If we’re going to prepare future generations for an increasingly technical world (and workforce) ahead, then we need to teach them computer science and engineering. To some, that may sound like a no-brainer, but to the American educational system, where nine out of ten schools don’t offer programming courses, it not. Of course, to really get students engaged and inspire that lifelong love of computer science and technology — just as it is with learning a new language — education has to start early. And it has to be fun.
Learning how to code takes time and is a difficult proposition for adults, so asking kids to sit down and write a line of code (let alone learn the laws of computer science) almost seems absurd. It’s this problem that led Vikas Gupta, the former head of consumer payments at Google, to create Play-i and a couple of kid-friendly, educational robots.
Joined by co-founders Saurabh Gupta, who previously led the iPod software team at Apple, and Mikal Greaves, who led product design and manufacturing for electronics and toys at Frog Design, to make programming and engineering concepts accessible to kids, who’d rather be outside digging in the dirt. The team knew that whatever solution they designed would need to be something kids would want to play with, so they created Bo and Yana, two programmable, interactive robots that look and act a lot like toys.
The team raised $ 1 million from Google Ventures, Madrona Venture Group and others last year to build the prototypes, and today, though it’s still tinkering with details, the learning system is nearly ready for lift-off. When it comes to market next year, kids will be able to play with Bo and Yana right out of the box, controlling them through Play-i’s companion app designed for the iPad.
The app presents visual sequences of actions and simple commands on the iPad that kids can then perform — like clapping, waving their hand or shaking one of the robots — that compel the robots to perform certain actions. Young programmers can get three-wheeled Bo to scoot around the room, blink his light or play a xylophone, shake Yana to roar like a lion, or have them interact with each other. Through actionable storytelling, play and music, younguns start to learn the most basic concepts behind programming, like causation.
The coolest idea behind the interactive learning system is that, as kids get older, they will start to find that the commands are recorded on the app in a variety of programming languages, like Java and Python, so that concepts become more challenging as they progress. The idea is for Bo and Yana to be accessible to all ages, the level of learning is as simple or challenging as you want it to be.
While the gamifying of coding and teaching programming through toys isn’t new and, as Eliza pointed out, Play-i is entering a market already inhabited by products and startups like Cargo-Bot, Move the Turtle and Bee-Bot, this kind of computer science education is still relatively new. The demand and the market for it is also just beginning to develop, and as education reform pushes STEM education into more schools and, in turn, schools begin to look for novel ways to teach these concepts at younger and younger ages, the opportunity will continue to grow.
Although the co-founders think they’re onto something with Bo and Yana, they wanted to test the level of interest and demand among consumers. So they launched a crowdfunding campaign on the Play-i website in mid-November, and have since been pleased to find that not only was there interest, but that interest wasn’t just limited to the U.S.
Over the course of its 31-day crowdfunding campaign, Play-i raised $ 1.4 million, five-times its goal, and $ 26K of that total were contributions towards robots that the company will give to schools and organizations that work with underprivileged children. The campaign saw contributions from the U.K., Canada, Germany, Australia, India and France, among others, with over 30 percent of contributions coming from outside the U.S.
With over 10,000 pre-orders and plans to ship next summer, the team will spend the next six months finalizing manufacturing and distribution partnerships. Gupta tells us that they plan to sell the robots through their website and through both online and brick-and-mortar retailers, though he says those deals are still in the works.
For more, stay tuned, find Play-i at home here and Eliza’s interview with the Play-i founder below:
- crowdfunding OR crowdfund OR crowdfunded
- product design OR service design
Black Friday and Cyber Monday might be a distant memory, but Microsoft is creating 12 days of deals at its own retail stores to continue the bargains in the run up to Christmas. The first day of sales commences on Monday, with Microsoft Stores selling Dell’s Venue 8 Pro tablet for just $ 99. It’s an incredibly good deal for an 8-inch tablet running a full copy of Windows 8.1, but there’s a slight catch: there’s only 20 at each of Microsoft’s 51 stores across the US for the initial $ 99 price.
After the first 20 devices are sold one per customer, which will likely be within minutes, the price jumps to $ 199 for the next 10 and then back to the regular $ 299 for any remaining stock. Microsoft is planning to hold additional sales…
Following the path of Apple, Samsung and its old friend Microsoft, Intel will reach out directly to customers by opening up its own retail stores. Laptop Magazine attended an event this evening where Intel exec John Wallace explained a bit about the Intel Experience Store plan, and mentioned the …Related Posts:
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Plenty of people are digital pack rats and proud of it. And why not? With seemingly unlimited remote storage options available free of charge or for a small monthly fee, they can store their digital photos, videos, music and other files in the cloud without worrying about running out of room.
