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Can This Connected Toy Inspire The Next Generation Of Makers?

November 16, 2014
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DynePods are educational, programmable, connected toys designed to excite and empower the next generation of innovators!

So what exactly is the DynePod? It’s a small Bluetooth connected box with an LED display on the top and a range of sensors inside so it can detect things like movement and the proximity of other DynePods. Feedback can be provided to the user by displaying a particular graphic on the screen, or vibrating, or buzzing. The DynePod can be combined with a slap band to make a kids’ wearable, or attached to other objects or toys — including Lego, via a clip with a dedicated Lego attachment. It uses includes Digital’s BLE chip which hosts the Arduino bootloader – so the DynePod is also Arduino programmable, offering additional tech learning potential.

The device supports four basic modes of use, according to Watry: a standalone mode, so using the pod plus a tablet to create custom applications; or linked to other DynePods to communicate and play with other owners of DynePods; or it can be used as a controller for playing tablet games via the DynePod app; or there’s what she calls a fully connected play mode, which leverages open APIs to link the DynePod to all sorts of other cloud services. The last part is obviously mostly vision at this stage in the DynePod’s development.

The DynePod is programmed using Dynepic’s If/then simplified language running on a tablet (initially it’s iPad only). This is designed to be far simpler than other graphical programming languages for kids, such as MIT’s Scratch, says Watry.

DynePod

“Our goal was this: to really try and hit the 95 per cent of kids that maybe aren’t completely drawn into the technical background. Get them into it so that it’s easy enough for all kids, and then easy enough for the parents, to be able to interface with it,” she says. “Our first creation for that language we’ve tested in the classroom and then out in public settings over a year ago and just constantly refining the interface to work as easily as it can, and be as intuitive as it can.”

Using this If/then tablet interface a child could, for instance, build a program to make their DynePod sound an audible buzzer when it detects movement to protect their candy jar from their siblings. Or — in future, when other services are linked up to the platform — connect their DynePod to a digital weather service to display a visual notification if it’s going to rain tomorrow.

DynePod

While the original idea for the IoToys came to Watry back in 2011 she notes that the technology available to power it has changed a lot since then, with connectivity now focused on the Bluetooth Low Energy flavor instead of Zigbee, for instance, and lots of other developments allowing the DynePod to take shape.

“The technology obviously greatly changed from when we looked at it in 2011. A lot of things were on Zigbee. And then there’s the mobile pairing with Bluetooth and Bluetooth LE coming out with the power consumption benefits and the size coming down, and then the Arduino operating system being hosted right on the BLE chip. It’s big enablers for us to package this up into a tight package,” she adds.

If it achieves its funding target Dynepic is aiming to ship the first DynePods to backers next June. The earlybird Kickstarter price for the DynePod is $79 which also includes a universal mounting clip, a silicon slap bracelet, USB charger, and a 3D printable file to print additional accessories for the DynePod.

Can This Connected Toy Inspire The Next Generation Of Makers? by Natasha Lomas