Ozobot Evo is a pocket-sized robot you can program with a Sharpie

If you’re a parent who feels that every toy in 2017 is designed to add even more tablet time to your already overwhelmed child’s life you aren’t alone. For this reason alone I leapt at the opportunity to check out Ozobot’s Evo, a tiny robot that you can ‘program’ with colored markers. Offline toys that teach children how to code may just be the remedy to our screen-time management woes.

At first glance I didn’t think a walnut-sized rolling bot that blinks and chirps was going to compete with its bigger, more robust competitors. Being able to draw lines and watch it follow is cool, but at the end of the day if I’m buying a robot for my kids it has to be fun and engaging.

Credit: Nicole Gray

Evo is exactly that. Perhaps even more so than some its larger counterparts, and it’s because of a proprietary color-based coding system called OzoCodes. While it comes with an included exploration mat (which in itself is an 8 piece jigsaw puzzle) featuring various OzoCodes, I spent far more time drawing my own. And it was a blast.

With OzoCodes you use different colors to draw lines and the robot will follow them. You draw OzoCodes by using combining different colored squares or circle combinations, which represent specific commands, and Evo will perform them.

For example, red/green/red/green tells the robot to perform a tornado trick. When it rolls over that OzoCode it will acknowledge it with a blink and then perform the maneuver.

Credit: Nicole Gray

Similar codes include changing speeds, performing a cute little rolling-robot version of the moonwalk called ‘backwalk,’ and jumping over to a different line.

It takes virtually no time whatsoever to learn the basics and a series of cards called an “Experience Pack” (which you can download in PDF, or request the company ship it to you for free, on the Ozobot website) do a fantastic job of working as a tutorial and even provide fun games and challenges to solve along the way.

I love the idea of teaching my toddler the basic concepts of coding by rolling out a big white sheet of butcher paper and handing them some markers. Draw a line and watch a robot do your bidding: it’s a pretty easy concept to get across.

Yet as an adult, I found myself drawn to the challenges. It’s a lot of fun to solve logic problems offline using a toy that chirps and laughs. And it’s super cute; if you leave it idle for too long it starts snoring.

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