The startup, based in Pittsburgh, consists of five members with a mission to create educational children’s games. Its first product, the cloudBoard, is a board game-video game hybrid, aimed at children aged 4-12. It teaches complex concepts via plastic blocks, which in turn control a video game character.
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The blocks themselves are so versatile they can represent almost anything, whether musical notes or atoms in a molecule. This has allowed Digital Dream Labs to create several games for the board already, covering complicated concepts like chemistry and engineering.
With the cloudBoard, players map out a route for their characters using the tiles on the board, before watching the character complete it. This theoretically results in higher-level brain functioning, by connecting an abstract concept to the real world through hands-on learning.
Peter Kinney, cofounder of Digital Dream Labs, says the beauty of the cloudBoard is breaking the child’s focus from what’s happening on the screen. “Having a physical piece that you can hold in your hands also engages more of your mind and gives you a way to relate complicated subjects to something you already understand, which is the basis of hands-on learning,” Kinney says.
The game emphasizes logical choices, rather than cultivating gaming “skillsets.” Players with the most dexterous fingers won’t necessarily do better; gameplay is actually an integral part of the lesson itself.
Digital Dream Labs has worked to create several games for the cloudBoard already. They developed the first, Cork the Volcano, pictured below, alongside the board itself.
Kinney also says a sentence-building game and a tower defense game are in the works, but he encourages other developers to create games for the cloudBoard.
“The ideas that we’re the most excited about are the ones that other people will come up with,” Kinney says. “We realize that we’re not going to be able to make every cloudBoard game ourselves, so every cloudBoard can also be used as a development unit for anyone to make their own games on.”
The cloudBoard is compatible with most devices (PC, tablet or smartphone) on virtually any platform.
Digital Dream Labs is currently seeking funding for the cloudBoard through its Kickstarter project, which ends Dec. 20. At the time of writing, it had received more than $20,254 toward a $90,000 goal.