Sony, known for home appliances and gaming consoles, has developed a new toy hoping to change future generation’s outlook on engineering. Toio is a new robot-centric “game console” from Sony.
At the core of Toio are tiny robotic cubes on wheels. The cubes aren’t really the toy itself but rather building blocks for fun games and activities. The idea of this strange toy is to spark kid’s imagination. Kids can craft moving creatures by taping the cubes to paper cut-outs or snapping them to Lego bricks. Tape two cubes to a pair of paper pants, and they’ll waddle across the table. A single slip of paper and two cubes spawns an inchworm.
Sony has borrowed a few techniques from its console expertise. Toio features a video-game type system where cartridges can be inserted. Connected over Bluetooth, the cartridges dictate the cubes’ behavior. Different cartridges are available with the sets, and it’s likely Sony will introduce new ones in the near-future. Like game add-ons.
The cubes can sense each other’s position and move with precision along a special mat. Similar to what startup Anki uses with their AI-powered race cars, bottom-facing sensors allow the cubes to “see” lines on the mat for localization purposes. Unfortunately, the cubes are probably limited in functionality when off the mat. Also included with the kit is a motion controller ring which allows kids to drive the cubes with a flick of the wrist. A small lithium-ion battery inside each cube provides 2 hours of playtime, and to recharge the cubes, users connect them to the console.
Toio could be the answer to a seriously fun tech toy, and one that grasps a kid’s attention for more than 5 minutes. Educational toys (we’re not going to point any fingers but there are definitely a few that come to mind) can get boring real quick, but the fact that Toio works as a kit rather than a standalone product could make it a superb STEM learning toy. Give kids some arts and crafts supplies, and they’ll be able to engineer a myriad of cube-driven robots.
Sony is selling Toio kits through its crowdfunding platform First Flight. Kits are available for pre-order starting at $200 and are slated to ship in December.
Via: IEEE Spectrum
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