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Copy Bot

A colorful little robot that resembles an overgrown computer mouse could give kids a chance to explore computer programming even before they know how to read. Users program the Curlybot without writing code. Just turn it on and scoot it across a flat surface. The roly-poly device records every movement exactly, and until it is turned off, it will repeat each movement, allowing children to see the effects of simple programs: how, for instance, a sequence of 90-degree turns can become a square or a short arc can become a circle or spiral. Developed by design firm Ideo’s Phil Frei while he was a graduate student at the MIT Media Lab, Curlybot is simple in design. Its brightly colored plastic shell hides two motors, each attached to a separate wheel, and the robot records its position 100 times each second. The frequent sampling allows for movement so precise, says Frei, that it looks eerily organic. Independent of Ideo, Frei is working to bring the newly patented toy to stores in about two years.

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