Cannybots, a new series of smart robot toys that encourage kids to learn about programming, is blowing up on Kickstarter today. Just hours after it launched (at press time), the UK startup has easily surpassed its $40,000 goal with $66,880 from 155 backers.
Cannybots are 3D printable, open source Bluetooth-enabled toy cars that can be controlled using tablets, smartphones, and a Raspberry Pi. The cars are easy to print on just about any home 3D printer and can be programmed using Arduino, Blockly, mbed, Python, or Scratch.
Cannybot comes with a construction kit that contains all the parts and detailed instructions to build a robot. To introduce children to programming, the Cannybots team created an app called “CannyTalk” that uses a syntax-free programming environment that works like a friendly chat tool.
Using the app anyone can program the Cannybot using plain English. For example, they can give commands such as “go forward,” “turn right,” “set speed,” and “show green.” The Artificial Intelligence-based engine behind CannyTalk was developed with researchers from the Computer Science department at the University of Cambridge in the UK.
“Going through the building process gives kids the hands-on experience of building a functional robot that they can also program,” says Anish Mampetta, CEO of Cannybots. “Programming is an essential skill today but it is not easy to get kids started. We are allowing kids to do this in a fun, interactive and rewarding way.”
Cannybots can be used in a number of ways, including racing, time trials, sumo-wrestling, jousting and puzzle-solving. Apps and printable tracks are available for each game. Children can also design new car bodies and tracks that can be 3D printed at home or school. The robots can even run on simple black tape, allowing you to create as large and complex a track as you want.
Pre-orders start as low as $89 for an early bird special and will be shipped in time for the holidays. Here’s a closer look at the specs:
High Speed: With the default motors, Cannybots can reach a straight line speed of up to 4ft/sec. You can upgrade to high speed motors that go 8 ft/sec
Agility: Cannybot has independently powered wheels for increased agility
Line Following: Two optical sensors help Cannybot detect and follow black lines on the track
Color Detection: A third, color-sensitive eye helps Cannybot detect color patterns on the floor
Bluetooth: Cannybot communicates using Bluetooth LE
Battery Life: Rechargeable Li-Ion battery offers an hour of play
Autonomous Navigation: An add-on navigation module enables self-driving capabilities using a precision gyro sensor, compass and accelerometer
Here’s a video of Cannybots creators discussing the project and some of the challenges involved.