Play-i Raises $1.4M From The Crowd For Toy Robots That Make Programming Kid-Friendly, Comes To Stores Near You Next Summer

bo-and-yana-play-hide-and-seekIf we’re going to prepare future generations for an increasingly technical world (and workforce) ahead, then we need to teach them computer science and engineering. To some, that may sound like a no-brainer, but to the American educational system, where nine out of ten schools don’t offer programming courses, it not. Of course, to really get students engaged and inspire that lifelong love of computer science and technology — just as it is with learning a new language — education has to start early. And it has to be fun. Learning how to code takes time and is a difficult proposition for adults, so asking kids to sit down and write a line of code (let alone learn the laws of computer science) almost seems absurd. It’s this problem that led Vikas Gupta, the former head of consumer payments at Google, to create Play-i and a couple of kid-friendly, educational robots. Joined by co-founders Saurabh Gupta, who previously led the iPod software team at Apple, and Mikal Greaves, who led product design and manufacturing for electronics and toys at Frog Design, to make programming and engineering concepts accessible to kids, who’d rather be outside digging in the dirt. The team knew that whatever solution they designed would need to be something kids would want to play with, so they created Bo and Yana, two programmable, interactive robots that look and act a lot like toys. The team raised $1 million from Google Ventures, Madrona Venture Group and others last year to build the prototypes, and today, though it’s still tinkering with details, the learning system is nearly ready for lift-off. When it comes to market next year, kids will be able to play with Bo and Yana right out of the box, controlling them through Play-i’s companion app designed for the iPad. The app presents visual sequences of actions and simple commands on the iPad that kids can then perform — like clapping, waving their hand or shaking one of the robots — that compel the robots to perform certain actions. Young programmers can get three-wheeled Bo to scoot around the room, blink his light or play a xylophone, shake Yana to roar like a lion, or have them interact with each other. Through actionable storytelling, play and music, younguns start to learn the most basic concepts behind programming, like causation. The coolest idea behind the interactive learning system is


Monica+Andy, A Children’s Clothing Line And Online Store From Bonobos Founder’s Sister, Debuts

Monica&AndyMonica+Andy, a new children’s clothing line and online store launching in early November has benefit of receiving input from a famous name in the e-commerce space: the “Andy” in “Monica+Andy” is Andy Dunn, CEO of men’s fashion brand, Bonobos. Now his sister, Monica Royer is getting into the business too, but with a completely different take. She’s not designing clothes for men or women, but instead for toddler boys and girls.


“Fashion Inspiration” For Tots: Lil’Stylers Wants Parents To Snap & Share Their Kids’ Best Looks

Lil_ StylersLil’Stylers, a new shopping discovery service launching first on the iPhone, has a different (and maybe unsettling?) take on tracking children’s fashion trends. For those following mobile shopping space, the easiest way to put it is to say it’s a “Pose for kids.” To better explain what that means, Lil’Stylers is an attempt at building a social community around sharing outfits, looks, style ideas, and favorite brands to help inspire parents looking for new ideas in children’s fashion.


FiLIP, A Smartwatch For Kids, Will Be Home For The Holidays

logo-1Just in time for frenzied family trips to the mall — i.e. the holiday season — wearable tech maker Filip Technologies is preparing to take its first product to market, a GPS and mobile-enabled watch that keeps children and their parents in communication. After three years in product development, AT&T has partnered with Filip Technologies as the device’s network provider, distributor, and billing service. Exact pricing and service plans will be announced in the coming weeks, Filip Technologies CEO Jonathan Peachey said. Although the final retail price on the FiLIP watch has not been set, it will not exceed $200. The monthly voice and data plan will be less than that, Peachey added, the aim being to not burden the average family’s monthly mobile budget. The colorful two-button watch, worn by the child and hooked up to an app on a parent’s phone, can make and receive calls to the parent. It also uses a combination of GPS, cell tower location, and WiFi triangulation to act as a locator, and there’s an emergency button that begins ambient sound recording and connects the child with emergency services. And although smartwatches are so hot right now, it’s wearable primarily because kids are prone to losing things not attached to their bodies. The FiLIP watch is aimed at children 11 and younger, given that many parents don’t want to buy their kids a cell phone until they’re a bit older. Although there are GPS devices and phones with limited calling capabilities targeted at children on the market, it’s a diversity of features that Filip Technologies is hoping will set its product apart. “You need a combination of location and voice,” Peachey said. “I can’t point to a product that does the features we do in a wearable product.” This summer has marked a few milestones in the development of the product. FiLIP passed its FCC certification in late July, making it the first wearable mobile device with full two-way voice capability to do so. Earlier that month, Peachey joined the Filip team from Virgin Group, where he was the CEO of Virgin Management USA and later an advisor to Sir Richard Branson. It took about two years of engineering effort to get the product to a place where it could enter FCC testing, Peachey said. During that time the engineering team built a large scale prototype and then spent nine months shrinking it


AppoLearning For iPad Helps Parents & Teachers Find The Educational Apps Worth Buying

home-appolearningWith an ever-expanding selection of apps on the market making educational claims, parents today have a tough time deciding which apps are worth their investment. Earlier this year, app search and discovery portal Appolicious launched a new resource called appoLearning to specifically address this problem. Today, that service has arrived on the iPad in the form of a standalone application.


With Tynker’s New Service, Kids Can Learn To Code At Home

tynker_leadMountain View-based Tynker, a startup focused on teaching children of all ages the basics of learning how to code, is now expanding its service beyond schools with today’s debut of Tynker for Home. This new system is similar to the platform targeting teacher and classrooms which launched earlier this year. Tynker for Schools, as that previous suite is called, provides web-based software and a curriculum aimed at elementary and middle school students. The new home edition is designed for the same crowd.