Every tech and toy company, from Apple to Hasbro, has an educational coding offering these days. Sony’s Koov kit has been kicking around Japan for a while now, and should be pretty familiar to anyone who’s spent time with Lego’s educational initiatives — it’s a set of blocks, sensors, motors and actuators that pair with a mobile app. Now Sony is ready to bring the kit to the U.S. — albeit in a pretty measured way.
The company is the latest tech giant to use a crowdfunding platform to test the waters. In this case, Sony will essentially be using Indiegogo to gauge customer interest and hopefully gain some insight into the U.S. market as it works to shape the product for a new region. On the face of it, it’s a bit of an odd move from a company with global reach that has never been afraid to launch into a new category with guns blazing.
Sony certainly has the resources to do so here, but for one thing, the market is still a little shaky. There are plenty of different kits aimed at teaching kids to code and build robots. Apple recently partnered with a handful of hardware makers to help teach its Swift programming language to youngsters, and Lego’s new Boost line joins a number of others already produced by the company. And then there are the dozens of startups fighting for a piece of the pie. How much of that pie there actually is to go around is still a pretty open question.
Koov is also the first hardware product out of Sony’s Global Education wing, a department a company rep told me is “almost like a startup within Sony,” which implies a certain sense of autonomy and probably goes a ways toward explaining the cautious approach. It really wants to get its first product right, and it’s certainly put a lot of thought into the hardware and software side of things.
The kit’s currency is little, brightly colored translucent blocks. The company likens them to three-dimensional pixels, which is an attempt to make the transition between…