Can this beloved robot from Asia win over parents in the U.S.?

Miko 2 uses conversation to engage kids, but competition is fierce.

miko-2.png

A friendly robot named Miko 2 has garnered something of a cult following in Asia over the past few years. Now the robot's founder is bringing it to the U.S.

The robot sits squarely in the $150B educational toy market, which has attracted robotics developers in droves and becomes increasingly competitive. Mainstays like Lego Mindstorms are now doing battle with surging companies like Sphero, which recently launched a new programmable rover toy and gobbled up competitor littleBits in its bid to become the reigning king of edu-robots.

Miko 2 is the brainchild of members of an advanced consumer robotics innovation lab called Miko. The lab is home to global educators, engineers, and psychologists. "As a father, Miko's mission is close to my heart. We hope to see children learn and grow with our product and are thrilled to bring it to North American families, especially after the interest and support that we've received in Asia," said CEO Sneh Vaswani. Vaswani co-founded Miko Inc. with Prashant Iyengar and Chintan Raikar in 2015. 

The toy bot has one advantage over many of the STEM-focused programmable robots on the market: It can talk. It also remembers your child thanks to state of the art computer vision that identifies, remembers, and recollects known faces, objects, and surroundings. The rolling robot understands verbal commands and engages in conversations with kids to initiate learning.

With a teleconference feature and the ability to set reminders, the unit is a bit like a personal assistant, only geared toward kids. The unit bears some similarities to Jibo, a personal robot for adults that was heralded by reviewers but ultimately failed to capture consumer interest. 

At $299, it's going to be an uphill battle for the developers to penetrate the U.S. market, although the technology certainly looks promising. 

"We have four children in our family who range in age from six to 12 and Miko teaches each of them something new and age-appropriate. Miko makes it fun for them to learn and play while I'm reassured that they're not spending idle time in front of the TV or on their phones," said Pooja Jain, a mother of four based in India.