July 19, 2014 | by Kimberly Fletcher
Making Screen-Time A Second Language: Bo & Yana

Having your child learn a second language can be a good thing, but what to choose? French, Spanish, Mandarin, German, Arabic or Klingon? Or do you think another way and have your child learn Java, C++, PHP or SQL? Either answer would be completely acceptable in this day and age where the world is getting smaller and technology booms all around us. The issue is how to make them want to learn it.

YanaEnter Play-i , a tech start-up which went from an idea to a working prototype to a $1.44 million in pre-orders from their self started crowd-funding campaign in just six-months. Their mission is to “bring the joy and magic of programming to every child”. Understanding  the touch interface connection which has already been established by Apple with the youth of today through their iPad product, Play-i has created two toy robots, Bo and Yana,  “a learning and story telling platform which makes computer programming accessible and fun”. Programming and problem solving through hands on playtime? Could this be just the thing to inspire a generation who learned how to swipe open an app before learning to walk?

Bo&Yana_0816Using Play-i’s touch interface, the robots are programmed using animation, music, stories and existing programming languages like Scratch and Blockly. Bo, short for “robot”, is programmed using a visual interface that utilizes a drag and drop method allowing children to lay out a series of commands and movements. Once complete, the application transmits the instruction to Bo via Bluetooth. Yana, an acronym for “You Are Not Alone”, is programmed by “puppeting” – showing Yana the movements and where you want it to go and then confirming the commands on the visual interface. The app uses pictures rather than words allowing younger children, still unable to read to join in the fun.

Bo plays the xylophone 2Play-i is currently offering Bo and Yana for $169 and $59 respectively for pre-order, while they will retail for $199 and $69. Along with the robots, Play-i is offering several accessory sets, such as Bo’s Xylophone and a Brick Extension set which is compatible with LEGO, Technics and Mindstorm kits.

I ordered a set for our children along with the Brick Extension set. My hope is our new friends will arrive in time for Christmas. Though I don’t know if I’ll be able to wait that long to introduce them. Recently I introduced my daughter Loki (age 5) to a Scratch Jr. app on the iPad. She is very excited about the projects she was able to create in the first day of playing with it. I think adding the addition of an actual object such as Bo or Yana to the mix will drive her to learn even faster.



Kimberly spent years as an agent for MI-5, a consultant for Fringe Division and an adviser for the Torchwood Institute in London before walking away for a quieter life. A Master of the Art of Google-Fu she now spends her days being un-extraordinary in a field of cube farms creating magic with her black-box. Kimberly settled in the Northeast region of the United States with her tinfoil hat husband, Mad Dog, to raise their family of Super Villains. With a degree in film-making, a love of photography and art she fights the evil Stepford-wife urges to become an ordinary soccer mom.

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