App review by
Christine Elgersma, Common Sense Media
Orb App Poster Image

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Build 3D models using cool, free AR app; tricky controls.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

Manipulating shapes and constructing involves spatial awareness and skills. Planning construction and working to achieve goals involve executive function and effort. 

Ease of Play

Takes a while to get used to the controls and get the hang of all the tools.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Orb is a building app that uses augmented reality (AR) so that kids can create objects that -- from the device's screen -- look like they're in the real world. Though there are no content concerns, the controls would likely be tricky for little kids, so its best for very tech-savvy kids and tweens. If they take a screenshot or video, kids can share a picture of their creation through email or whatever sharing options are on the device. If kids create an account using an email and password, they can upload their creations to the Discover area and see other people's Orbs, which could contain mature references: We saw one orb titled "WTF." Having an account is totally optional. They can even export to a 3D printer. Note: At the time of review, there's no privacy policy.

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What's it about?

To use ORB, give the app access to your camera and let it calibrate the area where you'll use it. Grab the key and unlock your toolbox. Once you've walked through the tutorial, start building your first creation. Use the shape tools to create an Orb, and manipulate the shapes with the rotation tools. If you want to stretch, recolor, grab, or take a screenshot of your creation, use your toolbox. You can also use pre-created pictures to add to your build. If you get stuck, you can tap the question mark in the upper-right corner to get tips. When you're finished, you can download your creation, take a picture of it, share it, or export it to a 3D printer. If you sign up using an email address, you can upload Orbs to the Discover page in the app, which you can get to using the compass icon. When logged in, you can see other users' creations there.

Is it any good?

This model-building AR app really can create some cool things with a bit of patience and trial and error, but it could be frustrating for younger kids. Orb really does provide a creative take on the AR craze, since it lets kids manipulate virtual objects and put them together in endless combinations. As kids plan out projects, work to make something from their imagination, and figure out how to make it work, they practice lots of great skills like innovation, problem-solving, and spatial reasoning. It's important to note, however, that getting the shapes to do what you want isn't always easy, and it definitely takes some trial and error to get the hang of the controls. A slightly more extensive tutorial or in-app demo would help. Also, if kids do sign up with an email address, it's possible they'll see someone's cheeky creations in the Discover area, so that option might be best for tweens and teens. Overall, and especially for a free app, it has a lot to offer!

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about building with an app like Orb vs. building with real objects. How is it the same? Different? Which is easier and why?

  • Plan and work on a construction project with your kid: What's a good first step? What should we do next? Help them walk through the steps and problem-solve along the way.

App details

  • Devices: iPhone, iPad
  • Subjects: Hobbies: building
  • Skills: Thinking & Reasoning: part-whole relationships, problem solving, solving puzzles, spatial reasoning
    Creativity: developing novel solutions, imagination, making new creations
    Self-Direction: work to achieve goals
    Tech Skills: digital creation, using and applying technology
  • Price: Free
  • Pricing structure: Free
  • Release date: November 2, 2017
  • Category: Entertainment
  • Size: 350.00 MB
  • Publisher: Pantheon
  • Version: 1.4
  • Minimum software requirements: iOS 11.0 or later
  • Last updated: July 6, 2020

Our editors recommend

For kids who love building and AR

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