Kickstarter Alert: My Two Weeks With Codeybot

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codeybots dueling
Two Codeybots battle it out for world domination.

Now in its final stages, the Codeybot Kickstarter has been hugely successful, attracting nearly double its initial $100,000 target. The campaign has a few days left to run, so if you’re interested in Codeybot, the battling programmable robot, there is still time to join the fun.

New to crowdfunding? Check out our primer here.

I’ve been lucky enough to take a look at the Codeybot for the last couple of weeks, and gave it to my boys, (3,7, & 10) to test drive. They’ve all taken something from the experience, and whilst I must confess to not being very familiar with this type of product, I have been impressed by the quality of the robot and the ease with which they have been able to access its potential.

The PR pitch that was sent to me talked about dueling robots, and that would certainly be a big draw for my boys. The Codeybot comes with an optional laser extension and then, if you have another Codeybot (also with laser extension), the two can battle it out across the living room floor. The outlay for two gun-toting Codeybots is not inconsiderable. Two Codeybots with lasers, at this stage of the campaign, will set you back $298. As we’ve not played with the battlebot functionality, l won’t comment much more than to say: the laser makes an impressive laser-y noise, and my boys are super-keen to try out the battle side of things.

There are two main ways to interact with your Codeybot. Either through the Codeybot app or the mBlockly app. The Codeybot App is the most stylish, but the Mblockly is where the longevity of the product lies. Both are available for free from the Apple App store, and reaching the $150,000 stretch goal, has unlocked the development of an Android version of Codeybot app. There is currently no android equivalent of mBlockly, nor, as far as I can see, any plans to provide one.

After you have connected to your robot, through it’s internal Wifi signal, the Codeybot app allows you to drive your Robot. This can be either using a joypad on your iDevice, or by tilting and moving whatever piece of technology you have the app installed on. Being of a certain age the joypad was the only method I could use without endangering the skirting boards of my house, but my (older) boys could operate both with ease.

Codeybot Heart Drawing
Use the Codeybot app to design your own expressions, or just declare your love

As well as driving Codeybot you can use the app to control the colors of its sidelights, get it to dance, or to pull amusing facial expressions. You can even use it to talk through. This is the function my 3 year old enjoyed most. You can record speech and play it back through Codeybot. Various voice effects can be applied, most notably “Minion,” which encouraged sanity-sapping amounts of the word “banana” to drift through the house.

The Codeybot comes with a number of preset facial expressions, but it is possible to customize some new ones, which caused great entertainment for my bigger boys. The Codeybot app looks impressive, in a blue neon Tron way, and is easy and intuitive to use.

Less polished but equally impressive is mBlockly. This is essentially a modified version of the Scratch programming language my children (and many others) use at school. If you haven’t used Scratch before, it uses colored blocks of code that interlock like puzzle pieces to build up routines. The code available allows you to program your Codeybot with a great deal of flexibility.

It is in this code building where the longevity of your Codeybot lies. It’s all well and good dueling with your mates, but the creative coding possibilities for your kids and their Codeybot are manifold. This is probably why it’s called a Codeybot and not a Shootybot.

This programming aspect of Codeybot is what absorbed most of my boys’ time, and became a favorite screen time destination for the two weeks that we’ve had the bot. You can use the code in mBlockly to recreate all of the functionality of the Codeybot app, including the tilt functions. As well as Big Trak-style maneuvering around the mess on the floor, the boys have collaborated to create play scripts with Codeybot taking a role. He delivers his lines in a curiously deep voice. Most of these plays have been westerns, utilizing the robot’s gunshot sound effect. I was impressed how quickly the boys picked this up and delivered something so entertaining.

Our time with Codeybot has been great. The boys were disappointed to see it go, and are keen to get a hold of one of their own. It’s certainly tempting, but like all cool technology, Codeybot doesn’t come cheap. Whether it’s worth the investment, like all toys, depends on whether it can hold their attention. If I was able to devise a method to accurately divine this, I’d be worth a fortune, but it’s easy to see that programming Codeybot could continue for months to come.

Codeybot is a well made simple to use robot, with good functionality delivered by its software support. It’s a more attractive proposition for iPad/iPhone owners than Android fans, but this caveat aside, if you are searching for a programmable robot for your children, Codeybot is well worth a look.

Write messages to the world. Here my son combines two of his passions. Photo: Robin Brooks

Disclosure: I was sent a prototype version to play around with in order to write this review.

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