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Powerslyde Profiles – Stories Behind The Apps: Toon Goggles

toongogglesinc.com

My PSA for this week is that my home will soon be overrun by small children off school for Thanksgiving break.  Like many other parents, I must prepare with Costco-sized provisions and electronic offerings a plenty to appease the three foot tall masses. Parenthood isn’t easy but luckily there are family-friendly apps that can make juggling the attention of small kids a lot easier.  Toon Goggles is one of those apps.  James Cahall, Chief Technology Officer for Toon Goggles, Inc., guides me with his wisdom on how we can all survive the upcoming holiday season in one piece. 

James Cahall, CTO

 

Hey James – tell us about your app! Toon Goggles is a 100% kid-safe, parent friendly on-demand entertainment service featuring over 4,600 cartoons and 60 HTML5 games.  It’s available worldwide on iOS, Android, Web, Windows 8, Roku, Google TV, and numerous Smart TVs and is targeted to children ages 2-12.  Content is broken up in to 7 basic categories: Boys, Girls, Action, Comedy, Preschool, Education, and Boom Goggles (user-created content).  The service has been used by over 2,500,000 users since launch in March 2011 and we'll be pre-loaded on over 3,000,000 Android tablets by the end of this year.

Screenshot 1Parents with small kids want and NEED kid friendly on-demand entertainment and Toon Goggles helps address this need.  Brilliant!  Tell us about the team.  Stephen L. Hodge is our Managing Director.  He comes from the music industry helping promote and showcase a variety of different artists and entertainers across a wide swath of genres. Stephen has always been on the forefront of technology and how it impacts business and peoples’ lives in meaningful ways. When the idea for On Demand Children’s Entertainment was initially conceived, Stephen spearheaded the creation of Toon Goggles. He took the concept of providing child-friendly content through applications and the Internet around the world, meeting face to face with all the consumer electronics manufacturers and securing deals with billion-dollar companies such as: Sony, Sharp, Panasonic, Samsung, Roku, Dell, and children’s tablet makers.  Stephen continued this success by identifying mobile gaming as a valuable companion to Toon Goggles, leading to the formation of Dinomite Apps, which brings a share of the revenue back to Toon Goggles.

As for me, I manage everything from scalable server infrastructure to web, mobile and connected TV applications as well as all of our technology development and feature integration.  I lead our platform agnostic design implementation to support delivery to millions of users on virtually all modern devices operating systems such as Roku, Panasonic, etc.  

We have a team of 30+ other individuals working on operations and development including Jordan Warkol (Director of Business Development), Brendan Pollitz (Creative Director) and Jimmy Huynh (Director of Operations). 

Screenshot 3How does Toon Goggles differ from other family friendly apps in the app stores?  You’ve been around since 2011, right?  Yes, 2011!  What makes us different are our features including: users can save content for offline viewing, we’re fully COPPA (Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act) compliant, our modular-based technology infrastructure can be quickly adapted for any content (e.g. Speed, BET, Discovery, Comedy Central, etc.), we’re global and localized in 18 languages, we have the most diverse professionally created content library on any video platform, we have the largest short-form content library curated for children, our contracts with partners are revenue based and we’re the only entertainment service that features children created animations (in partnership with Toom Boom Animation.)

LogoThe years you’ve spent building, testing and refining the app show in the rich content and the family-friendly design.  Can you elaborate on your philosophy behind the design – both for the product and the icon?  All of the designs on our platform have been focused on creating an inviting and engaging experience for children.  While it has evolved over the last several years, we’ve tried to make an interface that feels familiar to kids.  For instance, our mobile applications list shows games on bookshelves and makes categories very clear using discrete colors.  Our app icon breaks the ice with cool goggles to signify our idea of taking life and putting on “cartoon goggles” on it to make it more fun.  The service also allows users to choose screen names and pick avatars to signify what the user associates themselves with most.  Future updates will allow them to interact with other users.  

Screenshot 5What tools did you use for creating the app?  For iOS, we use Xcode, Dashcode, FileMerge.  For Android, we use Eclipse.  For Windows 8, we use Visual Studio Express 2012.  For HTML and JavaScript/CE, we use TextWrangler/Eclipse.  For Server/Back-End/Website, we use Drupal, Amazon Web Services, Kaltura, Git and Source Tree.  For project management, we like Basecamp and Unfuddle.  For Communities, we use Stack Overflow, iphonedevsdk and Drupal.

All those tools and yet for the parents and kids it just feels like it works automagically on all those devices.  What lessons did you learn building your app?  Honestly, the development industry excels in teams working together for common goals.  It’s great to have so many open source tools and developers willing to help others.  We’ve also found quite often that tools were not available for what we needed them to do so we started inventing and pushing the limits of technology.

Screenshot 4What went right and wrong with the development and release? Some of our earliest endeavors with web and iOS involved hiring developers that were not able to meet our high standards and led to products that required an immense amount of re-work.  Since then, we’ve focused on hiring developers that are forward thinking, detail (yet big picture) oriented, and we’ve had exceptional success since then.  Some of the biggest challenges, of course, are trying to support a huge variety of configurations for the many platforms we support (especially on Android where our application has over 85 different configurations).  We also were not prepared for our first large growth spurt last Christmas which led to a short downtime.  We’ve since learned from our mistakes and now are poised to handle several million active users at any given period.

What were you and the team doing before you created Toon Goggles?  Steve (Managing Director) was involved in financing cartoons.  Brendan (Creative Director) was creating movies and was the protégé for Peter Keefe, the creator of billon-dollar licensing earning properties such as Voltron, Denver the Last Dinosaur, and Widget the World Watcher.  I was building military aircrafts before joining on as CTO.  Jordan (Director of Business Development) grew up in the entertainment industry as an actor starting at the age of four, notably playing the role of ‘Froggy’ in the 1995 version of the “The Little Rascals”!  Jimmy (Director of Operations) has a background in children’s education and graphic design.  He was full time in school before joining the team.

What are your favorite apps?  Quora is my favorite app by far and Flipboard is the easiest way to read the news.

James, big congrats to you and the team on helping to change the way parents discover and share quality on-demand family-friendly content with their kids – this is exactly the perfect app that can help any frazzled parent survive holidays, weekends and every day that ends in "y".  

Hey you!  Wanna be featured like our friends at Toon GogglesBe sure to check out www.powerslyde.com/developers.

 

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