NEWS$show=/search/label/news

Here's where you'll find all the latest news about technology for children. We love to follow cool new inventions on Kickstarter and we hunt out all the latest announcements about tech toys and gadgets for the coming Christmas holidays. You'll also get our take on children's technology stories in the media.

REVIEWS$show=/search/label/review

Our kids technology product reviews are intended to help you work out whether a toy, gadget or kit is a good fit for your child or family. There's lots of cool stuff available, but is it the right choice for the child or teenager that you are buying for? We'll help you make the right choices and get the best value for money.

GIFT GUIDES$show=/search/label/gift%20guide

Parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and friends assemble. We create gift lists to help you make good choices for kids technology which helps them develop the right skills for the future. We research the best in Coding Toys and Games, Making / Craft Tools and Kits, STEM/STEAM related gifts, Programmable Robots, Electronics Kits and Gadgets for Tech Age Kids and Teens.

PROJECTS$show=/search/label/project

Get crafty with technology. Here we'll post all our ideas and projects using technology to get creative and making with kids. You'll find anything from making a lemon battery to a glow-in-the-dark Minecraft sword. Our projects are tried and tested on our own kids or at events we run, so we are sure you can have a go at home with your kids. Some of our projects use specific tech gadgets which we provide links for you to purchase.

STEM$show=/search/label/stem

STEM stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. In recent years there is an increased focus in these areas of study. We like to include Art and Design too, so we often talk about STEAM (A stands for Art). At Tech Age Kids we believe Coding is a new literacy and children need to understand how technology works, practice making skills and grow in their curiosity to make a better future for us all.

CODING$show=/search/label/coding

Coding is increasingly being recognised as an important skill for children to learn. Some will learn to code at school or at a coding club, but it's brilliant if they get support at home too.

ELECTRONICS$show=/search/label/electronics

We think it's really important for kids to get hands-on with electronics and learn how to make circuits and write code to control hardware. Younger kids can start with conductive playdough. For kids who like to combine craft and tech, littleBits are fab. And we love SAM Labs wireless electronics components for making it easy for kids to make Internet of Things inventions. Lots of electronics kits for kids have support for the Arduino microprocessor environment. The DuinoKit Jr is one of our favourites. Arduino is a fab skill for older kids and teens to develop.

ROBOTICS$show=/search/label/robotics

We love robots at Tech Age Kids, especially programmable ones. We've got lots of them and write reviews and projects that use them. Our programmable robots for kids buying guide is a good place to start if you're not sure what's available. Roby the mBot Meccano robot dog is one of our popular projects and has been with us to lots of events. Our Ozobot LEGO trailer is fab for kids who love LEGO and robots.

MAKING AND CRAFT$show=/search/label/making

We're advocates of the creative use of technology, but this needs to be balanced with developing physical skills such as papercraft, woodwork, clay modelling, technical drawing and soldering. If children don't develop these skills as they grow up then physical making projects can become frustrating rather than fun. The Maker Community uses the term 'making' as a broad term to include all sorts of artisan skills or craft activities. Being able to make things can lead to life-long hobbies or even careers. It's a great feeling to be able to take a project from an idea in your head to a real object that does something. We're particularly interested to explore products that combine maker skills with tech skills such as electronics but others focus purely on the physical making skills that are still important to modern making.

Amazon Fire Tablet and Programmable Robot Toys


The Amazon Fire is a great inexpensive tablet for kids and teens, but does it work with programmable robot toys such as Sphero, Ollie, Parrot Drone, Dash  & Dot, Meccanoid, LEGO Mindstorms, mBot and OzoBot?

This will be an important concern for a lot of our readers so we've put a Fire Basic 2015 tablet to the test. (See Amazon Fire Basic vs Kids Edition for our comparison of the different options for this tablet.)

Note that unless a robot is officially supported we can only report on our experience. You may get different results with different OS versions, app updates, firmware versions etc. Hopefully support will get better in future too.

We've covered sideloading as well as official support because you can do so much more if you take this approach. It's not recommended though and what we'd really like is to see more support for the Amazon Fire. It provides a fairly inexpensive but well-supported tablet option for families.



Without Sideloading

First we'll take a look at the robots that can be controlled and programmed from the Amazon Fire Basic tablet without side-loading. That means that the apps you need are either available from the Amazon App Store or you don't need an app and the website works. 

Side-loading means installing apps that aren't in the Amazon App Store. It's not recommended as apps aren't regulated in the same way and updates and other features may not be offered in the same way.

Sphero



Sphero is one of our top choices of programmable robot for Amazon Fire. The official Sphero app is in the Amazon App Store. This is the main controller and fun app for Sphero and has lots of missions to complete.



Even better in our opinion, the Sphero SPRK Lightning Lab coding environment for Sphero is in the Amazon App Store. This means you can program Sphero using drag and drop coding. 

Other Sphero apps are missing from the App Store but they are less important (and some can be side-loading if you're willing to do that, see below.)

We really appreciate being able to control Sphero from an inexpensive Amazon Fire tablet. Especially when the kids want to take it outside. 

