These days, everyone from school teachers to tech executives is trying to teach kids how to code. So why not Lego? This week, the company unveiled Lego Boost, a $159 kit that lets kids as young as seven years old build cool robots and program them with a tablet app. Due out in the second half of 2017, Boost looks easy enough for elementary schoolers to master and powerful enough to whet their appetite for more complex technology.
"It's all about adding behaviors to your traditional Lego models and making them come alive in different ways through movement, through sound and through light," Lego Design Director Simon Kent told FamilyTech TV's Andrea Smith.
Boost comes with 840 Lego pieces and 3 "Boost Bricks" that provide a motor, a distance sensor and a tilt sensor. The parts are meant to build any of five different robots, each of which has a different look and capabilities.
- Vernie the Robot: This automaton looks like a stereotypical robot such as Wall-E or Johnny Number Five, with its square head, eyes and walking treds that let it roll around the house. It has arms, eyes and eyebrows, but none of those elements moves.
- Frankie the Cat: This model looks like a cat and uses sensors in its head to react to being petted.
- Auto Builder: A factory for making other Lego models.
- Guitar 4000: Looks like a guitar and makes sound effects when you touch it.
- M.I.R. 4: A rover that you can attach tools like a hammer or dart shooter to.
Since these robots are made with Legos, you can attach other bricks to them in order to customize them. In a brief demo, a Lego rep showed us how he attached a bow tie to the Vernie model.
The companion tablet app provides instructions for building any of the robots, along with a programming environment. Rather than asking children to use written code, the software offers a series of action blocks you can drag together to form programs. These actions include making noises, dancing or even reacting to voice commands.
The robots don't actually have a microphone or speaker, so your mobile device would interpret the voice commands or output a response. The app includes over 60 activities that children can perform with their robots.
While the programs you can make aren't particularly complex, Lego Boost looks like it will provide a great gateway into robotics and coding.