Play-i has announced the launch of its crowdfunding campaign to produce robots that children can play with and program. The crowdfunding initiative hopes to raise $250,000 over the next 30 days. Play-i’s mission is to give young children an engaging platform where they can experience the joy and magic of programming at a young age.
By 2020 there will be 1.4 million more computer science jobs than there will be people to fill those jobs. And yet less than 2.4% of graduates study computer science during college. Play-i aims to change that by getting children interested in programming at a very young age. Play-i robots are fun and engaging, and make learning to program an enjoyable experience. Play-i robots are affordable for every family — and just as much fun for parents as for their children.
Play-i is creating a visual programming environment for its robots on touch devices for kids, that meets children at their level of cognitive ability and motor skills, starting as early as age five. Unlike other programming languages where children are first taught the syntax, Play-i focuses on learning through exploration, play and discovery.
“As a father, I know that a child’s world is about play. Play-i robots make abstract concepts of programming concrete — unlocking a whole new world of imagination, creativity and play for children,” said Vikas Gupta, co-founder and CEO of Play-i. “Every design choice we’ve made for our robots was to deliver play and programming as a priority, while also keeping our price down.”
Play-i robots are expressive, interactive and completely programmable. The programming interface for children requires no previous ability to read or write. The robots are playful — they can dance, play songs and even collect the toys on the floor — and can be programmed by children wirelessly using a touch device, like an iPad.
“What makes Play-i’s robots so unique and special is that they really connect with younger kids on an emotional level and make programming such a seamless and playful experience,” said Mike Dooley, the original Product Manager for LEGO Mindstorms and now a VP of Product and Business Development at iRobot and adviser for Play-i. “They are leveraging a legacy of ideas from research on computing, robotics and children’s cognitive development, but have created something new and so accessible that even kids in the 1st or 2nd grade can easily play with programming, and in the process, construct rich models for understanding the world.”
“Programming skills can help young learners succeed throughout life, from strengthening their vocabulary to improving problem solving abilities,” said Steve Cooper, Associate Professor of Computer Science Education at Stanford University, past Chairman of CSTA and adviser for Play-i. “I’m really excited that Play-i is developing innovative products that make programming accessible to young children.”
Play-i robots will be available in the summer of 2014 and are priced at $149 and $49 during the campaign.
Founded in late 2012 by veterans from Apple, Amazon, and Frog Design, Mountain View, California-based Play-i makes delightful robots for children to program. Play-i was founded by Vikas Gupta, Mikal Greaves, Saurabh Gupta and Imran Khan — inventors, designers, programmers and parents. Advisers for the company include Mike Dooley, the original product lead for LEGO Mindstorm Robotics, Steve Cooper, Professor of CS & Ed at Stanford University, Chairman of CSTA, Andrea Thomaz, Professor of Interactive Computing at Georgia Tech, Kiki Prottsman, Educator and Executive Director of Thinkersmith, Vibha Sazawal, Scientist at the University of Maryland, and Prashant Kanhere, who led development of the iPod at Apple.
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