In a world that is becoming increasingly immersed in technology, the effort to get kids interested in programming and code has grown. Companies like Sony and Google, as well as several startups, have created a market of STEM toys intended to change the way kids play. The toys are designed to take the big ideas and bring them into a tangible, playful, and creative environment so that kids can explore and learn the patterns and logic behind computational thinking. Startups, and even Sony, have used crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo to connect directly with people. Not only do these platforms generate funding, they also provide an opportunity for parents and kids to share feedback. By using sites that allow for a more direct communication with users, companies are creating a community around their products that allows them to continually improve and expand upon the play and education of these toys.
Sony’s Koov is one of the newest to hit the market. The toy is essentially some very clever Legos. Kids use colorful bricks that snap together to create whatever robots they can possibly dream up. The toys come with blueprints to help get kids started with their creations, but developers hope that these just provide some inspiration and that kids will learn to create their own unique robots. The robots are then controlled with an accompanying app, which teaches kids programming concepts and has lessons that start with basic questions like: What is code? The lessons build from there, instructing kids on how to create a light that turns on and off with a motion sensor and so on. With Koov, Sony Global Education has created a curriculum that will develop children’s knowledge and interest in a fun way. Koov already launched into Sony stores in Japan earlier this year. In coming to the United States, they chose to launch onto Indiegogo as a way of getting feedback on improvements they can make and allow backers to stay up to date and help shape the Koov App before its USA release.
While Sony’s Koov is geared toward slightly older children, Primo asks the question: “In a world where everyone is expected to learn to code, why wait until kids can read and type to start teaching computer science?” Primo’s goal is to introduce kids ages three and up to the logic behind programming, whether they’ve learned to read or type yet or not. Giving toddlers the opportunity to play and learn some of the basic concepts behind code should help to generate knowledge and interest in an increasingly important field. The toy, called Cubetto, is made up of a control board, a set of blocks with several different commands, and a small wooden robot called Cubetto. It has no screens, so kids can touch and physically interact with everything, using shapes color and physical space to teach an otherwise abstract and uninteresting topic in a magical and enjoyable way. Primo began as a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2013 and has since launched two more campaigns to expand further, both of which surpassed their goal. For Primo, Kickstarter has become a way to connect directly with people who are interested in their brand, and has become a community through with they can continue to improve their product.
With different types of toys catered to slightly different age groups, this new category of games will change the way kids (and adults) of all ages play. These toys will continue to evolve, improve, and expand thanks to the crowdfunding campaigns Koov and Cubetto have created—gathering support from parents that understand the importance of their children learning coding. These are toys of the future, for necessary skills of the future.