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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.

OhBot the Kids Programmable Robot Head



OhBot is a robot head that can be programmed with a Scratch-like graphical language. OhBot supports speech generation and speech recognition. The new version 2 model has 7 servos which allows for lots of expressivity.

Back in November last year we met up with Dan Warner, one of the inventors of OhBot and he told us all about the thinking behind creating a robot head for educational use. Dan teaches computing to primary school children who are the initial target audience for OhBot. Dan lent us Eva, one of the early OhBot prototypes to try out, but we also backed the Kickstarter to get a version 2 OhBot. It delivered on time (see it does happen sometimes!)

We went for the build-it-yourself option on Kickstarter so we'll take a look at the assembly process here as well as using an OhBot. You can buy a ready built OhBot though if you don't want to make your own.



OhBot Assembly


It took me about 3 hours to assemble OhBot from a kit, tune it up and try out the software. It could have been quicker but I was checking stuff very carefully to make sure I didn't make a mistake. The instructions were pretty good but I did get a bit confused because you also get extra screws that come with the servos but aren't used in the construction.



The large servo that controls the head was a very tight fit but mostly it went together smoothly. I was really nervous about some of the snap together pieces as they look brittle and fragile but I didn't break any of them. However, I quickly broke the included acrylic spanner so I'd recommend using real tools!



Attaching parts to some of the servos was really fiddly but with help from my nine year old in one case and my partner in another, it all went together. A capable teen would probably do a much better job that me but it's not a task for young kids. 

You get the servos into the correct position before attaching the parts they control and that was straightforward. I was expecting it to be really tricky to get everything tuned up with the correct range of movement but that bit was simple. 

Building the robot really helped me understand how OhBot works and means I'm much more likely to be able to fix it if anything comes loose in future. 

Initial Experience

Once OhBot is setup it loads a demo program which uses speech and tries out all of the servos so you can see whether everything is correctly. 

I really didn't trust that I'd assembled it correctly, but to my surprise it worked pretty well. It was only the Eye Tilt that required a bit a fiddling with the wire that attaches to the servo to get the correct range of movement. 

We did find that the cable to the power adapter is very short which was a bit of a pain. 

OhBot Software


The OhBot software is Scratch-like but not based on the actual Scratch software. As well as the motor control blocks you get an interface to Windows speech recognition and speech generation and there's also basic face detection via the camera. There's a really useful onscreen simulation of OhBot too. 

OhBot's mouth moves automatically when it speaks so you don't have to program that manually. 

You can control all the servos individually and they are helpfully named Head Nod, Eye Tilt, etc in the software rather than having obscure names. Each servo has a range of movement from 0 to 10 which is easy to understand. 

Any child who is familiar with Scratch will immediately be able to control OhBot. 

OhBot is a really nice change from driving floor robots around. There's lots of scope here for teaching kids about humanoid robots that you can interact with. It's a very different approach to driving things around and knocking things over!

Meet Archimedes

OhBot definitely has a personality and needs a name. My kids named ours Archimedes. Apparently Archimedes was the inventor of some of the first automatons. (My 9 year old is a Rick Riordan fan.)

The first thing we did was get Archimedes to use his own name in the demo program instead of saying OhBot.




Verdict

We think OhBot is great for maker families. If you choose to build your own OhBot then you'll learn lots about servos and how they can be used to create different kinds of movement. Programming OhBot in its Scratch-like blocks based environment is straightforward for children. There's plenty of depth to explore, OhBot provides an accessible way in to artificial intelligence for kids and teens. 

I wouldn't recommend choosing a build-your-own version of OhBot to save money as it's quite time-consuming and some bits are quite fiddly. But if you want to get the experience of assembling a robot the its a great option for a joint parent-child project. 

OhBot does feel a little fragile for primary school use. I'd be worried about losing small parts or pieces getting broken. The need to be plugged in to a wall socket also makes things a bit tricky in a lot of classrooms. But provided you've got someone in school who is willing to keep the OhBots in good working order then they're a fabulous resource. I use floor robots a lot, but you do need more variety in the curriculum and OhBot will definitely appeal to children. 

It's a shame that OhBot isn't based on actual Scratch so you don't have access to all the features of Scratch, but the software does work well. And you can get a site license for the software with the simulation capability as long as the school has bought at least one OhBot. This is a fantastic option. 

OhBots would also be fabulous for older kids and teenagers. There's so much scope for exploring artificial intelligence and robotics in a very tangible way. 

We'll be featuring Archimedes in future projects.

You can buy OhBot either assembled or in kit form on eBay (UK).

More information: OhBot website



Name

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Tech Age Kids | Technology for Children: OhBot the Kids Programmable Robot Head
OhBot the Kids Programmable Robot Head
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Tech Age Kids | Technology for Children
https://www.techagekids.com/2016/03/ohbot-kids-programmable-robot-head.html
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