Destroying Toys to Make New Toys

Destroying Toys to Make New ToysMy name is Bitzy and I am a mechanical design intern at Play-i. I work on designing some of the accessories for Bo and have been a part of Play-i’s design and prototyping process.

Designing good toys requires asking many questions: What do we want the play experience to be like? Will kids want to play with Bo & Yana for a long time? Is it easy for kids to use, or will they get frustrated and give up? How does the product help us meet our goals of delivering fun and education?

We start with the product design ideation process.

Research

First we look at similar products already on the market. What features have made them succeed or fail? Why do kids like them? We often order lots of toys and products. We play with them for a bit, partially to get a sense of the play experience, but let’s be honest, mostly for the fun of it.

Dissection

The next step is to take them apart! Parents, if you want your kids to learn about how things are made, have them take things apart. It’s amazing what you can learn about mechanisms, manufacturing, and design from taking toys apart.

Analysis

After dissecting the toys to see how they work and function internally, we look for toys that imitate what we want to do in the most efficient way. For example, if we wanted to make a dancing robot, we would pick up another dancing toy, do some surgery, and analyze the mechanisms that make the robot dance.

Prototype

Once we have decided on the right implementation, we iterate through the prototyping process. Things rarely work well on the first design. A good approach to designing a complex product, assembly, or mechanism is to break it down into fundamental modules that can be independently tested. This modular process of testing is very common in programming as well and is known as unit testing.

Destroying Toys to Make New Toys

We like to start the design process by failing fast. By having the savvy and the tools that allow you to fail quickly, you can debug and improve the design until it is ready for the next step: designing for manufacture.

5 Steps to Making Perfect Robots

5 Steps to Making Perfect Robots I’m Jonathan and I think robots are awesome. I’m a certified Teaching English as a Foreign Language teacher with degrees in Electrical and Computer Engineering, so it’s truly a pleasure to be working on Bo & Yana. Since joining Play-I’s Hardware team in March, I’ve been focused on implementing improved features, design validation, and preparing Bo and Yana for volume manufacturing.

The hardware team is devoting significant bandwidth to supporting our manufacturer as we go through several pilot builds of Bo & Yana (see our manufacturing launch plan here). We are partnering with one of the world’s leading toy manufacturers; in fact, there’s a good chance that your children already have at least one toy from them. Even with their 30+ years experience, there’s still a lot of work that goes into making sure we ship high-quality robots on schedule.

5 Steps to Making Perfect Robots

Here are some things our hardware team is working with our manufacturer on:

1) Validating Design

We’re making sure that the every feature on the robot performs to our high standards. Up until now, we’ve only had a handful of robots to test, which doesn’t give statistically significant results. Ramping up production means we have lots of robots to test, giving us the ability to observe performance on a large number of units to ensure the best quality.

2) Improving Design For Manufacturing

From the very beginning, we’ve been focusing on mistake proofing. For electronics, this means making sure that each wire harness connector can only plugged in correctly.

3) Testing Fixtures

All of our robots go through a series of tests as they go down the production line. There are 12 circuit boards in Bo that get assembled at different stages in production, so these tests make sure that all the connections are made properly and work together as expected. We collect performance data on each of the features to weed out marginal units. This data makes it easy for continuous product improvement.

4) Life Testing

A group of units from each build we do goes off to our quality lab, where they are played with continuously for 8 hours a day. We are looking to see which parts of the design fail and how long it takes for failures to develop. Proactively finding design weaknesses allows us to make improvements to the robot before they ever make it to your homes and into the hands of your children.

5) Compliance Testing & Certification

We’re working with 3rd-party testing facilities to ensure that our robots comply with all laws for each country where our robots will be sold. In a few days they’ll begin testing for FCC compliance and certification from Bluetooth SIG.

We’re all very eager to see Bo and Yana launch into full production in the coming weeks, but not without making sure we’ve crossed all our t’s and dotted all the i’s. In doing so, we spend a fair amount of time at our manufacturer in China and will continue to do so throughout production launch and volume ramp-up.

 

Little Programs for Little Learners

Throughout the summer our researchers have been testing our robots and apps with kids in museums and summer camps. We’re paying close attention to what brings smiles to children’s faces and gets their minds racing. Over and over again, we’re finding that kids love turning Bo & Yana into characters, making Bo zip around the room, and programming Bo to behave in their own creative ways.

