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Toy companies are trying to keep up with the consumer demand for products that are both fun and educational.
With their Dot, Dash, and Cue robots, Wonder Workshop has positioned itself as one of the top names in STEM learning toys. I especially liked that the Cue coding robot has a vast array of activities that children can keep coming back to as they develop their tech skills
After reviewing The Dash (see my review on the Dash) and The Dot (see my review on the Dot) from Wonder Workshop, I was asked to review the more sophisticated robot in the Wonder Workshop series, the Cue. Programming is at the heart of The Cue. Almost all of the activities you can do with this robot involve some level of coding, but they are accessible enough for most children to get some enjoyment out of them. More and more parents are trying to introduce STEM concepts to their children at a young age and as such, robot kits like this are becoming increasingly common.
If the Dot was a Pokemon, Cue would be the evolved version. It still has Dot’s large eye and an array of lights and buttons but adds two motors to move around a floor. The playful green design is replaced with a black and blue color scheme. The matte base contains two powered wheels and a third rotating wheel to keep Cue balanced. As I mentioned above, the head contains the same array of LED’s and buttons as Dot. The head can also rotate about 270 degrees, and it can look up or down. The whole robot itself can also drive around, giving Cue several degrees of motion. There’s another LED on the front neck area, with a MicroUSB port on one side and the power button on the other.
Just like Dot, Cue has plenty of buttons and sensors to use with coding projects. There are four buttons on the top, an array of IR receivers and transmitters on the front, three proximity sensors, an accelerometer, a gyroscope, wheel encoders, and three microphones. There’s also a speaker for audio feedback.
There are several accessories you can get to go with Cue, including the Sketch Kit which allows your child to mount a dry erase marker to the Cue and use the app to draw freeform pre-programmed shapes. There are activity cards that challenge your child to mimic patterns. You don’t need any of these accessories to get going, though. You just need to charge the robot and have a Bluetooth enabled device that supports the Cue app. It works with IOS, Android, and Kindle Fire.
The app for Cue is quite different than the app for Dot. First off, it’s available on the Play Store, the Apple App Store, and Amazon App Store. Once you open the app and set up an account, you get to choose what avatar to give Cue. You can choose between “Charge”, “Zest”, “Pep” and “Smirk”. These won’t impact what you can do with Cue. It just changes what voice lines the robot uses.
There are virtually limitless ways to enjoy Cue:
. Missions – Broken up into Alien Contact, Treasure Hunt, and Hack3r Hijack, there are nine games within each mission that test your child’s logic, math, and language skills.
. Chat – In chat, your child can basically text with the robot, who says funny jokes, shares memes, and makes witty comments. This is the portion that’s particularly geared toward teens; once your phone is connected to Cue via Bluetooth, you can send “texts” to Cue, and it will react both in the real world and via texts. It allow users to talk to Cue and ask it questions about how to use it rather than reading an instruction manual, and there are also funny responses built-in. There are currently about 30,000 unique responses built-in, and more will be added through future updates. Cue will sing songs, use its front sensors to fist-bump you, and teach you how to use the app.
. Control – There are three intelligent auto modes: explore, avoid, and seek. You can also move Cue around using a virtual joystick, kind of like a remote control car. Control gives you a little dashboard where you can just play with the robot; drive around, record sounds for it to playback, and use some pre-programmed behaviors to make it avoid obstacles or follow you around. as you work through the missions, you will unlock various behaviors that can be tried out.
. Create – Create is a free-form sandbox mode where you can create programs using the various sensors. It’s a drag and drop program environment that lets you use sensors to trigger various responses. There are just a couple of tutorials but mostly you can just play around with it.Cue has an accelerometer, gyro, encoders, proximity sensors, and more that can be used to create adventures.
. Cue Avatars – The other thing about Cue is that it comes with a personality, four personalities in fact. (well, five if you count the Jarvis like voice that you get right out of the box.) When you first start Cue, you will get a British voice greeting you, asking you to run through a few “diagnostics” that demonstrate some of Cue’s sensors, and eventually you will be asked to make a choice: choose one of the four personality avatars in the app. You can try demos of each before deciding, but then you have to pick.
“Charge” is a more let’s get to it personality. “Zest” is exuberant and likes to give compliments. “Pep” is eager and supportive. “Smirk” is snarky. Each avatar has its own reperyoire of pre-recorded sounds and phrases.
The main screen has a few options. “Create” is where you can write custom programs for Cue, in much the same way you can do for Dot. “Code” has a series of missions you need to complete by creating programs. Finally, “Control” lets you drive Cue around like a remote control car.
The more I played with Cue, the more I realized it was very refined. First off, the program interface in “Create” when you are writing your own programs, you are given a UI (user interface) very similar in Dot’s app. You can drag actions anywhere on the screen, and you connect them to other actions to form a program. But in the “code” mode, you have to make programs with something closely resembling “Scratch” (the computer programming language that is easy for beginners to use).
You can still make your own programs with the block editor, by going to “Code” and tapping the “My Programs” tab its own slot in the main menu. The block editor to lag a little bit opening the panels and dragging blocks around was quite normal. Another aspect of the app is the chat functionality. You can talk to Cue using the messaging box at the bottom of the screen, and use commands like “sing a song”, “tell me a joke”, “move forward 30”, and “show me your colors” and Wonder Workshop is selling “mission packs” for $2.99 each inside the app which will make sure Cue will never become obsolete. The missions only invoke conversations and text-based games inside the “Chat” interface.
One of the things I look for in a toy is if it will keep my child entertained for hours without help from me. Cue can do that at times. Cue also can take a beating without break down.
My biggest issue with Cue was trying to code with my Android phone. The screen only affords so much space, and it was hard to drag and drop items with limited room. This process was a lot easier when using my tablet or PC, but the phone had a lot more functionality. Plus, it allowed me to be more mobile. If your child has access to an IPad or a tablet, they may find the coding to be less tedious.
The Bluetooth range is relatively short. If you’re in the same room as Cue, then you shouldn’t have any problems. But, if you are trying to pull a prank on your children from elsewhere in the house, you’ll likely have issues because of the limited range
Wonder Workshop Cue robot is a very interesting product and trying to teach children the basics of programming while keeping them engaged is no easy task. The Cue offers plenty of functionality and offers in-app purchases. The IAP’s are in no way required to fully take advantage of Cue’s functionality. One disadvantage that this robot has is a complete dependence on the app. Without the app, which requires a tablet or a smartphone, Cue just rolls around.
A great STEM toy will teach your child, is fun, and has a wealth of programs, missions, and other tasks that will keep them coming back for more. The Cue Coding Robot exhibits all of these features. Though the recommended age range is 10 years old plus, I strongly believe it can serve as an excellent learning tool for children under 10 years old as well. And, for the years of entertaining, it will provide the price tag for the Wonder Workshop Cue Robot is relatively affordable.
Though the Wonder Workshop Cue Coding Robot is a bit expensive for a toy, it’s durably built and has enough tasks and missions to keep your child engaged for countless hours.
The Wonder Workshop Cue is designed tor children 11 years old and up.
For a quick video overview of the Cue Robot click here.
Get the Wonder Workshop Cue Coding Robot with Sketch Kit Bundle at the lowest price here.