Minecraft has partly replaced Lego bricks as a creative platform for young tinkerers, but while it is a fantastic avenue for training computer and block-building skills, Mojang's hit videogame also does little to improve handcrafting. Robo Wunderkind, from the German "wonder child," is a modular toy that promises to marry the old with the new by letting even the youngest hands and minds (aged five and up) build and program their own robot creations.
What seems to set the Wunderkind apart from other programmable modular robots is the extreme simplicity of it all. Lego does have a similar product that will let you build over a dozen different machines, but it is aimed at children aged 10 and up. Using uniformly-shaped blocks and a simple visual interface on the software side, Wunderkind promises to slash that age requirement in half and introduce even more functionality.
Colorful "smart cubes" each roughly 3 inches (8 cm) in size embed gadgets as varied as cameras, proximity sensors and laser pointers. The cubes are connected wirelessly and allow children to build robots in many shapes and sizes. The Wunderkind also comes with various sets of wheels to help robots move, and Lego adapters to further customize the robot's looks and function.
Once the robot is built, children can use an iOS or Android tablet to program it via a visual, reportedly highly intuitive, interface. Possible actions will of course depend on the type of blocks used, but include driving around avoiding obstacles, recording and playing voice messages, solving mazes, even relaying the weather forecast.
The toy is compatible with MIT's Scratch, a simple programming language recommended for ages eight and up that will allow children to expand their robots' functionality even further. An API for more experienced programmers is also available.
The startup behind this project has launched a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign to bring the Wunderkind to production. The campaign has already more than doubled its initial goal of US$70,000 with 24 days remaining at the time of writing.
A basic kit for a pledge of $149 includes a servo, proximity sensor, wheels, connectors and Lego adapters. A $249 pledge adds an LED display, light sensor and meteo sensors. Finally, a $499 pledge comes with an extra infrared sensor, laser pointer, camera, accelerometer and e-ink display.
If everything goes to plan, the kits will be delivered by July 2016.
You can watch the Wunderkind's crowdfunding pitch below.
Source: Robo Wunderkind
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