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Play-i Launches Crowdfunding Campaign for Child-Programmable Robots

Play-i, a new company recently launched by former Apple, Amazon, and Frog Design employees, has launched a crowdfunding campaign for Bo and Yana, two robots designed to be programmed by children as young as five years old. Play-i is developing the robots with the goal of getting children interested in programming at a young age.

According to the company, both robots are "expressive, interactive, and completely programmable." They are colorful with a rounded design and feature a prominent eye. Bo has three wheels and can explore its environment, while Yana can detect when it is being moved and invoke characters. The robots can dance, play songs, collect objects on the floor, and even interact with each other. Play-i also plans to offer accessories to give the robots other abilities.

The company is creating a visual programming environment for the robots on touch devices for kids, such as the iPad or Android tablets. According to the company, the visual programming interface for children requires no previous ability to read or write and focuses on learning through exploration, play, and discovery. Children can program the robots using the graphical touch interface. More advanced children can also program the devices using existing languages, such as Scratch or Blockly.

Key features of Play-i robots include:

  • Play-based programming using a visual interface;
  • Option to use the Scratch and Blockly drag-and-drop programming interfaces;
  • Ability to look behind the visual interface to see the actual code; and
  • An online repository of programs to use, edit, and remix.

"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, in a prepared statement. "Every design choice we've made for our robots was to deliver play and programming as a priority, while also keeping our price down."

Play-i is offering a limited number of crowdfunded units at a reduced price. Crowdfunders can order Bo, Yana, or both. They will start shipping in summer 2014. Further information can be found at play-i.com.

About the Author

Leila Meyer is a technology writer based in British Columbia. She can be reached at leilameyer@gmail.com.

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