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Given that kids today will be growing up in a world where technology is an essential part of life, having basic programming skills will always be handy. And while there are plenty of tools to get kids excited about programming, Play-i wants to lower the bar for the accessible age with its new toy robots, Bo and Yana. The robots will be available in summer 2014, and there’s a crowd-funding campaign launched where you can pre-order the bots.
Both the robots are little orbs with eyes, and look like cute alien pets. they can dance, play songs and even collect the toys on the floor, the company says. The eyes of the bots have a ring that lights up with different colours for emotions, speakers for customizable sounds. They come with accelerometers for gesture detection and infrared beacons to broadcast their location to other robots. Bo also has the ability to pan his head, and comes with several other sensors and motors for movement.
They both have Bluetooth chips and can be wirelessly connected to an iOS device to be used with the special app made for them. iPlay will have support for Android devices with Bluetooth 4 by the time the toys ship.
The app has a visual programming environment for the robots made for children as young as five years old. It was developed keeping their level of cognitive ability and motor skills in mind. Unlike other programming languages where children are first taught the syntax, Play-i focuses on learning through exploration, play and discovery. It’s not as advanced as object oriented programming, but still quite cool.
Similar to Scratch, it’s basically an “if-then” set of cards that the child has to drag-and-drop to create a command. For example, “if there is a wall in front, move backward, turn left and move forward”.
In the crowd-funding campaign, Yana is available to backers for $49 and Bo for $149. The full retail price will be $69 and $199 respectively. More information and crowd-funding details are available at the official site.