Pretty much as with any other language, learning to code seems to get increasingly difficult the older you are—for every app or start-up idea that you’ve had over the years that went unrealized, you may consider starting your children on coding earlier. A new game sets out to do just that: Two little robots called Dash and Dot, from toymaker Wonder Workshop, are designed to teach kids the fundamentals of coding, through play. Just in time for the holidays.
Wonder’s founder, Vikas Gupta, was formerly the head of consumer payments at Google. He left the company in 2012, and after spending time with his two children, realized there weren’t enough toys that taught his kids to be curious and creative, that were also fun. So he built them a robot.
Most of the robots that we know—on the factory line, on the front line, or in the pipeline—are a bit unsettling. “The industry builds very industrial robots,” Gupta tells Quartz. “They’re very aggressive.”
Gupta wanted to soften that perception, and create something more toylike, which may explain why Dash and Dot bear close resemblance to a seemingly ubiquitous group of cartoon movie characters.
Unlike most educational toys, where whimsy tends to be rammed in as an afterthought, Dash and Dot actually feel fun, even to someone who’s not so much of a kid anymore. Both toys work with a mobile device, or on their own. Without a smartphone or tablet, kids can play a range of games, including a Simon Says-style memory game, and a Magic-8-Ball fortune-telling game. The two robots can even recognize and interact with each other.