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Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Mover Kit Review - Kids Programmable Wearable from Tech Will Save Us

The Mover Kit is a programmable wearable device for children aged 8 and up. The Mover Kit started off as a Kickstarter from Tech Will Save Us, it has delivered to backers and is now available to buy.

I've tried out the Mover Kit with my kids aged 8 and 10.



Unboxing the Mover Kit

The Mover Kit comes in attractive cardboard packaging with a plain brown cardboard inner. 

You get two electronics boards, the Mover Kit plastic case, a yellow USB cable and three different accessories for attaching the case to people and objects. 

The packaging isn't particularly useful for storing all the parts - you'll only be using one of the accessories at a time so it's important to not to lose the others. 

Assembly

The Mover Kit is intended for simple assembly. Kids attach the two circuit boards together put them in the case and attach the power cord. 

Although there aren't many parts my kids needed a bit of help with this - they're pretty experienced with electronics and assembling kits. My 10 year old son was expecting the circuit boards to snap to the case in some way, it doesn't, it just sits there and my 8 year old son couldn't attach the power cable - actually I struggled with this too, those little JST style connectors are really fiddly. 

It's definitely valuable for kids to be able to see the components rather than experiencing electronics products as black boxes. 

The case closes with a stretchy silicone loop. You have to open the case to connect the USB cable for charging and programming - I hope the loop is tough as it's going to come under a lot of stress.  

The Mover Kit comes with three fab accessories: a slap bracelet, a lanyard and a velcro strap. These are really nicely made and a real strength of the kit.



My kids loved that the watch strap is a stretch bracelet. It means that it fits their slim wrists and adapts to larger wrists (and the necks of cuddly toys, it seems!)




The lanyard has a safety clasp and the cord is kid length, the clip looks sturdy. My kids often wear electronics devices with lanyards - we've done this with a VTech kids camera and a BBC micro:bit. It works well as a neck lanyard but it would have been even better if it had a sliding adjuster so it could be used as a wrist lanyard like the one on Wii remotes - this would stop the device flying out of a child's hand. 

The velcro strap is handy for attaching the Mover Kit to a bike or scooter and also for attaching it to furniture and other objects. 

Power

The Mover Kit has a rechargeable battery and is charged via a USB cable. The rechargeable battery is housed in the base part of the case. This really sets the device apart from other small programmable electronics devices such as the BBC micro:bit and Adafruit Circuit Playground. There's no need to cobble together a solution and try to hide wires or 3D print a custom case, the battery is neatly enclosed in a custom case and the wires are just long enough to fit. 

The Mover Kit is a complete powered solution and this will make a real difference to less technical households where you really need stuff to work out of the box. 

The device can be programmed and tested when connected to a laptop and the USB cable is nice and long so you can still use the Mover Kit if you've let the battery run down. 

The Mover Kit doesn't power off automatically so kids will need to remember to turn it off or plug it back in to charge. Staying on does make sense for some apps such as the nightlight example.

Getting Started

The Mover Kit comes with two built in apps that you can use out the box without any programming. The first is an Activity app which rewards movement with light shows. The second is a 'bike light' which has a red and a white option depending on the orientation of the device. 

The Mover Kit has a button in the centre which needs to be pressed through the silicon cover. My kids found this really hard to do. You have to press quite firmly and right in the centre. 

Our initial reaction was that the lights are quite bright and except for the two that are under the silicon strap, there's nothing to disperse the light. This is easy to fix with a disc of paper but we found the device quite uncomfortable to look at without this. 

The Activity app was a bit confusing at first. You have to move the device in different ways to unlock different light patterns. The device stays white until you stop moving so it's hard to tell that it's doing anything at first. Once kids understand how it works then it's fun to try and find new colour patterns.

The Mover Kit is programmed via a drag and drop app in the web browser but you do need to download a helper app called Bolt first. This all worked very smoothly for us. There are simple starter apps to get you going. 

The starter projects are really nice ideas including a Gandalf's staff and a campfire (something we've done with Flotilla and the Raspberry Pi.) There's also a very simple toothbrush timer (a gadget that we have previously made with an Adafruit Circuit playground.)

Coding Your Own App

The drag and drop coding app is straightforward and kids who have used similar coding tools will find it straightforward. 

My kids were able to create simple apps for the Mover Kit and download them to the device quickly and easily. 

We really like the interface for setting custom patterns on the lights, it's very visual and there's no need to worry about RGB colours.



More experienced kids will soon bump up against the limitations of the environment, there's no way to generate random numbers (we wanted to make a dice) or save data to variables. We also wanted to be able to adjust the brightness on the LEDs. 

Additional capability could be added in future, but there's value in simplicity. Many kids toys and gadgets actually have really simple programming and there's lots of scope for creating fun projects with the coding that's available. 

A really nice feature of using a slap bracelet is that you can lay it flat when coding. 

Value for Money

The Mover Kit retails for £50 / $75. At first this might seem costly in comparison to the BBC micro:bit at £12.99 or the Adafruit Circuit Playground at around $20. But you need to bear in mind that those devices are just boards that need add on to turn them into a powered wearable. The convenience of having everything bundled together so it just works is worth a lot. 

You get a rechargeable battery included in the Mover Kit and it can be charged by the Mover Kit too. The battery is also enclosed in the case making a simple rechargeable wearable that has been designed for children. Powering other devices is definitely a lot more problematic than working with the Mover Kit. 

Also the other devices target more experienced or older children. The Mover Kit really has managed to make everything simple and offers a great first experience.



We often meet parents that admit that STEM toys that they bought for their children didn't get used because the effort and difficulty to get started was too much for the parents. The Mover Kit keeps things simple so it's more likely to actually get used by kids and families. 

For a less technical family with younger children, or a family that really wants to focus on making that includes tech but isn't dominated by it, the Mover Kit offers good value for money. 

More advanced users may be frustrated by the limitations of the Mover Kit but even then I can see it being useful for quick specific projects. 

Verdict

The Mover Kit
We love that the Mover Kit can be used to easily make gadgets that are useful and entertaining for kids. This isn't a worthy educational kit. It's a hands-on practical device that will enable kids to make electronic gadgets that are relevant to them. There's a really low barrier to entry here. No need for kids or parents to be intimidated by complex setup. 

I think children younger than 8 would really enjoy this device with support. I think 6 would have been a good age for my kids. But it's a device that will go with kids. I can see my kids just grabbing it for a quick project as part of their play

We love the variety of accessories that are included too. We often find ourselves trying to add these to projects and when it's not the main part of what kids are trying to achieve it's a bit of a distraction. The slap bracelet works really well and means that it's easy to swap straps which will appeal to kids. 

The Mover Kit sample projects are really simple which makes them perfect for beginners and kids who want to focus on the creative aspects of a project. We've made more advanced versions of some of the starter projects, but those projects tend to involve a techie parent doing a lot of setup so that kids can do the bit they're interested in. For younger or less experienced kids, or those in a hurry to get something working, the Mover Kit is fantastic. It will give kids (and parents) a simple route into the world of programmable electronics and allow them to develop basic skills which will put them in a good position to use more advanced tools in future.

BuyMover Kit from Tech Will Save Us (UK with international shipping)

The Mover Kit
from: Marbles: The Brain Store





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