Personal devices are a different story. Smartphones and tablets with limited amounts of storage can quickly fill up with apps, photos and videos, forcing users to delete content on a regular basis.
This week, I tested a gadget that may relieve some of that local storage burden and could serve as a media-sharing godsend on a long car trip: SanDisk’s $ 100 Connect Wireless Media Device.
This 2.5-ounce gadget measures about the size of a pad of Post-it Notes and holds 64 gigabytes of photos, videos, music or other files. And here’s where it could come in handy in the car: The SanDisk can be accessed by up to eight devices simultaneously, with five of them streaming high-definition video from it at the same time.
The size of a pad of Post-it Notes, the SanDisk lets up to eight devices access the media files it holds.
It’s on back order until next week from SanDisk.com and Amazon. A 32-gigabyte version is available for $ 80 for people who can’t wait. Both versions have SD memory card slots for expanding their storage.
Several companies have created gadgets that do similar things, including Seagate and Kingston. I found SanDisk’s Wireless Media Device to be a simple solution for quickly transferring data off of a phone or tablet. It also was lightweight and portable and worked well for sharing content to many devices in the same room at once.
The SanDisk device works with a free app that can be downloaded from Apple’s App Store, the Android operating system’s Google Play store or Amazon’s Appstore for Kindle Fire. I successfully tested it on the iPhone, iPad and a Moto X smartphone running Android, streaming high-definition video to the three devices at once without a problem. And I tapped one button to open options for offloading photos from my smartphone to the SanDisk.
The device works with a free app that displays videos, photos, music and other files for sharing and streaming.
In addition to the transfer apps, the SanDisk device has a USB cord that enables transfers to or from a Mac or Windows PC.
As for video playback, you still have to worry about file formats that won’t play on some devices. The iOS app won’t play .AVI or .WMV files, since these are formats created by Windows machines, and Android won’t play .MOV files, which are in Apple’s QuickTime format.
While file transfers from the SanDisk are easy, the process for moving files to it is a little clunky, involving the drag-and-drop method.
One of the most attractive features of this device is that it doesn’t require an Internet connection to stream its content to other devices.
It shows up in a device’s Wi-Fi settings as its own network, and you select it from your device to connect to the SanDisk. This means you can toss it in your bag for a long road trip and let many people access its content at the same time. SanDisk promises it will work from up to 150 feet away, and it did in my house.
You can opt to connect the SanDisk to your Wi-Fi network, which might come in handy in certain circumstances. For example, after I transferred over a dozen Word documents to the SanDisk device from my Mac via USB cord, I opened and read these documents on my iPad with several cloud-based apps, including Microsoft’s Office Mobile and SkyDrive apps, Evernote and Google Drive, without having to connect to the Internet.
The SanDisk takes three hours to fully charge, which it can do via USB from a computer or by using its power adapter. One charge lasts for up to eight hours of continuous streaming. In my mixed-use tests, the battery lasted for well over eight hours. It also has a smart battery feature that turns off the device if it hasn’t been used in 10 minutes.
A single black button on the front edge of the SanDisk turns it on, and three tiny icons glow to represent the battery indicator, the drive broadcasting its Wi-Fi signal and whether or not the drive is also connected to the Internet via your local Wi-Fi network.
As is often the case, this gadget’s corresponding iOS and Android apps looked slightly different and didn’t operate exactly the same way. But both apps use an icon with up and down arrows to represent the way content can be transferred wirelessly to or from a mobile device. Tap this and select content to upload to the SanDisk from your device or to your device from the SanDisk.
The apps’ transfer button moves content to and from your SanDisk and pulls up a Share option, which makes it simple to share digital files with friends via email, Facebook or Picasa — or to copy the files. To use this feature, the SanDisk must be connected to the Internet via Wi-Fi. Photos can be edited and re-saved within the SanDisk app, and several can be played at once using a slide-show option.
My husband and I each have different accounts for storing photos and videos. He downloaded the SanDisk app to his iPhone and easily uploaded a bunch of his photos onto my SanDisk device. Once images were there, I could download the photos onto my Android phone or iPad using the app, or simply look at them. But two attempts to transfer an eight-minute video from my husband’s iPhone failed after a few minutes of waiting.
A SanDisk representative said this may have been caused by the phone going to “sleep,” which stopped the video transfer. The company plans an app update to fix this in coming weeks.
If your mobile device is getting crowded, or if you want a better way to stream content to nearby friends without the hassle of emailing or texting huge files, the SanDisk Connect Wireless Media Device is a smart solution.
Write to Katie at firstname.lastname@example.org.Related Posts:
Microsoft has 75 stores currently, including its temporary speciality stores, but the company is planning to continue its expansion over the course of 2013 and beyond. Speaking at Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference on Wednesday, chief operating officer Kevin Turner revealed Microsoft will have 101 stores in total “this time next year.” Along with the expansion, Microsoft is also moving into China, with a planned retail store soon. Turner described the move as “very very strategic to us, big time.”