Ollie

Unfortunately there's no sign of the Ollie app on the Amazon app store. This is a shame, especially as Orbotix, makers of Sphero and Ollie, is an Amazon launchpad company. 

But the SPRK Lightning Lab also work with Ollie and we've been able to program Ollie from the Amazon Fire Basic with no problems. 

This means that the Amazon Fire is great for coding Ollie but you can't do tricks without sideloading.

OzoBot

Unfortunately the OzoBot app isn't in the Amazon App Store. However OzoBlockly is a browser based app and it works!

This means that you can program an OzoBot from an Amazon Fire just by loading up the browser. OzoBot is programmed by placing the robot on the tablet screen which will display a sequence of flashing colours. Very neat. 

We found that due to the screen size we could only program one OzoBot at a time, but we'll take that!

WowWee Tech Toys

Not programmable (yet, we'd like to think :-) but a cool bit of kid tech and worthy of a mention here, the WowWee R.E.V app is in the Amazon App Store and works really well on the Amazon Fire. 

The WowWee MiP and MiPosaur apps are also on the Amazon App Store if you want cool robots to control. 

Sideloading / Google Play

We really wish that more apps for controlling and programming robots were in the Amazon App Store. Hopefully more will get added. 

But for now, other apps will need to be sideloaded via a third party app such as 1Mobile Market. This isn't recommended and you'll need to relax security setting on your device to allow it. Don't do this unless you understand what you are doing and the implications.

Some apps rely on service from Google Play and won't run unless you have it installed. It is technically possible to install Google Play and its services on an Amazon Fire without rooting it. 

Sphero and Ollie 

We were able to successfully sideload the Sphero Draw & Drive app and control both Sphero and Ollie. 

We side-loaded the Ollie app and it works brilliantly. 

OzoBot

We didn't get the OzoBot apps working either by sideloading or through Google Play. 

Dash & Dot



The side-loaded Dash & Dot apps from Wonder Workshop work really well on the Amazon Fire. We've tried Go, Blockly, Wonder League and Path. The apps run well and the robots connect easily via the bluetooth. It's a good size for younger kids to hold when they walk around and play with the robots.  The screen is slightly small for the path app, but you can easily scroll around.

Update: Yay! Most of the apps for Dash & Dot are now in the Amazon App Store, no need to side load!

Meccanoid

The side-loaded Meccanoid app works well on the Amazon Fire. We were able to control Meccanoid using both Ragdoll animation (via an onscreen avatar or controls) and Motion capture (copying a person via camera.)

Parrot Spider

You need the FreeFlight 3.0 app to control the Parrot Spider. We were unable to get this app working on the Amazon Fire.

But, we could control the Parrot Spider with Tynker on the Amazon Fire (see below.) Yay! We prefer this anyway. 

LEGO Mindstorms 

LEGO Mindstorms Commander is the bluetooth controller app for this popular robot. It seemed to get stuck with a 'Downloading' messsage the first time I ran it after sideloading. But I quit and reloaded and success! 

The LEGO Mindstorms Programmer app depends on Google Play so you need to install that on the Fire (which is possible if non-trivial) to get that working.

mBot

The basic mBot control app works on the Amazon Fire when side-loaded. The more powerful mBlockly app isn't yet available for Android.

Tynker App

It's also worth mentioning the Tynker kids coding app as this supports Sphero, Ollie and the Parrot Spider. Unfortunately Tynker failed to run on the Amazon Fire when sideloaded. 

Tynker does however run if you install Google Play on the Fire.

We were able to control a Parrot Rolling Spider, Sphero and Ollie using Tynker on the Amazon Fire (when loaded via Google Play.)

Conclusion

We wish the tablet vendors and app stores would all play nicely together so that our robots can too!
If you're looking for robots that work without side-loading (and that's definitely to be preferred) then Sphero is the best option, followed by OzoBot with OzoBlockly. Ollie is also a good choice for coding.

Update: The Dash & Dot apps are available for Amazon Fire so Dash & Dot have joined our top recommendations list. 

If you're a techie family and willing to sideload then you have lots more options. (See our guide to buying a programmable robot for help choosing.) But we wish they were in the Amazon App Store. 

It's a shame that we can't run apps that actually run well on the Fire in a straightforward supported manner. 

We've found that the Amazon Fire is a great size for programmable robots -  it's bigger than a phone, which kids find too small, but not so big that it's awkward to carry around. It's also fairly inexpensive so we're more willing to let the kids take it out in the garden to control Sphero for example.

The option of using a cheaper tablet with robots is appealing, as often the robots are already a fair amount of money, and if you don't have a compatible device it really hampers your enjoyment of them. Elbrie had this experience with Dash & Dot, as her iPad was too old to work with the robots, she tried to use her Andriod mobile device.  This becomes tricky when kids want to play and mummy needs to make a call.

We like the idea of having a tablet dedicated to be used with the robots (whichever you choose).

We wish the tablet vendors and app stores would all play nicely together so that our robots can too!


Name

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Tech Age Kids | Technology for Children: Amazon Fire Tablet and Programmable Robot Toys
Amazon Fire Tablet and Programmable Robot Toys
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Tech Age Kids | Technology for Children
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