Oct.28, 2013

One of the most in-demand STEM skills is computer science, however learning to program is, in fact, difficult. Statistics shows by 2020 there will be 1.4 million more computer science jobs than there will be people to fill those jobs. One company, Play-i aims to change that by getting children interested in programming at a young age.

Sunnyvale, Calif.-based startup Play-i has just launched a crowdfunding campaign to produce Sphere-shaped robots that can help kids as young as five years old learn how to code. Play-i's mission is to give young children an engaging platform where they can experience the joy and magic of programming at a young age.

Created by a group of engineers from Google, Apple and Frog Design, Play-i, launched in late 2012, has already raised $1 million in venture backing from Google Ventures, Madrona Venture Group and others.

Play-i is creating a visual programming environment for its robots on touch devices for kids, that meets children at their level of cognitive ability and motor skills, starting as early as age five. Unlike other programming languages where children are first taught the syntax, Play-i focuses on learning through exploration, play and discovery.

"As a father, I know that a child's world is about play. Play-i robots make abstract concepts of programming concrete -- unlocking a whole new world of imagination, creativity and play for children," said Vikas Gupta, co-founder and CEO of Play-i. "Every design choice we've made for our robots was to deliver play and programming as a priority, while also keeping our price down."

After reading reports about children in Estonia starting learning to code in first grade, the team did some research and was shocked to find how rare it was in America. They set out to create an fun and easy way to teach children how to program. The team has spent the past year refining its vision, printing out robot prototypes on its 3D printer.

The result was Bo and Yana, Play-i's first two robots. Play-i robots are expressive, interactive and completely programmable. A child can use a Bluetooth-based drag-and-drop interface on an iPad to instruct Bo to move in any direction or create a set of commands to program Bo to follow a specific path. They only need to tap on a series of illustrated icons to "program" - the programming interface requires no previous ability to read or write.

Yana is a simpler robot that can't be remotely controlled to move. But it can be programmed to be a a storyteller. For example, kids could program the Yana to roar like a lion when it's tapped or make a helicopter sound when it's shaken or rotated.

If kids are interested in knowing how those command works they can look behind the visual interface to see the real code. When they are ready, they can leap in and write code themselves.

"What makes Play-i's robots so unique and special is that they really connect with younger kids on an emotional level and make programming such a seamless and playful experience," said Mike Dooley, the original Product Manager for LEGO Mindstorms and now a VP of Product and Business Development at iRobot and adviser for Play-i.

Play-i robots will be available in the summer of 2014 and are priced at $149 and $49 during the campaign, reduced from the $199 and $69 retail price. Backers can also pledge $499 to get the Bo + Yana package, and early access to an API.

Crowdfunding and detailed features of Bo and Yana can be found here.

Robot Features:


- Wireless (Bluetooth 4.0) for easy connection to touch devices for programming

- Two motors for driving that provide differential steering for body motion

- Two motors for head pan and tilt

- One programmable eye light-ring to add emotions

- Two programmable full-color ear lights

- One programmable full-color headlight

- One speaker with customizable sounds

- Four programmable buttons

- Four Infrared beacons to advertise location to other robots

- Twelve different sensors to interact with surroundings and other robots

-Three distance sensors to detect obstacles and objects in front and back

-Sound sensor to detect sound gestures like a clap

-Two wheel encoders enable precise body motion control

-Two head encoders enable precise head positioning

-Accelerometer for gesture control and positioning

-Gyroscope to track orientation

-Two Infrared detectors to detect other robots

- Six multi-function attachment points to add accessories

- Rechargeable battery and Micro-B USB connector for charging


- Wireless (Bluetooth 4.0) for easy connection to touch devices

for programming

- One programmable eye light-ring with full-color overlay to add emotions

- Two programmable full-color ear lights

- One programmable button

- One speaker with customizable sounds

- Four Infrared beacons to advertise location to other robots

- Accelerometer for gesture detection

- Three multi-function attachment points to add accessories and bases

- Rechargeable battery and Micro-B USB connector for charging


Posted in 3D Printing Applications



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Debra J Price wrote at 11/26/2013 5:36:19 PM:

Wow great minds of GREAT Engineers, Awesome product! Got to spread the word this helps children so much and gets them off the TUBE! Blown away!!!!!!!!! SHARK TANK.........

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