Hornsey attic inventor unveils talking robot head for children to program
Mat Walker, 53,and his business partner, Dan Warner, have developed the OhBot, which children can program to follow instructions, with endless creative possibilities.
He explains that the human-shaped robot is an ideal way to give children a head start in learning coding, or what their parents might call “computer programming.”
Children as young as five can program the robot to teach them spelling and maths.
The robot can be made to ask questions and record the answers, or even lead a cooking demonstration.
If a camera is attached to it, the robot can recognise children walking into a room and welcome them.
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Rather than blindly playing with the apps on their phone, Mr Walker believes that children should start to understand that “there’s so much of the world that’s run by computer coding.”
He takes Snapchat, the mobile app which allows users to send pictures and videos which then self-destruct in a few seconds, as a key example.
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“Kids love Snapchat and use it all the time, but they don’t have any concept of what goes on underneath. They can end up thinking that it’s like magic,” he said.
With this robot, children can assemble it from scratch, starting with the eyeballs and the eyelids, progressing to the motors, installing the software, and connecting it to the computer.
They can connect the robot to the internet, and program it to tell them about the weather outside.
Mr Walker believes that because the robot has human characteristics, children start to feel responsible for it.
The Ohbot can move its head, smile and frown, and children can program its eyes to follow them around the room; giving them the power to create what appears to be artificial life.
They can tell the robot what to say and its lips will synchronise with the words given to it.
With children now learning coding from the age of five, thanks to a government curriculum introduced across primary and secondary schools last year, older children are now playing catch up.
Young children are developing their logical reasoning, and older children from the ages of 11 to 14 are now creating their own computer programs and learning coding languages.
Mr Walker has had interest in his robot from 18 year olds who want to get to grips with how to program, while their younger siblings are overtaking them.
With a day job as a programmer, Mr Walker has spent his life dabbling in ideas and inventions on the side.
“An idea can come along at any time; when you least expect it,” Mr Walker said.
“You see something and you think about how you can do it better.”
The Ohbot is available for £99 for the first 100 people to sign up: kickstarter.com/projects/ohbot2/ohbot2-a-robot-head-to-program-from-your-pc