After months of radio silence, Sony announced a U.S. price and release date for its Koov robot kit. Available for pre-order today (Feb. 14) and shipping in March, the Koov "Educator Kit" will cost $519 and come with more than 300 different pieces. Bundled with class management software, lesson plans and a curriculum, this kit is designed more for teachers than parents.
Designed to compete with other robot-building kits such as Lego's Mind Storm and UBTech's Jimu Robots, Koov teaches children how to code by providing them with a series of interlocking blocks, motors and sensors, along with an app that's chock full of helpful tutorials. Kids as young as 8 can follow a variety of "recipes" to build and code everything from a walking robotic hippo to a rolling, light-up fire truck.
When we reviewed Sony's Koov kit summer, we praised the robot-building kit for its kid-friendly tutorials and versatile components. The app does a great job of gamifying the learning experience, with "missions" that show a map filled with different lessons the user must complete to unlock more complex tutorials.
The writing and images in the lessons are really good for helping young children learn. For example, the app explains programming by showing how a girl can ask her brother to bring her the remote control in plain English, but needs to ask her robot in its language: code.
At the time of our review, the electronics giant was planning to launch Koov, which was already selling in Japan, by the end of the year. However, Sony's Indiegogo campaign for the product fell just short of its $100,000 goal, and the company posted a notice in August saying that it still planned to bring Koov to market in 2018.
Where the company originally planned to sell three different levels of Koov: a $199 Basic Kit, a $349 Start Kit and a $499 Advanced Kit, there's now only one SKU. With 300 pieces and 23 recipes, the Educator Kit sounds very similar to the Advanced Kit and only costs $20 more. However, Sony told us that the new kit has a slightly different part selection than the one we reviewed and it also comes with a teacher's guide and class management software.
At $519, the Educator Kit is out of reach for many families, but Sony is clearly hoping that schools will be its primary customers. In its press release, the company said that one kit can provide materials for up to five students. A classroom with 25 students would therefore only need five kits.
If you have the money to buy a Koov for your child, the first-rate tutorials and variety of recipes make it a solid investment. And if you're a teacher or principal, it's worth a very close look. However, you can get Lego's Boost or Mindstorm kits for $159 and $349. Those kits may not have the same fun lessons, but they use standard Lego blocks, which makes them far more expandable.