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  • Writer's pictureMadison Hagler

Cognito - App Review

Don’t hate me when I say this...I love magic apps. I don’t know why, but I love them, and I always have. Before iPhones were a thing, I had “magic apps” on my “Pantech C3” cell phone. There was a company (I wish I could remember their name) that produced magical effects for almost every model of phone.

The one trick I vividly remember was a picture of a candle that I could blow out but the spectator couldn’t. There were many others as well. I showed these tricks to everyone which is comical now considering how very small the Pantech C3 was (it was the smallest flip phone manufactured standing at a whopping 2.72 inches tall and 1.69 inches wide.)

Before the Pantech, I had “Magic Interactive” by Haim Goldenberg which was a CD you would put into the computer, and your computer would perform magic. For many years any time my parents had friends over, I would usher them into the “computer room” and perform my magic show with the computer.

Long story short, when iPhones came out and magic started to be produced for them. I was the perfect customer. Excited by magic and technology, I have owned virtually every magic app that has ever been created. The “beer drinking” app, Mental Killer, iUnlockYourMind, iForce, Inject, and the list goes on and on. Literally you name it, I’ve probably had it at one point or another.

About a month ago, some word of a new magic app began circulating. First a facebook group was created. From the Facebook group ten people were randomly selected to beta test the app. From there, the app had a promised release date (which didn’t happen) but to “make up for it” they pre-released the app a week early for those in the group. It was pre-released this past Friday (October 15th, 2021.) At the end of this coming week (October 22nd, 2021) the app will be released for the “general public.”

Admittedly, I hate when products get hyped to the extreme. This was certainly the case here. The hype was pure madness and included video reactions, videos talking about what it is without actually telling what it is, memes, and tons of comments teasing the users in the group about when they could buy it. The frustrating thing is that over-hyping a product will not go away anytime soon because it works so successfully! The people in the group were pumped out of their minds for this app they knew nothing about. When it came time for them to buy it, they were practically throwing money at every dealer they could get access to.

Soon after the pre-release, I began to piece everything together, and I had a sneaky suspicion that I knew what the app actually was. I thought this app that is “revolutionary” may actually be a modern take on a very old mathematical principle which is taught and included in many beginner magic kits. I reached out to a new owner of the app, and I was disappointed to find out my suspicions were correct. After all this hype, the product being hyped has actually existed in another form for a hundred years?

The next day, Murphy’s reached out and asked if I wanted to review the app on my blog. “Oh this will be fun,” I thought to myself. I was fully prepared to hate this app. I downloaded the app and watched the ninety minute tutorial. Oh no… I actually like it.

Look, I wanted to hate this app. I really did. I was fully prepared to run it through the mud. However, this app has a lot of really amazing features, and my mind is buzzing with possibilities. The app allows you to perform the trick on yourself with the “Chaos Reveal” as an introduction to the power of the reveal. Even though I knew the method, the reveal was totally unexpected, and I couldn’t help but smile.

There are currently ten routines that come preloaded onto the app. These are:

Chaos Reveal - Any card is thought of by the spectator. Their card is revealed at the end in an unexpected way

This is the routine that the tutorial tells you to perform on yourself. You think of any card, look through some photos, and the card you're thinking of is revealed in a novel way. The reveal genuinely caught me off guard and made me smile.

Chaos Peek - Any card is thought of and the performer is able to peek what the thought of card is.

There’s not too much to say about this. They think of a card, they look through some photos, and you are able to peek their thought of card.

Split Reveal - This is the same concept as the chaos reveal with the only difference being there are fewer cards to look at in each photo.

This doesn’t really offer any advantage over the Chaos Reveal in my mind, but I think it is there more to teach the concept of what the “split” does and how it works. The benefit is that the spectator can move quicker since there are fewer cards, but the downside is that it somehow makes it feel less random IMO.

Split Peek - The same concept as the Chaos Peek but with fewer cards in each photo.

