Children

Alien robot gives kids a "crash" course in coding

Photon is a toy robot designed to teach kids the increasingly-important skill of coding
Photon is a toy robot designed to teach kids the increasingly-important skill of coding
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The Photon robot is controlled by an app, to be available on iOS, Android and eventually Windows
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The Photon robot is controlled by an app, to be available on iOS, Android and eventually Windows
Photon connects to smart devices via Bluetooth 4.0
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Photon connects to smart devices via Bluetooth 4.0
The Photon app is designed to be kid-friendly
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The Photon app is designed to be kid-friendly
Photon is designed to be a robot with personality, to keep kids engaged
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Photon is designed to be a robot with personality, to keep kids engaged
The app is used to control Photon, as well as programming him
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The app is used to control Photon, as well as programming him
The interface is designed to be simple
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The interface is designed to be simple
Photon's backstory of a robot who crashed on Earth is 
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Photon's backstory of a robot who crashed on Earth is 
The app interface is designed to use bright colors and simple symbols instead of complex written instructions, to aid kids who might not have learned the alphabet yet
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The app interface is designed to use bright colors and simple symbols instead of complex written instructions, to aid kids who might not have learned the alphabet yet
Photon is as much a game as a toy
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Photon is as much a game as a toy
The creators want kids to see Photon as a friend, on a journey with them
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The creators want kids to see Photon as a friend, on a journey with them
Photon is designed for kids aged 6 - 12
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Photon is designed for kids aged 6 - 12
Photon is driven by two 200 RPM motors, and a small wheel in the front to steer
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Photon is driven by two 200 RPM motors, and a small wheel in the front to steer
In their test runs, the creators found that while playing with Photon, kids were eager to cooperate to solve the problems they faced 
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In their test runs, the creators found that while playing with Photon, kids were eager to cooperate to solve the problems they faced 
At the beginning, Photon won't even be able to move on his own, but the app will teach kids to slowly get his functionality back 
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At the beginning, Photon won't even be able to move on his own, but the app will teach kids to slowly get his functionality back 
Photon was designed by Marcin Joka, Michal Grzes, Krzysztof Dziemianczuk, Michal Bogucki, and Maciej Kopczynski, four students and one academic lecturer at the Bialystok University of Technology in Poland
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Photon was designed by Marcin Joka, Michal Grzes, Krzysztof Dziemianczuk, Michal Bogucki, and Maciej Kopczynski, four students and one academic lecturer at the Bialystok University of Technology in Poland
The app uses a simplified version of Scratch, a visual programming language designed for kids
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The app uses a simplified version of Scratch, a visual programming language designed for kids
Photon can sense obstacles up to one meter away and adjust his path accordingly
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Photon can sense obstacles up to one meter away and adjust his path accordingly
Photon is a toy robot designed to teach kids the increasingly-important skill of coding
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Photon is a toy robot designed to teach kids the increasingly-important skill of coding
Safety was key, and Photon is made to be durable, with his internal electronics tightly locked away
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Safety was key, and Photon is made to be durable, with his internal electronics tightly locked away
In their tests, the creators found that kids were creative in coming up with games to play with their Photons, setting up races and sumo wrestling matches 
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In their tests, the creators found that kids were creative in coming up with games to play with their Photons, setting up races and sumo wrestling matches 
The creators have tested Photon in kindergartens in Poland, and the response have apparently been very positive
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The creators have tested Photon in kindergartens in Poland, and the response have apparently been very positive
There's apparently some freedom in the app for kids to tackle problems in their own order
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There's apparently some freedom in the app for kids to tackle problems in their own order
Photon has magnetic areas on his head and back, allowing kids to dress him up with accesssories
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Photon has magnetic areas on his head and back, allowing kids to dress him up with accesssories
Photon has sensors that allow him to react to being touched, either from a gentle pat on the head or a potentially dangerous strike
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Photon has sensors that allow him to react to being touched, either from a gentle pat on the head or a potentially dangerous strike
Photon's eyes and antennas are fitted with LED lights that can display 256 RGB colors, allowing the robot to express different emotions
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Photon's eyes and antennas are fitted with LED lights that can display 256 RGB colors, allowing the robot to express different emotions

Programming is an increasingly important skill in our digital world, and there's no shortage of toys designed to teach kids to code. Kamibot, Code-a-Pillar, Codeybot, Kibo and Vortex are just a few of your options from the last few years, and now Photon has crash-landed among the ranks. This little guy comes complete with a backstory to engage kids, teach them the basics of coding and reward them with the unlocking of new abilities.

Like many other learn-to-code toys, Photon is controlled with an app. It's built on a combination of visual programming languages Scratch and Blockly, and allows kids to input commands and watch the robot carry them out. What sets it apart is the focus on storytelling, with every aspect, from unboxing to coding to playing, worked into a narrative that is designed to help kids stay focused and motivated, based on research from psychologists and gamification experts.

The story goes that Photon's spaceship crashed here on Earth, and he needs help to get back in working order and find the scattered pieces of his ship. As kids complete tasks, the robot gains new abilities for them to experiment with, including obstacle avoidance, the ability to follow lines drawn on the ground, and sensors to let him react to different levels of light, sound and touch.

The app uses a simplified version of Scratch, a visual programming language designed for kids
The app uses a simplified version of Scratch, a visual programming language designed for kids

Creativity is encouraged with kids able to customize their Photon by changing the color of his eyes and antennas, which house 256-color LEDs, or attaching magnetic accessories like hats and jetpacks to his head and back. The creators assure parents that Photon is durable, and his internal electronics are locked up tight, safe from inquisitive fingers.

Two 200 rpm motors drive Photon's movement, and he's powered by a 3,000 mAh battery that is recharged via USB and should provide four to six hours of operation. He connects to devices via Bluetooth 4.0, and the app will be available on iOS, Android and eventually Windows.

Photon is currently the subject of a Kickstarter campaign, and a pledge at the US$199 tier (or $169 if you're quick enough for the Early Bird special) will get your kids their own little robot buddy if all goes to plan. Shipping is estimated for early next year.

Source: Photon

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