Robots can be great fun and we all know that the field of robotics is moving us into the future. Kids especially love playing with robots and they can also be quite educational. The Wigl bot moves to music and teaches kids to program.
With the Wigl bot, young programmers just need to pick up an instrument and hit the right note. The bot then comes back with flashing lights and special dances. The brain behind the Wigl bot is Vivek Mano who built the first prototype in July 2013. He started testing the concept at a school in Portland, Oregon. “I want to effectively alter the way kids approach learning,” he said. “Seeing a child’s eyes light up when they realize that sound they’re making (via musical instrument) can control something is powerful. It’s not something they’re used to. That gets them curious as to what else is possible and (hopefully) will lead them down that rabbit hole.”
The Wigl bot works when it registers a recognized note in auto mode via its built-in microphone, it responds with its bright LED lights and moving in a special way. Its movement is helped along with battery-powered electric motors driving its wheels. While the bot is in programming mode, it sits idle and listens to the notes being played. Certain notes instruct Wigl on what actions to perform when the “enter” note is played. For example, when the note A is played on a flute or recorder, the bot might move forward, a C could make it turn right, or a D might put it in reverse. Kids learn the basics of programming and problem solving by working out how to instruct Wigl to make its way around an obstacle course. If Wigl hears a wrong note, it doesn’t perform as expected or doesn’t move at all. Mano says that Wigl can register notes from any instrument that produces musical notes, but it is unable to ‘distinguish individual notes from percussive instruments, such as drums.’
Unfortunately his project failed to reach its target of funding. Development continues despite the inability to bring the prototype to market. Mano currently has fully-functional Wigl alpha units that are used for demos, presentations, and events. He is also working on the exterior of the bot with an industrial designer. “In the immediate future, I hope to raise $50,000 to get Wigl to production.” “With this seed money, I can better approach schools with technology programs that are interested in more creative approaches to learning.” There are two ways he would like to produce the Wigl bot. One, he would like sell Wigl as a pre-built robot which is geared towards the home consumer or music schools. Two is to sell Wigl as a kit to be built. Hopefully we’ll see this product in the market soon.