I have two stories to tell about my Kids’ Christmas presents. One is the tale of how delays and miscommunications left me wondering if my toy robots would arrive at all, before a last-minute miracle delivered them at the 11th hour on Christmas Eve.
But that’s not the story I want to tell today.
Now that the stress of Christmas is over, I want to share a real sense of wonderment on my part at the quality and creativity that the folk at Wonder Workshop have poured into their Flagship toy robot – “Dash.”
I pre-ordered Dash from Wonder Workshop (formerly Play-i) in September after I watched their promotional video:
First Impressions of Dash the Toy Robot
My kids – two and four year-old boys – are just starting to get to grips with playing with Dash but I’m already impressed on a number of fronts:
- Build Quality: It’s difficult to convey how great these toy robots look and feel. The shiny plastic doesn’t feel cheap at all, and it feels really sturdy to hold. My kids have dropped Dash several times already and he’s taking it all in his stride. When I hold Dash, I don’t feel any of those worrying wobbles that would suggest a shoddy build job.
- Aesthetic: Although Dash looks essentially like three “Magic 8” balls glued together, it’s an inspired design choice for young children. Dash has a very friendly feel about him, and there are no sharp corners or protruding parts to break off. Lights are cleverly used to help Dash emote – it’s very unnerving when his single eye “blinks” – and the independent motors allow him to spin, waddle and weave charismatically.
- Ease of Use: Dash is designed to encourage young children (I’m guessing six years upwards) to learn how to program, using a simple programming scheme called Blockly. This is too advanced for my kids, so I was a little worried they wouldn’t engage, but Wonder Workshop provide two free apps that make Dash immediately accessible even if your kids don’t yet want to explore the more complex aspects:
- Go: This app acts as a remote control for driving Dash – one side of the app houses a basic joystick for movement, whilst the other allows you to turn his head, change the colors of the lights etc. Great for helping your kids get acquainted with their new friend.
- Path: This is the app that really won me over. Path allows you to draw a route for Dash to follow straight onto your iPad. Tap the picture of Dash and he’ll follow your prescribed course, adjusting for obstacles (Dash can detect and detour around things that are in his way). But that’s not all – Path also comes with a host of preconfigured sounds and actions – drag a picture onto the route and when Dash reaches it he’ll do an impression of a tractor, a duck, get caught in a tornado…the list is endless. These actions really caught the imagination of my kids and I was impressed just how emotive Dash is when mimicking these everyday items.
A Promising Startup
It’s my feeling that Wonder Workshop have focused on the right areas – Build Quality and app experience – to put together a product that will delight its customers. With a clever line of accessories that enrich the interactions with the toy robots (the xylophone attachment and lego adapters are the most stand-out accessories) there’s a clear sense of how the line will develop and how Wonder Workshop will grow its revenue. At $199 for Dash, with bolt-on packages available, plus his companion robot Dot, these certainly aren’t cheap – but the pricing feels keen enough that it won’t dissuade technically-minded parents looking for a toy that will engage and amuse their children in a more intelligent way than most iPad-based entertainment can achieve.
I hope that Wonder Workshop has resolved its initial logistical challenges fulfilling its pre-orders (I may write about my experience on this another time) and that the future is bright for this creative startup.