If you try talking to young children about the joys of programming, you may witness eyes glazing over faster than ever. But mention robots and smartphone control, and see how laser-focused their attention can be. That's the premise behind the latest tech designed to encourage learning through play. The Arduino-based Kamibot teaches kids how to code using Scratch, while offering fun customization with papercraft skins.
Kamibot follows similar educational toys, such as the Fischer-Price Code-a-Pillar and Vortex robot. It's about the size of a large mug, and primarily designed for children between the ages of 8 and 17. But Kamibot can appeal to anyone interested in the papercraft aspect.
Each unit comes with one full-color skin. Kids tear along perforated edges and glue the pieces together. Magnets can be embedded in order to hold the skins in place, while a servo motor on the top of the robot allows independent rotation of the sections of skin. The company has made additional characters and blank templates available to download and print out for free. Kids are able to color, decorate, and mix/match as they please, making Kamibot part art project, too.
By using Scratch, a drag-and-drop programming language, kids are able to learn the basic skills of coding as they provide instruction to the toy. Kamibot is also compatible with Arduino IDE and the company's own Kamiblock software. Along with a pair of DC motors to drive the wheels, the robot features infrared, ultrasonic, and gyroscopic sensors that allow it to avoid obstacles and navigate independently. Kamibot packs a built-in battery that is designed to play for up to 90 minutes before needing a recharge via micro USB cable.
In addition to sending Kamibot on autonomous missions with the line tracing and treasure hunting floor maps, kids can remotely control the robot through the free mobile app. Kamibot uses Bluetooth 4.0 to connect to Android and iOS devices. The app is designed to offer directional, speed, and rotation control while showing remaining battery life and distance from the nearest obstacle. There's also a toggle for manual/automatic mode as well as a slider bar to change the color of the robot's LEDs.
Kamibot is currently funding on Kickstarter, having raised 21 percent of its US$50,000 goal in four days, with another 26 days left to go. A pledge of $89 sets you up with one Kamibot, complete with USB cable, line tracing mat, and tank papercraft skin.
If production goes according to schedule, backers can expect shipments of Kamibot to start sometime this June.
Check out the video below to see kids programming Kamibot to take action.