A toy robot that teaches kids basic programming and music skills at once.
With the emergence of the Maker Movement, we’ve seen a number of low-cost, easy-to-use kits seeking to make building robots a more enjoyable experience. Instead of generating commands using a smartphone or PC, a company by the name of Wigl is looking to make learning as simple as picking up an instrument and hitting the right note.
Wigl is equipped with a microphone, some motors for movement and what we believe is an Arduino Uno (ATmega328) for its brain. (An Uno had been used for prototyping.) How it works is relatively simple: The device’s built-in microphone registers a recognized note in auto mode, the bot responds by lighting its LEDs and moving in a specific way. The note A played on a recorder, guitar or fiddle, for example, might move it forward, a C could result in a right turn or a D might put it in reverse.
Meanwhile, in programming mode, the bot sits still and listens to the notes being played, storing it in its memory. Every note played is memorized, like lines of code in a computer program. In order for an aspiring Maker to run their Wigl program, they must play a special “ENTER” note. Different notes result in different actions, and planning the order of those notes makes Wigl move in various ways.
Electrical engineer Vivek Mano developed the first prototype way back in July 2013 before beginning to test the proof-of-concept at a Portland, Oregon school. Now, he’s working on creating content for schools to complement the robot in a two-month courses, targeted towards alternative elementary education establishments, such as Waldorf and Montessori.
“I want to effectively alter the way kids approach learning,” Mano told Gizmag. “Seeing a child’s eyes light up when they realize that sound thatthey’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.”
As the company continues to generate more exposure and financial support, Wigl as a whole can go one of two ways: open or closed-source. Mano reveals that it can be sold as a standalone, pre-built robot geared more towards the consumer and musical education programs, or as a ready-to-assemble kit incorporating the Arduino bootloader for ease.
“Arduino code is very similar to C code (almost interchangeable at some points) and is a highly marketable skill to learn,” Mano explained to Gizmag.
Interested in learning more? Head over to Wigl’s official page here, and watch it in action below!