Rise of the Robots

Build a bot: App makers want your kids to love robotics

It's hard to deny that when R2D2, RoboCop and the Terminator sprang onto cinema screens, every kid wanted their own robot, but making one appear at the click of a finger was only something that dreams were made of back then.

Now, companies can utilize the smartphone space to make education a fun activity for kids, and what better way to teach kids exciting new things than with robots?

In 2012, Latitude Research published a study about children's interaction with robots, which demonstrated that 64 percent of those interviewed, said that robots felt like "natural, human-like companions." Many app companies have capitalized on this concept, and made apps that educate young children about robots.

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The Robot Factory, by Tinybop

Award-winning software company Tinybop Inc., based in Brooklyn, N.Y., has launched its latest app this month, called The Robot Factory, a paid iOS app that allows kids to let their imaginations go wild and create their own robot friend.

In the works since 2010, The Robot Factory allows children to build their own robots in a factory, whether it's a robot cat, samurai or moonwalker with 10 heads, and then lets them test out their robots "in a world" on the app.

Already more than 500,000 robots have been created on the app and it's been named a top iPad app overall in the app store in 27 countries, on top of being ranked first on iPhone for education, in 17 countries. Children can "supply the narrative" in the app and test out their robots to see if they work.

Raul Gutierrez, CEO of Tinybop Inc., told CNBC that they had "created an environment where building a robot that doesn't work doesn't feel like failure, but rather an invitation to tinker some more. This play pattern is essential in developing creative problem-solving skills."

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A key objective was to get children "excited about learning" and "excited about releasing the potential energy of their imaginations," said Gutierrez.

When asked whether using smartphones for education was seen as counterproductive, Gutierrez said that smartphones weren't just about content delivery but had all "sorts of wonderful technology."

"It's our responsibility as content creators to harness that power in ways that create meaningful experiences for kids," he added.

The Robot Factory is just the first app in Tinybop's Digital Toys series, who plans on expanding this with two more apps in 2015.

EV3 Robot Commander app and EV3RSTORM, by Lego

The Lego Group is famous for its power to inspire kids to build new ideas with their Lego building blocks. In fact, in February, Jorgen Vig Knudstorp, CEO of Lego, told CNBC that children still find fun in creating things and that whilst focusing on their "core physical Lego building experience," they wanted to stay competitive by getting involved in technology.

Enter the Robot Commander app and the EV3RSTORM. The EV3RSTORM is a small physical robot created by Lego, which has a "blasting bazooka and a spinning tri-blade."

For it to work, children can use the EV3 Robot Commander mobile application, which allows children to manage their own robot and tell them how to do a lot more than just walking and talking.

EV3RSTORM is just one of many robots created by Lego Mindstorms series, which uses EV3 software to teach children how to physically build their own robots and operate them. On the Lego website, the company shows their dedication to let kids imaginations run wild, stating online that "only the mind is the limit for what you can create."

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My Robot Friend, by LeapFrog

Award-winning educational entertainment company LeapFrog Enterprises has created My Robot Friend to entice kids with robots and education.

The app uses the idea of that children bond with robots by giving them the opportunity to operate a "robot friend" and answer puzzles based on mathematics, logic, spelling and problem solving.

With 80 levels of gameplay to work through, My Robot Friend gets children interested in solving the brainteasers with invisibility cloaks and shrink rays. Similar to The Robot Factory, LeapFrog's app lets kids redesign the original robot's form, with over 180 options available to the children, including a cowboy and Santa Claus outfit.

However, many have commented on how appropriate this app really is for kids, with a U.S. nonprofit organization, Common Sense, saying that it was a "fun puzzler" but that it had "some crude humor with a sarcastic burping cat and some mild violence." Consequently, the game is targeted at children 9 and older.

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