If you haven’t already heard of Talking Tom, a funny and interactive app featuring the cat, Talking Tom, we are very happy to introduce you to it and to Iza Login, Co-founder and CEO of Outfit7 Limited, the developer of the Talking Tom family of apps. It is an app loved by both children and adults alike, and is one of the most popular apps, with the highest number of downloads on the App Store (App Store | Google Play).
As part of our work at the Technology Consulting Center at Beit Issie Shapiro we are in contact with many app developers. This relationship is important for us in order to raise awareness of the importance of universal and accessible design among those working in hi-tech. Sometimes even a minor change can make a significant impact on an app’s accessibility for people with disabilities and can make the difference between being able to use an app or not. We discovered that this relationship is also very meaningful to the developers. They are usually very excited to hear of how we are using their apps, often in ways they didn’t intend or even think of. Approaching app developers is very easy, with their contact information available directly through the app, on the developer website, or on the app’s iTunes page. Fostering these relationships is important.
Recently, as part of the proceedings at our meetings of the LUDI Network, a European initiative concerning play in children with disabilities, we had the great opportunity to meet Iza Login and hear fist-hand about the Talking Tom app’s creation and development. The story was even more interesting to us because we were quite familiar with the app. It is very popular with our students and we have been using it for a few years already. Iza was moved to hear about our experiences and told us that she had received many responses from other therapists and parents sharing similar feedback.
Pictures from LUDI Network meeting, Cyprus, June 2015, Talk given by Iza Login:
We love Talking Tom mostly because of how fun and funny it is. We see over and over again how the children enjoy themselves when they play with it. Often for our students, finding activities they can enjoy on their own is difficult. Talking Tom is an app that they can easily interact with independently and it makes them smile and laugh. As a plus…the talk-back feature really encourages them to make sounds or even say words, something that can difficult to motivate them to do in a therapeutic context.
And there’s more! There is already a line of merchandise associated with the characters that includes a set of dolls that interact with the apps.
More information about the apps and their other products can be found on their website And serious fans can find all their favorite characters on Facebook.
As a treat for our readers we asked Iza to answer a few questions and share a bit about the creation of Talking Tom and about new developments for the brand. Here are excerpts from our interview.
Hello Iza. We are very excited to be talking to you today. Talking Tom is an app we are familiar with here at Beit Issie Shapiro and we have been using it for a while now.
Can you tell us about the idea behind its development?
We had one clear objective when we launched Talking Tom: to entertain and empower the inner kid in us all – and what better way than a lovable, digital character who’s personality and charm is so infectious he raises a smile every time you see him on your screen. The idea behind Talking Tom came from my husband, co-founder and CEO of Outfit7, Samo Login, who is the architect of our Talking Tom and Friends franchise and leads the creative and overall strategy for both the company and its products.
When did this come about?
We launched the original Talking Tom Cat app in June 2010
How many downloads have you had so far?
Talking Tom is one of 15 apps under the Talking Tom and Friends umbrella brand, which now has in excess of 2.8 billion global downloads. This is an incredible number by anyone’s standards, but what’s so rewarding for us is that 250 million users are returning to the apps to play with the Talking Tom and Friends characters every month.
Tell us a bit about the company, who works there…?
Outfit7 was formed in 2009 and currently has around 200 employees. The company is headquartered in Limassol, Cyprus with offices in London, England; Ljubljana, Slovenia; Seoul, South Korea; and San Francisco, USA. We’re a passionate team who thrive off creativity and building content that brings happiness through entertainment to people’s lives.
Do you have other apps?
The Talking Tom and Friends brand consists of 6 lead characters and 15 apps. All but one of these characters has their own apps, and some more than one! There is a character for everyone to relate to as they all have distinct personalities and interests.
Our most recent app launch is Mars Pop – a reimagined, futuristic take on the classic bubble shooter game. It has true technological innovation as players can view their opponent’s screen, in real-time, as they battle for bubble shootout glory. It offers multiplayer competition for players of all ages and skill levels. Mars Pop is set in the year 2124 on NeoMars, a modern colony on the planet Mars, and is the first of many product launches under the NeoMars brand.
We’ve heard there is merchandise associated with the apps now. Can you tell us a bit about that?
We have a global licensing program that is enabling us to meet the huge consumer demand for Talking Tom and Friends branded merchandise. Having physical product selling in department stores and local retail outlets around the world enables the fans to ‘touch and feel’ the brand in a different way – increasing their engagement with the characters. We now have 50 licensing partners producing quality merchandise from apparel and toys to stationery and accessories.
I understand that Talking Tom was not made for people with disabilities but we have found it very useful for our children, especially to encourage speech and sound making, and it also provides easy opportunities for fun and playful experiences, alone or with others. Did you know about its impact on children and adults with disabilities?
We have received many heart-warming letters from parents and families of people with disabilities; sharing with us their accounts of how Talking Tom and his friends have impacted their lives by playing a role in their speech development. It’s wonderful to receive such first hand accounts and they really drive the team forward and motivate us. Our Talking Tom and Friends apps have fun at their core and the truly interactive nature means users can engage in two-way conversations, allowing for self-expression, as the user becomes the creator of their own content. The functionality not only appeals to people of all ages and demographics, but it also transcends language barriers – which is a contributing factor to its merits to people with disabilities.
What kind of feedback, if any, have you had from therapists, parents, or people with disabilities themselves?
We have also received touching letters from therapists and families of those with Autism, Down syndrome, Alzheimers and others, stating that Talking Tom has helped their loved ones be less guarded in communication and laugh more, since the in-app functions are more varied, engaging and fun when compared to games on the market specifically designed for special needs.
Any future plans that you can tell us about?
We are constantly developing and improving our products and will continue to do so to ensure we’re delivering the best quality content to our fans. Our animated series, which can be found on our branded YouTube channel and the YouTube Kids app (available in the US), is proving tremendously popular – with 180 million views since its launch in April. There will be lots more to come from the series, which stars the voices of Golden Globe-nominee Colin Hanks (“Fargo”, “Mad Men”) and Tom Kenny (“SpongeBob SquarePants”). Furthermore, there are plans underway for new app releases, so there’s a lot more on the horizon from Outfit7!
Iza, thank you for talking with us today and thank you for these wonderful apps. You have really turned Tom and his Talking Friends into an empire…and whether intentionally or not, you have added significant apps to the repertoire of apps that are fun and useful for people with disabilities.