Robots just got a whole lot cuter. The latest toys for tots now teach toddlers how to code. Play-i designed robots that blend play with programming, creating a toy that is truly a sign of the tech-centric times. The company launched a crowdfunding campaign Monday to fuel awareness and pre-orders for its latest gadgets. Meet Bo and Yana, the two Play-i robots.
Play-i founder and CEO Vikas Gupta told VentureBeat that the mission behind Bo and Yana was to create a product for young children to learn programming. The charming little robots incorporate play-based programming, featuring a visual programming interface that weaves in music, stories and animation. Additionally, kids can see the code behind the visual interface, eventually teaching them how to write code on their own. Play-i's robots can be programmed to play hide-and-seek, soccer and play a toy xylophone, to name a few.
The Play-i robots crowdfunding special, which was launched just yesterday, is already more than halfway towards its backing goal. Presently, the Bo and Yana special has 815 backers with $161,110 out of its $250,000 goal and 29 days left. Crowdfunding supporters will receive a limited-time introductory price, exclusive Bo and Yana outfits as well as be dubbed the first consumers with the innovative robots. Every dollar contributed will go towards robots for schools and organizations that serve underprivileged children, furthering Play-i’s mission to bring programming education to every child.
"What we found was that it's not a lot of fun for kids to just program on a screen and keyboard. Kids become a lot more engaged when interacting with real world objects and robots that move, light up and make sounds. We're building a robot completely from the ground up and kids will be able to program it to do anything they want it to do,” Gupta told Technorati.
However, with nearly a third of children learning to use a mobile phone or tablet computer before they can talk, is this shift towards media consumption at a young age healthy for toddlers? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under two should have no screen time at all, the Daily Mail reports. The Play-i robots are designed for five years and older, though, surpassing the recommended age of digital detox.
MIT Media Lab launched Scratch, a programming language and online community to make coding available and engaging to everyone. In fact, Scratch is incorporated into the Play-i robots, allowing drag-and-drop interfaces to learn programming. MIT Professor Mitchel Resnick, who helped launch Scratch six years ago, believes it’s important for children to learn to code, not only for career purposes, but for learning purposes.
“In the process of learning to code, people learn many other things. They are not just learning to code, they are coding to learn. In addition to learning mathematical and computational ideas (such as variables and conditionals), they are also learning strategies for solving problems, designing projects, and communicating ideas. These skills useful not just for computer scientists but for everyone, regardless of age, background, interests, or occupation,” Resnick writes.