Little Programs for Little Learners

Coding enables children to shape their own worlds, and our in-app challenges will inspire them by showing what’s possible. Here are some fun open-ended activities your child can do with Bo to play and learn in their own way.

1. Hello world

Children say “Hello” in all kinds of ways. Some say it out loud while jumping up and down while others wave and smile. There are many ways your child can program Bo to say “Hello” too. Try coding Bo to light up and go “Ooo” when you clap or go forward and backward when you press a button. Kids will delight in showing the world how they programmed Bo to make an introduction.

2. Story time

The next time you read a story to your child, try programming Bo together to play one of the characters. Children love telling stories with their playthings, and they can turn a little blue robot into any character they choose. Program Bo to show a character’s emotions or act out different parts of the story as you read them. Make Bo shake its head and frown when your narrator recites their dislike for green eggs and ham, or transform Bo into a wild thing who snarls and rolls its terrible eyes. By letting your child add their creative flavor to storytelling they will continually seek out great stories.

3. Helping hand

Children love turning Bo into their little helper. Strap a tray or a lasso to Bo or just program it to push building blocks, food, toys, or anything else they desire. Kids’ eyes will light up when they see their little blue robot delivering gifts to their friends or retrieving tools from across the room.

4. Everybody dance now

Turn up the tunes and kids will start dancing. With just a little bit of code they can program Bo to join in their fun. They’ll enjoy making Bo move back and forth to the beat or just bob its head and flash its lights as they dance around Bo.

5. Teach someone else how to play

Teaching is just as fun for children as learning. Have your child program Bo to do things like shake when you clap or zoom forward when you wave your hand in front of it. Once they’ve coded some cool things for Bo to do when you interact, they can demonstrate what they programmed to a friend or family member. By leaving a button press un-programmed they can use it to teach someone new how to program Bo.

We can’t wait to see what other awesome projects your kids create with our robots! If you have any ideas for challenges, please share them too in the comments!

Elephants and Blockly at ISTE

Elephants and Blockly at ISTELast week we traveled to the great land of Atlanta last week to hang out with movers and shakers in edtech and teachers who are doing amazing innovation in their classrooms. A really inspiring trend this year is towards inquiry-based and project-based learning models facilitated by technology. Teachers are really stepping out of traditional teaching methods and truly taking ownership of their classrooms.

We went to Gary Stager and Sylvia Martinez’s Invent to Learn workshop, to see how professional development is done for teachers… the fun way! It was a day of tinkering and making. We played with the Hummingbird, the Makey Makey, and LittleBits, and we even brought Bo out to play! It was really interesting to see creative juices flowing as they thought of ways to integrate activities into their classrooms.

Elephants and Blockly at ISTE

Lots of selfies were taken with teachers who were both new and old friends of Bo & Yana. We met with some of our pilot program teachers as well as other interested folks who were curious about Bo, and we got a lot of useful feedback for the Blockly app that we’re using for the classroom. Michael Medvinsky of Bloomfield Hills (Detroit area), Michigan even suggested that Bo should do music projects with the Makey Makey.

Elephants and Blockly at ISTE

Jennie Magiera is excited to use them in her classroom in Chicago!

Speaking of Blockly, here’s a sneak peek of how our Blockly app will work with Legos® on Building Brick Extensions. Open ended challenges address all kinds of computer programming concepts while putting them in a contextual story. They are learning about sequencing, loops, parallel programming, and event handling all while bringing an elephant to life!

Developer Program Pre-Alpha API Launch!

We are excited to launch the first version of the iOS developer API along with our developer portal to backers of the developer pack! Our developers have been anxiously awaiting the release, and we are excited to see what learning and fun apps they create for Bo & Yana.

We also added in an extra feature only available to developers at this time. With our developer simulator, you can code on the go and test your code from anywhere. Check out this side-by-side video to see the developer simulator in action next to the real Bo!

Head over to the developer portal to download the API if you ordered a developer pack or sign up to get notified when we open for public beta!

Play-i at Re/Code’s Code Conference

Yesterday we were honored to demo Bo & Yana at the Re/Code Code Conference in Rancho Palos Verdes, California! Tech heavyweights like Sergey Brin, Reed Hastings, Jeff Weiner spoke, so Bo was definitely in good company. We hope you enjoy this video of the demo!

The panelists really loved Bo, especially the surprise we made with our Building Brick Extensions at the end!