From the first time they read Harry Potter books or saw the films, kids of all ages have dreamed of getting their own magic wands. Available for pre-order today and shipping in October, the $99 Harry Potter Kano Coding Kit makes your wizarding dreams come true. This Bluetooth-enabled wand, which you put together yourself, also teaches you how to write your own spells... er, programs.
I spent a few minutes going hands on with the Coding Kit and had a great time. Building the wand was a snap, quite literally, as I took a logic board and a pair of AA batteries and then snapped together a couple of pieces of plastic chassis. The colorful instruction manual explains how everything works, including the sensors on the board.
Available for Android, iOS, PC or Mac, Kano's coding app uses a simple block-based language to interact with the wand. When writing your own programs for the wand, you use logic blocks to tell the app what to do when you move the wand in different directions or rotate it. A button on its handle recalibrates the wand so that it is pointing at the exact middle of the canvas in any app.
While you can make your own programs from scratch, the fun and learning come from unlocking a series of more complex coding challenges as you navigate through an on-screen map of Hogwarts.
The Kano coding app always gives you exact, step-by-step instructions, so as long as you drag the blocks as it asks, you'll complete every challenge. Unfortunately, while it gives you directions, the coding app doesn't provide detailed explanations of why you need to use the blocks as instructed. So if you aren't familiar with basic programming concepts like conditionals and loops, you'll probably pick them up, but a little more hand-holding would be helpful for kids.
In my demo, I got to code and run a number of fun Harry Potter-themed programs for the wand. I enjoyed moving a feather around the screen in a program that was reminiscent of the Wingardium Leviosa levitation spell. In another app, I made jelly beans or pumpkins appear and grow by slapping the wand down.
A Kano representative told me that the wand will work with all of the company's other kits, including its Computer Kit and the colorful Pixel Kit, which has a programmable set of LED lights, so you'll be able to make it change color patterns just by waving the wand. There will also be an API that more serious programmers can use to control the wand, without using Kano's coding app at all. I can imagine integrating the wand with a smart home so I can turn on the lights just by waving it at them.
At $99, the Harry Potter Kano Coding Kit promises an affordable and engaging way to teach your child about programming and electronics. We'll take a closer look when we get one in for review closer to its October launch date..