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Play-i aims to make programming, robots, and engineering fun for children

Worried that your kid won’t acquire the skills they need to help them soar in an increasingly tech-driven world? You’re not the only one.

Vikas Gupta, a Silicon Valley-based entrepreneur, has the same fears. He didn’t waste much time simply wallowing in his worries though; he set out to do something about it.

Gupta is a founding member of Play-i, a startup that’s focused on making things like robotics, programming, and engineering fun, interesting and engaging for kids as young as five years old. Based in Mountain View, Calif., the robots of Play-i, dubbed Bo and Yana, are both controllable and customizable. Bo and Yana can be programmed to create sounds, sing songs play games like tag and even sports like soccer. By the time the robots are released, kids will be able to control them using Android and iOS devices via Bluetooth 4.0.

The actual programming done by kids is visually based and combines music, stories, and animation, according to the official Play-i site. Think of the programming tasks as interactive cartoons that give your kids the building blocks of programming. However, once the user gets a handle on programming, Play-i claims that they’ll be able to write their own code. The company states that while Bo and Yana work great together, they’re also just as fun to play with and program independently of each other. However, Play-i does say that getting both Bo and Yana allows for “more advanced gameplay and new programming challenges.”

Play-i hopes to start shipping its programmable robots in summer 2014, and the company has already achieved more than half of their funding goal ($140,939 of $250,000 as of this writing). Though it’s unclear how much it will cost to get your child their own programmable Play-i robots at this point, it’ll be interesting to see whether programmable robots aimed at kids catches on and becomes the new, educational Tickle Me Elmo-type rage by the time next year’s holiday shopping season rolls around.

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