Programmable Vortex Robot Offers Palm-Sized Coding, Fun


With an increasing emphasis on STEM curriculum around the world, developers are constantly turning out new methods to help even the youngest children learn coding and programming fundamentals. Thanks to new toys like Vortex, a programmable robot, kids can learn the basics of programming in a fun, interactive way.

Vortex has been revealed via Kickstarter campaign from DFRobot, reports Edgar Alvarez for Engadget. The company has been selling open source hardware since 2008, and now they are looking to raise $50,000 to help fund the new palm-sized robot.

 "With Vortex, DFRobot wants to bring back the joy of tinkering to the next generation and boost STEM education among children, even from an early age, DFRobot CEO Ricky Ye said. "For the most part, toy technology has actually not changed much for decades. We're challenging this with a smart robot that children can enthusiastically play with, while also learning about programming and robotics."

Vortex comes compatible with apps, available for iOS and Android, that allow users to play with Vortex via Bluetooth technology. Vortex comes with a variety of preloaded games, writes Luigi Lugmayr for I4U News. The games are designed to be both fun and intuitive ranging from Bumping Fight, a game where players attempt to push each other out of bounds in an arena, to Robot soccer, where anywhere from 2 to 22 players can play a match at one time.

While Vortex's preprogrammed games are a fun way for kids to play by themselves or with others, the unique feature of the robot is its ability to be programmed easily through an accompanying app called WhenDo. Robin Burks from Tech Times writes that users are able to create their own apps for Vortex by using drag-and-drop graphical programming. This allows children to learn and understand the basic fundamentals of programming without actually writing any code.

The app also comes with basic preset courses that allow users to learn how to program Vortex effectively.

"We're transforming the household into part robotics lab, part playground," said Ye. "We fully believe in the philosophy of learning through play. With our robot, which offers an immersive programming experience, children can learn to code while having genuine fun. Our mission is to bridge the gap between toys and education–particularly STEM education–as technology-driven skills are more important than ever."

Vortex is built with Arduino and Scratch compatible technology that allows users to program many different functions including following lines, navigating around obstacles, recognizing hand gestures and avoiding drop-offs, according to Simon Crisp from Gizmag.

Vortex is capable of speaking as well as "seeing" with the help of infrared and grayscale recognition. The robot can also communicate through LED lights that are capable of 32 eye expressions.

Currently, Vortex is available for pre-order through Kickstarter for $69, or in a pair for $119. Each purchase also comes with printed mats to aid in game play and vinyl stickers to customize the robots.

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