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Vortex lets kids program their own robot buddy

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Sphero, the ball-shaped robot, inspired a new generation of toys that aren't only fun, but can also be used as educational tools for kids. Vortex, pictured above, is one of these. Created by DFRobot, a company that's been selling open-source hardware since 2008, Vortex is being revealed today via Kickstarter, with the goal being to raise $50,000 through crowdfunding. Vortex, which is small enough to fit on the palm of your hand, is described as a smart and responsive device that's meant to inspire incredible fun and creativity -- and that it does. It's not nearly as fast as the Sphero 2.0 or Ollie, but Vortex wants to shine in other specific areas, namely its multiplayer and Arduino features.

Gallery: Vortex robot toy hands-on | 14 Photos

To make programming and playing easier, Vortex is going to have companion apps for iOS and Android, which will let your kids (ages 6 and up recommended) learn basic robotics and coding by way of a colorful and easy-to-use interface. "With Vortex, DFRobot wants to bring back the joy of tinkering to the next generation and boost STEM education among children, even from an early age, DFRobot CEO Ricky Ye said to Engadget in an interview. "For the most part, toy technology has actually not changed much for decades. We're challenging this with a smart robot that children can enthusiastically play with, while also learning about programming and robotics."

Part of what Ye mentions is also about making Vortex accessible to people. With that in mind, the Kickstarter page is set to offer a single Vortext for $69, which includes the robot, a pack of stickers to play games and a golf set. If you want two, then that'll be $119 -- a small saving compared to the price of one unit. DFRobot says it expects to ship the Vortex later this fall.

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