by Lucia Maffei
Cambridge-based startup Woobo has launched the first edition of its educational toy for children – a talkative, furry round animal with a high-pitched voice, a variety of gender-neutral activities for kids, a short USB port-shaped tail and a planned retail price of $199.
According to the company’s co-founder and CEO Feng Tan, Woobo (which is the name of both the company and the product, pronounced as “U-bo”) combines different educational values in different games. The robot is equipped with around 50 games and functionalities for children age four to nine. The company announced the launch last summer.
Woobo displays its games and functionalities on the screen that serves also to show its eyes and facial expressions. Younger children can ask Woobo questions, ask him to play a song and play simple games such as “guess an animal.” Older children can engage in more challenging games based on finding a pattern or role-playing. With “Woobo The Marine Biologist,” for example, children can start a trip into the ocean and learn facts about the animals; with “Woobo in France,” they can learn their first French words.
Woobo is also supposed to teach children about their everyday life. A short video that children can play on the screen shows Woobo getting up in the morning, checking the weather outside and choosing the right clothing. The company explained that they decided to insert this functionality because parents reported that many children like to dress by themselves, but they cannot judge which clothes are appropriate to different events. By emulating their robotic friend, children should learn to select the right outfit for the right occasion.
According to the company, Woobo works thanks to lithium batteries that need to be charged via USB cable. Tan said that a full night of charge enables Woobo to engage in 6 to 8 hours of play every day for two days. In addition, to answer children’s questions and for performing at its best, Woobo needs to be connected to Wi-Fi.
The company also launched a Kickstarter campaign that raised over $186,000. As part of the campaign, early backers that pledge at least $119 receive a Woobo robot.