X is for X-Ray: Cool, interactive kids' app

There are lots of alphabet books out there. Matching a letter to an object and pairing them with a little bit of cute poetry is a conceit that goes back to the days when alphabet books were printed on a single sheet of paper protected by a thin layer of animal horn.

What makes the iPad/iPhone app X is for X-Ray different is its ability to feed kids' curiosity. Every alphabetic object in X is for X-Ray, from an accordion to a zipper, has had its insides photographed by Hugh Turvey, Artist in Residence at the British Institute of Radiology. (Which sounds like an incredibly cool job, to begin with.)

As you read through the book, you can turn the X-ray vision on and off, rotate some of the images 360 degrees around, zoom in on other images, and even put on a pair of stereoscopic glasses to see things in 3D.

Unsurprisingly, this gimmick works better for some letters than others. A flower, for instance, doesn't make for the most exciting x-ray to look at. Nor does a piggy bank. But the internal combustion engine more than makes up for those brushes with mediocrity. If you put the engine photo in x-ray mode and rotate it, the image comes to life. Suddenly, you're not just looking at the insides of a piece of mechanical technology, you're watching them work—pistons pumping and cranks turning. It's really neat and strikingly beautiful.

My main complaint with the app is really a complaint with app development, in general: X is for X-Ray is only available for iPhone and iPad. I don't own either of those things. If it weren't for the fact that Mike Levad, the app's producer, lives in Minneapolis and brought the app to me to try out on his iPad, I wouldn't even be writing this review. There seems to be a remarkable number of very cool science-related apps that aren't available for Android. I find that a bit annoying.

Watch the video to see a preview of X is for X-Ray.

Download it at the Apple App Store: $7.99 (iPad) and $2.99 (iPhone, iPod touch)


  1. Sounds like your problem isn’t so much with app development in general, but with Android’s failure to penetrate the market with a unified platform.  Developers know that they can write one universal app, and it will run on both generations of iPad, three generations of iPhone, and probably the last couple of generations of iPod Touch.  That’s a lot of potential customers.  But if they want to release their app on Android, they have to consider the varied landscape of Android device capabilities, form factors, and supported versions of the OS.

    Add to that the fact that report after report has shown that Android users on the whole are apparently reluctant to actually *pay* for apps, and it’s not hard to see why developers find it an easy decision to pass on Android.

    1. No need hazarding a guess… Android users are cheapskates, they like being free and free beer! They are also the 99%!

      Yea pretty awesome app thou… A pity, but I wouldn’t spare a dime on it, because I am a android user. You only need to Google Apple customer demographics to show, brand loyalty, income skew, i.e. rich and idolatry

      1. Right on!

        Down with usability! Technology should be a struggle, reflecting the struggle in life those of us who toil for the 1%. Solidarity!

        (from a user of both Android and Apple’s latest gen devices)

  2. Maggie, I’ve thoroughly enjoyed your contributions. If you would be so kind as to contact me, I would be so kind as to buy you an iPad so that you might see what all the fuss is about.

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