Again, there’s not much to say about this one, but I prefer the Chaos approach.

Horoscope Peek - The spectator reads their horoscope, and you are able to peek what their star sign is.

This is nice, and it opens up some possibilities presentationally, but the next version is better.

Peekless Peek (Horoscope) - The spectator silently reads any horoscope that isn’t their own. They do this a couple of times to prove that every horoscope describes every person, and it in fact has nothing to do with the stars aligning. Without ever touching the phone or needing to peek anything, the performer knows their star sign.

This is genius. The Michael Murray addition that Lloyd teaches takes it up to one of the best star sign reveals that exists. It feels genuinely impossible, and it feels almost sinister to perform. As far as I know this is a brand new concept even beyond app magic. This is so great.

U.S. States Peek - The spectator thinks of any state, and you are able to know what it is.

This one is a bit random and would require some strong patter to make sense of it. It’s not something I will ever be using, but it is there to show the versatility of the app.

Marvel Movies Peek - The spectator thinks of any Marvel movie. (Even as specific as Iron Man 2) They look through some photos, and you are able to peek their thought-of-movie.

If you’re a Marvel/movie buff this may be fun for you to add into your repertoire. It isn’t for me, so I won’t be performing it, but if you plan on performing it, it will take some thinking in order to give it some justification.

Homonym Peek - The spectator thinks of a homonym and reads the definitions of their word. You are able to peek their thought-of-word.

There are 28 words to choose from. The justification is a little lackluster for me, and ultimately it seems like a strange restriction on a thought-of-word. I don’t think this is the best use of the app, but if you have a reason and a justification for it, it works reliably.

Date Peek - The spectator looks through various concert touring dates to find what concerts are playing on their birthday. You are able to peek their birthdate and star sign.

I think this is mainly added to the app to show that even a list of 365 things can be Cognitoed (am I the first to use that term? I’ll claim it.) I’m not sure this is a routine anyone would ever actually do, as there are better, quicker ways to get a birthday from someone, but it does show the versatility of the app.

That concludes the preloaded routines.

Here’s the thing; I am confident 75% of users (or more) will only ever perform one or two of these preloaded routines. I believe very few people will sit down and create their own routines using the app. This is a shame, because the pre-loaded routines are good, but they are nowhere near the extreme of what the app is capable of. I genuinely believe we will be seeing some genius contributions in the near future. (The newest update allows users to share their routine with other Cognito users in a very easy way.) Michael Murray has already provided contributions which are discussed in the tutorial, and these contributions have excited me more than anything the app was capable of on its own. When these methods get added together with other methods, you get further and further away from the idea that the technology is the magic. Making your own routine is a lot of work, but the app makes it as easy for you as possible, and thankfully, the entire app is very user friendly.

Now I hate to hurt feelings with this, but can I tell you the worst thing you can use this app for? (Of course I can, it’s MY blog.) The worst thing you can use this app for is a card trick. We have plenty of card magic with actual cards. The last thing the spectators need or want to see is a card trick done with a phone. It’s just one of the laziest things you can do. Instead, find a way to make the phone logical and necessary. Find a way to make the “input” methods logical. If you do both of these things, this app can be one of the most powerful tools created. And I mean that from the bottom of my heart.

The real power of the app comes in all of the input method options. So far there are three input methods; it is very likely you can find a way to use one of these options for any routine you are creating. Add in the option to “reverse” the input and the capability of having the last image be an automatic reveal, and you essentially have an app built to create routines.

So as much as I wanted to hate Cognito, I can’t. I love it. I love it not because of the routines that come preloaded, but because this is an app that allows you the freedom to mix and match in numerous ways to create a routine which is totally unique to you and your performing style. The new changes that have been added in the most recent update allow for some REAL versatility, so I know there will be some user created show-stopping routines very very soon. I highly recommend this app, and I can give it nothing but a 10/10.

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