Our near future is going to be packed with cars that can drive us around, robots to help with chores and virtual worlds to escape to when the real world gets a little dull. Teaching kids to speak the languages such technologies are built on is becoming just as vital as reading, writing and math. There are many toys aimed at giving future coders a kickstart, and the latest is a trainset from consumer robotics startup Innokind.
The intelino smart train has all the creative appeal of a child's first train set, but is a bit more advanced than the wooden push models of old. Users get interlocking plastic tracks, a lead (smart) engine, an unpowered "passenger car" and a set of colored squares. Aimed at children from 3 years and up, the setup mixes off-screen action with onscreen app-based play.
The smart engine has 32-bit ARM-based microcontroller brains and is powered by a Lithium Polymer battery for over 100 minutes of play per charge. Kids can control the train's speed, direction and other basic functions such as turning onto a branch line by placing colored squares at strategic points on the track – essentially programming the train's actions.
The electromagnetic wagon coupler can also be activated using appropriate control tiles, to add or remove towed cars as the smart train moves around the track.
There's Bluetooth 4.2 connectivity, color sensors mounted underneath to read the track-mounted "code," a 3-axis accelerometer, speed and capacitive sensors, and user-controlled LED lighting. And all of this smart tech is wrapped in a polycarbonate and ABS shell designed to withstand the rigors of child play.
Firing up a companion app running on a smartphone opens up play to more advanced features, with would-be programmers able to create custom commands for the smart engine module via the Snap Editor.
Innokind launched the intelino smart train at CES 2019. A J-1 starter set is expected to be released in March, though pricing hasn't been revealed at this time. The video below has more.
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