab bar is used to navigate your way around the app and, while this method is easy to use and understand, it’s not the most beautiful, especially on the iPad. I could say the same thing about the typography and colour scheme used throughout the app – my preference wouldn’t be for white text on a black background.

The fact that each page has the same layout as the last, however, it didn’t affect my enjoyment one bit, especially once I got into the narration.

The consistency actually made it easier to go to a specific dinosaur and look up the information I was after. This makes me think that the app is designed primarily as a research or learning tool instead of a digital magazine for casual browsing. That said, I’ve gone back to it several times and browsed my way around it so I could be wrong. The user interface is definitely functional rather than beautiful, though.

Stegosaurus

Detailed facts and figures are available for each species.

What’s Missing?

So what could be added to the app to improve it? I’d like to see more video content, but that’s probably not the goal of this application. I also feel like the user interface could be more beautiful with a better choice of font and colours and possibly a re-imagined navigation.

It would be wonderful to be able to move around the animated 3D models and save images of them to the camera roll, perhaps to use in Keynote or Pages documents (for school projects, perhaps). But none of these minor complaints should be allowed to overshadow the sheer amount of information, imagery and entertainment that’s available within Inside the World of Dinosaurs. It would make for a great research tool and for people with an interest in dinosaurs or fossils, this is a must-have app.

Timeline

The timeline gives you an idea of when each species existed.

Conclusion

Stephen Fry’s narration, combined with the wealth of information, facts, figures and images of such a variety of dinosaurs would make this app worth the money. However, you also have dozens of high-quality, photo-realistic, 3D animated models (complete with sound-effects) which make it even better value.

While the user-interface itself probably won’t blow you away, the ability to see and hear what the animals that inhabited our planet millions of years ago were like really should. I think it’s fantastic that apps like this exist to bring such subjects alive for children and adults alike. I know I would have loved it when I was younger – hopefully Inside the World of Dinosaurs will inspire at least a few new fossil hunters in the future!


Summary

Inside the World of Dinosaurs™ is the most comprehensive interactive dinosaur encyclopedia on the iPad. The app contains over 60 fully animated and interactive photo realistic dinosaurs and magical narration by world-famous UK actor, comedian, writer and host of BBC’s QI, Stephen Fry.

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