The software maker currently uses its range of retail stores, which are primarily located in the US, to push Windows 8 PCs, its own Surface tablet, Xbox, and Windows Phones. Microsoft originally opened its first retail store in late 2009…
Samsung’s latest and greatest smartphone, the Galaxy S 4, is making a big move into the US today with an online arrival at Sprint and in-store availability at AT&T. If you’re a Now Network subscriber and happened to miss out on the carrier’s pre-order action, you might want to make some quick moves onto Sprint’s website in order to secure your new handset, which goes up for sale at midnight Central Time. In a not-so-cool move, however, only those porting their number to Sprint are eligible for the carrier’s $ 100 price break, which means all of you who’ve stuck through the dark days of EV-DO will need to pony up $ 249.99 for the Galaxy S 4. Meanwhile, if you’re aching to lay your hands on Samsung’s 1080p handset, you can finally get some gratification, as AT&T is now offering the smartphone for in-store purchase and play. Here, you’ll pay $ 199.99 for the handset, and while it’s potentially more expensive, at least AT&T’s pricing scheme doesn’t involve fine print shenanigans.
Those of us lucky enough to work for gadget sites got to check out the Surface Pro last month. Now you can too, dear reader — if you happen to live near a store that got one early. Although shoppers in the US and Canada can’t actually purchase it until February 9th, the device is already on display at some retail locations. Sadly, there’s no way for us to confirm which stores have it (short of making a few road trips), but we do know that it’s going to be available at Best Buy and Staples in the US, along with Microsoft Stores. So, assuming you have one of those chains nearby, it can’t hurt to wander over — you might be rewarded with some advance hands-on time.
[Thanks to everyone who sent this in]
Microsoft’s Surface RT tablet is currently only available in the company’s stores across the US or online in select countries, but that might be about to change. Paul Thurrott over at Windows IT Pro is reporting that Microsoft’s original plans to extend retail store availability, tentatively scheduled for early 2013, have been pushed forward. Thurrott says that within days Surface will be “available far more broadly than via its current, limited distribution system.”
Recent reports have suggested that a lack of distribution is “killing” Surface sales. Surface has been spotted in Verizon stores recently, but Microsoft has continually declined to discuss its plans for additional Surface distribution. If the report is accurate then we…
Skype has unveiled a series of prepaid cards for the UK, offering users without a credit card the ability to top-up their accounts starting from from £10. A second £20 card will also be available in UK retailers including Asda, Currys, PC World, Sainsburys and bookseller WHSmith, with both denominations redeemable globally through the Microsoft company’s online portal. While Mexico got there first, we’ve been told that more countries can expect their own currency-specific cards later this year. You’ll be able to use the prepaid credit to pay for Skype subscriptions, including unlimited world calling bundles starting from £8.49 per month — all in time for that incoming Windows Phone 8 app.
Apple’s iPad mini is almost certainly set to be announced next week at an event in San Jose Tuesday, and we’re now hearing that it will ship a week and a half after that unveiling. November 2 is the ship date we’ve heard today from a source close to Apple’s supply chain, echoing an earlier report by Geeky Gadgets that that’s the day the iPad mini will go on sale.
Geeky Gadgets cited a prominent U.K. retailer as the source of its information. For the iPhone 5, the September 21 retail availability date was telegraphed ahead of time thanks to leaked information from carrier partners, and retailers have been a source of Apple-related product leaks in the past. Our own source has also previously proven reliable with unreleased Apple info.
In addition to our own source and Geeky Gadgets, 9to5Mac also tweeted that it was hearing this was the date it would be released and likely hit the first batch of pre-order buyers. It’s also the most logical choice, given Apple’s recent product announcement and release timelines. For the iPhone 5, Apple announced it on September 12, with pre-orders beginning on September 14 and devices shipping and hitting retail stores September 21. Pre-orders for the latest iPad started immediately following its announcement, and the iPad actually shipped only nine days later, however, so it isn’t yet clear whether the iPad mini’s pre-order date will be the same day as the announcement, or the Friday following, and our source had no information in that area.
Apple also probably wants to take full advantage of the holiday shopping season, so pushing for availability following closely on the heels of the announcement is a good bet. Traditionally, it enjoys considerable success during the holiday period. Apple sold 15.43 million iPads during last year’s holiday quarter, up from 7.33 million in the same period in 2011. It managed an impressive 17 million during the quarter ending June 30, 2012, however, so it could be poised for record-shattering quarter this holiday, if the iPad mini strikes a chord with users in terms of price and design.Related Posts: