The childhood train set — with tracks that would loop around furniture legs in endless fashion — inspired a generation of would-be conductors.
Now, one start-up hopes to take the concept a giant step forward with Ozobot Evo, a "social robot" that introduces children to principles of science, technology, engineering and math. The device arrives on the scene as toymakers are going full bore with robotics and artificial intelligence that have the dual purpose of being both playthings and instruments of instruction.
The Ozobot Evo is a spherical robot designed to be a introduction to STEM and a fun toy. The Evo is small — tiny enough to sit on an Oreo cookie — and is made entirely for kids. It crams motors, circuits, lights, and sensors into a body that fits into a child's pocket. The toy, which is controlled using a mobile app, will go on sale in November for $99.95.
To make the robot universal and to give it a mind of its own, Ozobot created a language for the toy based on sounds, colors and lights. "We've actually spent a lot of time riffing through what this language is going to sound like," founder and CEO Nader Hamda said in a telephone interview with CNBC.