Up Close With Play-i’s Bo, The Lovable Xylophone-Playing Robot

When we last met Play-i’s charming robots Bo and Yana they were busy pounding out tunes on a little colorful Xylophone and raising $1.4 million in crowdfunding cash. Now, however, they’re very nearly ready to ship and are doing some really impressive things that will help kids learn programming while having fun.

You can think of Play-i’s toys as sort of like the simple programming language, Logo, in physical form. You can program the robots using your iOS device and there are a series of introductory games that teach you the rudiments of programming including functions, subroutines, and loops. For example, the app asks you to play certain notes on the xylophone using Bo’s robotic arm – say five blue notes and five pink ones. To do this you must program the robot to hammer down five times, move over a few spaces, and hammer down five more times.

You can also add accessories to the robots and create, say, a platform for your LEGO creations or a mobile spy platform. While I’m always very skeptical of tech toys – they end up in the junk box far too soon and are often far too expensive – I’m impressed with how far the team has come in just a few short weeks. It looks like the product will soon be ready to ship and we will all have weird, blue robots running around our house busily hammering out jaunty tunes on our pets.