By RYAN NAKASHIMA
AP Technology Writer
You’ve seen apps and toys that promise to teach your child to code. Now enter the robots.
At the CES electronics show in January, coding robots came out in force. One convention hall area was packed with everything from chip-embedded, alphabet-like coding blocks to turtle-like tanks that draw on command.
If you’re in the market for a coding robot that teaches and maybe even entertains, here’s a look at four that were on display at CES. But beware: None of them are cheap.
Root Robotics’ flattish, hexagonal droid has downward-facing scanners, magnetic wheels, touch-reactive panels, lights, motion sensors and a pen-grabbing hole in the center of its body.
Controlling it does require a screen.
The Cambridge, Mass., company also claims kids don’t need to be able to read and can start playing with Root at age 4.
Root draws, moves, sees and reacts to touch and various other commands. Kids can use Root to start drawing lines and progress to creating snowflake-like mathematical patterns called fractals.
Pros: Sturdy frame; kids can progress from graphical block-based codes to text coding
Cons: Requires lots of clean, flat surface area, preferably whiteboards. Root has three difficulty levels, some of which wade into deeper math, so parental time commitment could be considerable. The Kickstarter-launched company has taken a while to ship items, so delivery could be delayed.
Shipping: June 2018
This bundle of personality on wheels debuted in 2016. It now comes with an app called Code Lab, which allows kids to drag and drop blocks of code that control its movements and animations. They can even access facial and object recognition functions enabled by Cozmo’s front-facing camera.
Cozmo, recommended for kids aged 8 and up, looks like a little tractor and can pick up interactive cubes, which are included.
Pros: Its expressive eyes and movements make it seem like a little R2-D2.
Cons: Because it’s so full of personality, there might be a disconnect between programming it to do things and just letting it be itself
This dome-shaped, wheeled dynamo about the height of a few fingers looks for direction right out of the box – and comes equipped to follow around any finger placed before its frontal camera. The robot makes sounds, flashes lights, moves and can sense and react to its environment.
An app helps kids – aged 8 and up – program Evo to do what they want.
Pros: It’s cheaper than other coding bots
Cons: It doesn’t do quite as much as other bots.
London-based Primo Toys, the makers of this mobile wooden block, believes kids can learn coding concepts at age 3 before they can even read. And they don’t even need a screen.
The “Cubetto” block on wheels responds to where chip-embedded pieces are put on a wooden board. Different colors represent different commands – for example, to “go straight” or “turn left.”
Pros: Good for parents who want to avoid more screens.
Cons: Doesn’t offer an immediate path to real coding.