Recently I had the opportunity to play with and test a fun and personable little robot named COJI – The Coding Robot. This educational toy from WowWee combines the practical skills of computer coding with the fun and whimsy of emojis. In fact, COJI is an acronym of sorts … Maybe more accurately, it’s a contraction of the terms COding & emoJI. But, however you may choose to characterize it, COJI is a fun and interactive educational robotic toy that younger kids (those 4 and up) are sure to love. Keep on reading for the full results of my lengthy round of testing with this fun & funky little bot!
COJI is one of the increasingly popular STEM based learning toys that we’re seeing more and more of in recent months. If you’re unfamiliar with STEM toys—or perhaps could use a memory refresher, the acronym stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, & Mathematics, and it’s an entire class of toys that help kids to develop an early understanding of these core educational concepts. The COJI robot itself is designed to help kids with various skills such as computer coding (things like macro building & understanding algorithms), memory development, and a whole lot more simply by playing games. Getting started with COJI is easy. Simply download the free COJI App to either your iOS or Android based device (I suspect that tablets are best due to their larger screen size over phones) and then pop 3 AAA batteries into the backpack of your COJI and fire him (her?) up. You’ll need a Philips head screwdriver to remove & replace the battery panel, but the entire process takes only seconds. Once you’ve launched the app and turned your COJI on, everything should quickly and easily link up as you run through the startup screen—COJI connects via Bluetooth, so the launch process couldn’t be more simple. Now you’re ready to play!
TESTING & RESULTS
There a several ways to interact with your COJI robot once everything is up and running. On the main menu screen (shown at left), you’ll see six different icons that will help you to get started. One of these icons is simply COJI’s settings, so we really don’t need to consider that one. The others consist of the following COJI games, or play patterns: Freeplay, Sequence Says, Macro Maze, Command Center, & Drive Mode. Each game is a unique way to interact with the COJI robot, and some of them are a bit more fun than others. We’ll go through a couple of examples so you can get a better understanding of what COJI has to offer.
In Freeplay, for instance, you may give COJI any string of commands that you wish by selecting the appropriate emoji symbols from the menu on the left of the screen. Once you have completed a string of code that you’re happy with, you simply press the little envelope icon to make your COJI carry out the commands in the order that you’ve input them. This, in theory, should teach kids the basics of input & output with respect to designing computer code and writing command algorithms, and I do suspect that many younger kids will enjoy it. It may even develop within them an affinity for computer programming, who knows?? Also, if you look closely, you’ll notice that there are 6 different sub-menus, each filled with a variety of different emojis that your child may choose among, so the sheer number of coding possibilities with COJI are pretty much endless.
In the Macro Maze game, your objective is to construct a code sequence that allows a virtual COJI on your app screen to navigate the maze in front of him. You accomplish this by selecting command emojis that either send your COJI one step forward, or make him turn either left or right. If you design your code properly, your COJI will successfully navigate the maze and you’ll win the screen, thus unlocking the next maze. I only played through the first complete level, which consists of 10 unique mazes. This particular level is known as “Park.” After completing the 10 park mazes, you’re free to move on to “City.” Then comes an Airport, a Snowfield, & a Rail Station. This game helps to teach your child to write code that effectively achieves a desired outcome (a very important concept in the world of computer coding).
The final game I’ll discuss in detail is called Drive Mode, and the fun of this one is that you can freely drive your COJI around as though it were an RC car. It doesn’t go very fast, but it’s fun to control and send along on its merry way, which you do via the driving pad on the left of the app screen. COJI can travel in any direction and turn as you command. Also, as he/she drives about (there are 2 large driving wheels and 2 additional tiny wheels for balance), you can make him/her perform facial (and other) gestures such as kissing, smiling, and making a cheeky devil face, to name but a few. Overall it’s a fun little mode that gives kids the freedom to use their COJI robot as they see fit, though the emoji options in this mode are somewhat limited.
Note: Sequence Says is a memory game in which COJI’s face flashes emojis that kids must then try to remember and reproduce on the app screen. It’s an excellent memory game that builds on the coding string, or sequence, one emoji at a time.
EXAMINING THE VIDEO EVIDENCE
Please enjoy my brief video overview of WowWee’s COJI robot, where I’ve attempted to demonstrate some of the fun ways to enjoy & interact with this versatile toy.
In the final analysis, I’d have to say that COJI is a pretty fun little toy that may well go a long way towards educating your little one in one or more of the key STEM subjects. The music that comes from your phone/tablet while the app is in use is incredibly annoying, but that’s why your device has a volume control switch! And truly, that’s the only real drawback I found with the COJI. Overall he (or she?) is a rather endearing little fellow (lady?) with a fun personality and a variety of offered up play patterns. Considering the fact that today’s apps are endlessly update-able with new and interesting content at any given time, it’s also likely that the ways to enjoy COJI will grow as your child grows. All up, it’s difficult to say how long the COJI robot will hold a given child’s attention. But, if you suspect you’ve got a budding computer programmer on your hands, it may be worth giving COJI a chance. Good luck and enjoy!