Vortex, a new robot from DFRobot, has joined the growing number of toys designed to teach children how to program. The robot, which can connect to iOS and Android devices, is designed for kids as young as six-years-old.
The robot comes ready to play a number of games, including bumping fight, golf, driving, and soccer. All you have to do to get started with these games is add four AA batteries to Vortex and download the Vortexbot app from the App Store.
But the idea is that children will want to learn how to make Vortex do more with custom programming. To do so, download the WhenDo app from the App Store for a variety of tutorials so kids can practice programming basics and customize their games. DFRobot says WhenDo is intuitive with its drag-and-drop interface, you might have to help your kid(s) really master the app.
“We believe kids can benefit a lot from robotics, in identifying their own challenges, learning how stuff works, solving new problems, motivating themselves to complete a project, working together, inspiring others, and sharing with others,” the company says.
Vortex will also come with pre-set courses to teach users how to make use of its built-in capabilities.
Vortex, which is open-source and compatible with Arduino and Scratch, can navigate obstacles, detect lines and report back by using infrared, grey scale, and sound speakers. The wheeled robot features ground/line following sensors, proximity sensors and encoders for speed control.
Feedback can be given via the various LEDs, an “eye” display with 32 eye expressions, and a speaker. The Vortex robot runs on four AA-sized batteries, which should be good for 40-90 minutes of use, and features Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity. An I2c socket also offers the chance to expand sensor and interface options.
Vortex can be programmed to perform a number of tasks that include:
- Following lines
- Recognizing hand gestures
- Navigating obstacles or avoiding drop-offs
DFRobot is running a Kickstarter campaign and has already raised $46,518 of its $54,035 goal with nearly a month to go. Kickstarter backers can pledge $69 for a single Vortex or $119 for a pair and kits will come with printed mats for a better gaming experience, and a sticker set including vinyl stickers with a variety of patterns for customization.
DFRobot says it plans to start shipping Vortex robots in October 2015.