20 SERVO 12.2013
TIME TO PLAY-i
These colorful robots are not only fun to play with,
they can teach kids computer programming skills. That’s
what Play-i — a Silicon Valley startup founded by engineers
from Google, Apple, and Symantec — says about its robots
that were unveiled recently as part of a crowd-sourcing
The idea of using robots to teach kids programming,
math concepts, and problem-solving is not new. In fact, it’s
been more than 40 years since MIT educator Seymour
Papert demonstrated the possibilities of hands-on learning
with his Logo programming language and mobile machines
known as turtle robots.
Over the years, numerous robotic toys and kits designed for kids have come to market, but a lot of
these products present a steep learning curve for kids (and parents!), and few work for very young
Play-i — based in Mountain View, CA — wants to see that change. It says its robots, Bo and Yana, can
make programming fun and accessible for kids as young as five years old. The robots talk via Bluetooth LE
with an iPad or other tablets, which Play-i says are the perfect interface for children to learn programming
concepts in an engaging intuitive way.
Play-i is creating a tablet-based visual programming interface that lets kids build sequences of actions
and learn through play and exploration. The sequences can start simple and get more complex as kids
become more familiar with the robot and interface.
Robots are all about taking things that humans don't like to do
and doing them faster, smarter, and better. Or, in reality, doing them
slower, dumber, and generally not quite as well, but doing them,
nonetheless. What tends to be rare for robots is the capability to
do something like a household task more efficiently than a human
can. Moneual seems to have pulled it off with a new robot that can
vacuum and mop at the same time.
The Moneual Rydis H67 includes a special "Shadow Active
Cleaning Mode" which "detects and performs concentrated
cleaning in areas that do not receive direct light such as
underneath couches and beds, so your home is clean even in the
places you can't see."