Dan Shapiro’s Robot Turtles board game Kickstarter showed there is serious appetite for kids’ games that aren’t just fun to play with but also sneakily teach core coding principles. Instead of the $25,000 he was aiming for, Shapiro raised more than $630,000. Geeky moms and dads clearly have money, and will spend it on the right bit of educational kit.
With that kind of Kickstarter community response, it’s pretty likely we’re set to see a wave of educational toys doing cool fun stuff with programming principles. To wit, meet Primo: a physical programming interface that teaches children programming logic while they control the movements of an Arduino-powered robot.
All of Primo’s electronics are concealed inside wooden boxes, so from the child’s point of view they’re playing with blocks, a board and a cute little robot. But as they snap the coloured pieces (instruction blocks) into the board (the physical programming interface) they are building up a set of instructions that the wheeled bot will execute when they push the big red button. So they get to see their program come to life as the bot moves around the room and navigates around household objects.
The instruction blocks comprise four different coloured pieces: forward, to move the bot forward; left; right; and the green circular function block. The function block adds a little more complexity to the basic instruction set as it calls the last line of blocks on the board every time it’s called. Aka it’s a sub-routine.
The function element, used in conjunction with the setting of longer physical paths for the robot to complete, then requires kids to use logical thinking to build up longer sequences of instructions to complete the challenge. And that’s the subtle learning it’s hoping to achieve.
It’s certainly a lot more basic than the Kano DIY computer Kickstarter – but the idea is to offer coding ‘baby steps’, for four-to-seven-year-olds, not throw kids in at the deep end.
“Skills are mastered gradually. Mountains are climbed one step at a time. Think of Primo as the very first step in a child’s programming education. Primo provides the very basic ABC of programming logic,” Primo’s U.K.-based (Italian) creators note on their Kickstarter page.
They’re aiming to raise £35,000 to get the kit to market. The full, assembled kit costs £160 to early Kickstarter backers — or £135 for a DIY version that you can self-assemble at home. They’ve already managed to raise more than £5,500 since the campaign kicked off on Friday, with 27 days left to run. If it hits its funding target, they’re aiming to ship to backers next August.
Read the original post: Primo Is An Arduino Robot That Teaches Kids Programming Logic Through Play
Google today released an update to its reCAPTCHA system that creates different classes of CAPTCHAs for different kinds of users. In short, it makes your life easier if you’re a human, and your work much harder if you’re a bot.
For those who have encountered CAPTCHAs and reCAPTCHA, but have no idea what they are, here’s a quick primer. CAPTCHA stands for “Completely Automated Public Turing test to tell Computers and Humans Apart”, and as its name implies, it is a quick test used in computing to determine whether or not the user is human. You’ve probably encountered hundreds of these if a site decides to verify whether you’re human or not.
reCAPTCHA, which was acquired by Google in September 2009, is similar to the CAPTCHA interface, except that it asks users to enter words seen in distorted text images onscreen. It presents two words: one which it knows (used to test whether you are human), and one which it doesn’t (used to help digitize the text in books).
Google notes that over the last few years, advances in artificial intelligence have reduced the gap between human and machine capabilities in deciphering distorted text, and the reCAPTCHA team has been making its system more adaptive via extensive research and steady improvements.
Unsurprisingly, Google wouldn’t share too much detail as to how the new system works, aside from saying it uses advanced risk analysis techniques, actively considering the user’s entire engagement (before, during and after) with the CAPTCHA. In other words, the distorted letters are not the only test.
Here’s what Google says it gains from the changes:
This multi-faceted approach allows us to determine whether a potential user is actually a human or not, and serve our legitimate users CAPTCHAs that most of them will find easy to solve. Bots, on the other hand, will see CAPTCHAs that are considerably more difficult and designed to stop them from getting through.
Since humans find numeric CAPTCHAs (pictured above) significantly easier to solve than those containing arbitrary text, Google will be showing you more and more numbers. Bots, meanwhile, won’t even see them.
That’s not all. Google says “significant advancements” to the reCAPTCHA technology are on their way “in the next few months.” We’ll keep you posted.
Top Image Credit: Johannes Eisele/Getty Images
(h/t William Gibson)
Thumbnail image credit: The Creators Project
Meet Rapiro, the kit robot with a space inside its kawaii head to accomodate the Raspberry Pi microcomputer. The gizmo is the creation of Shota Ishiwatari, the Japanese gadgeteer who came up with a brain-wave controlled cat-ear headband and a heart-rate controlled wearable wagging tail, among other ‘only in Japan‘ creations. Rapiro is just as cute as these prior creations but may well have wider appeal — not least because it allows Raspberry Pi owners to make their Pi mobile.
Indeed, it’s just two days since Rapiro went live on Kickstarter and it’s already exceeded its original funding goal of £20,000, with close to 140 backers making pledges — and still 57 days to run on the campaign. Clearly Pi owners have a big appetite for cute home-assembly robotics.
The bot brings to mind the (now defunct) Nabaztag Wi-Fi rabbit. Except, instead of trying to be a plug-and-play consumer-friendly gizmo, Rapiro is a self-assembly, hackable, programmable, mobile variant of that sort of connected companion device. Its creators say the aim is to be a “catalyst between robotics and Raspberry Pi”, noting that its price will be at around a quarter of “current aesthetic robot kits” and a tenth the price of the price of “current linux-powered humanoid robot kits”.
“We want to start a revolution in cute, cool, affordable, customizable, and programmable robots,” they say on the campaign page, adding that they plan to publish Rapiro’s 3D data (.stl) on their website so owners will be able to further customise the design using a 3D printer.
Rapiro’s kit includes 12 servo motors, allowing for a range of movements such as walking and gripping objects when the bot is assembled. It also has a pair of full-colour LED eyes. As well as a space (in its head) for the Pi to be installed (Pi is obviously not included in the kit), Rapiro can also incorporate the Raspberry Pi camera module to add computer vision capabilities — so it could, for instance, be used as a in-home security robot that can wander from room to room.
Other Pi-powered ideas Rapiro’s creators suggest the gizmo is good for include:
Rapiro can also be used without any Pi inside too, being as it incorporates a programmable servo control board that’s compatible with Arduino. “Using the documentation on website you can program its range of motion by yourself,” the creators note. Power for Rapiro comes via four AA batteries inserted into its back-mounted battery box.
The basic cost for the full Rapiro kit is £199, although all 50 pledges at that price-point have been bagged. Estimated delivery for the device is this December.
As well as appealing to Pi owners who want to hack around with robotics, Rapiro could also clearly be put to use in educational settings, helping to get kids excited about technology (the Raspberry Pi Foundation plans to use one for schools and teaching workshops, for instance).
Here is the original post: Rapiro Kit Robot For Raspberry Pi Gets Funded On Kickstarter In Two Days