This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by .
EMYS: The lovable language instruction robot for kids.
EMYS: The lovable language instruction robot for kids.
The most fun, interactive, and effective way for children to learn English or Spanish as a second language.
The most fun, interactive, and effective way for children to learn English or Spanish as a second language. Read more
This project will only be funded if it reaches its goal by .
About this project
Say ¡Hola! to EMYS: the lovable social robot who offers a totally new, highly effective way to introduce your little one to a second language in a way that feels just like hanging out with a new best friend!
EMYS recognizes kids’ facial expressions and movements. By playing games using 'Smart Tags', your child can learn and demonstrate their understanding of new words, building a relationship with EMYS similar to a beloved family pet.
Thanks to the touch sensors on his body, EMYS will reward your child’s progress with dynamic, real-time reactions that thrill, delight, and provide tangible feedback that kids can literally feel - which means they won’t forget what they’ve learned.
Most parents who want their kids to learn a second language turn to iPad apps, computer games, flashcards, or sitting their little ones in front of TV shows that might feature a brief language-based segment or two. But kids have short attention spans, and anything that doesn’t engage all their senses, or feel truly “real” to them, will offer disappointing results in terms of your child retaining what he or she has been told or shown.
We created EMYS to eliminate this challenge, driven by a vision to give parents a way to dramatically empower their kids when it comes to language learning. Now we’re gearing up to expand on EMYS’ capabilities as the world’s most lovable language tutor, and we need your support to make it happen!
EMYS is equipped to use his fun and engaging Smart Tag system to teach English or Spanish as a second language via one very simple, yet effective, method.
The Smart Tags, as shown spread out on the table in the photo above, feature images that each represent a certain word. EMYS asks kids to show him a specific Smart Tag by identifying a word or concept that they already understand in their mother tongue, and then teaches them the corresponding word in the secondary language, asking them to repeat the word aloud.
This teaching method provides hours of learning and laughter for kids through playfully interacting with EMYS, as you’ll see in the following video:
EMYS has many more features and capabilities that we are currently working towards completing as we speak. One of these is the ability to turn virtually anything into a Smart Tag, by placing one of our special computer chip-embedded stickers onto it, as seen here:
You know you want your child to learn a second language, and you’ve heard that it makes sense to start them young, but how do you avoid overwhelming your little one - or wasting money on language instruction that he or she may not be ready for?
Until now, it’s been hard to know how to give kids the best advantage when it comes to picking up a new language, but we believe that EMYS is the answer!
Through our research group with the Wrocław University of Science in Technology, in Wrocław, Poland, we started developing EMYS in 2008, and have been refining him ever since. Today, EMYS has been transformed into a remarkably emotionally expressive language tutor who engages all your child’s senses through a learning modality known as TPR (Total Physical Response). EMYS expertly guides English-speaking kids to learn Spanish, and Spanish-speaking kids to learn English, through exciting interactions that infuse joy and magic into each day, while increasing self-esteem.
Based on our own extensive research, as well as studies conducted by reputable educational institutions, EMYS solves the issue of language learning troubles by taking things off-screen and into the real world. A recent Yale University study demonstrated that having a physical robot tutor (such as EMYS) increases learning gains for students, and we’ve seen the same thing happen in our tests.
EMYS is the world’s first happy robotic language tutor that children naturally gravitate toward and quickly bond with, delivering a never-before seen, immersive-yet-accessible way for them to learn a second language as part of their daily playtime.
Not only is EMYS poised to transform your kids’ self-esteem and sense of fun now, but this endearing robot will lay a solid foundation for their success an increasingly globalized, “melting pot” kind of world, where bilingualism is a huge asset and exciting advantage.
EMYS came to be what he is today by virtue of 9 years of intensive research and experimentation into social robotics, and several previous versions. He’s a true labor of love for us, and we’ve been thrilled to see how positively kids react to him - not to mention how easy he makes it for them to pick up one new word per day in a second language.
Here are a couple of examples of what people are saying about the fun and learning effectiveness that EMYS delivers:
So far, EMYS and our other robotics work have been featured in the following media outlets:
It’s been proven that learning a foreign language improves kids’ creativity, IQ score, problem-solving skills, and more. The best time for kids to pick up a second language is while they’re still learning their mother tongue - but the problem is, children this age need to be taught in a very specific way in order for their new knowledge to “stick”.
EMYS is specifically designed to address the unique learning preferences of kids aged 3 to 7, which is the optimal time to learn a second language. During this phase of life, children’s brains are primed to begin assimilating the meanings of words. But while kids are “sponges” at this age, they need to be taught in a very particular way, leveraging:
We achieved all this with EMYS by equipping him with amazing visual perception and unprecedented interaction ability. He can detect when someone is in front of him, recognize who it is, track your child’s movements, and respond to his or her touch.
Leveraging these capabilities (the first of their kind in a language-teaching robot for kids), EMYS will teach your child on average one new word per day, for a total of 7 new foreign words per week.
He draws on words your kids already know in their mother tongue. By basing his teaching around concepts that kids already understand in their first language, EMYS allows them to create lasting neural links that ensure the words they use in the new language become a permanent part of of their “mind map” of the world.
Each Smart Tag represents a different concept or combination of concepts, giving kids the chance to locate and present the appropriate Smart Tag to EMYS when asked to do so. This kind of interaction becomes an endlessly entertaining game that keeps kids coming back for more tutoring, day after day.
EMYS’s teaching methods are based on repetition, which is the most effective way to teach a new language to kids who are in the ideal language learning age bracket, but the magic of EMYS goes far beyond your child simply listening to a word being said repeatedly, or being asked to say a word again and again, which quickly gets tiresome.
Instead, in order to teach new words to your child in a secondary language, EMYS will ask him or her to take certain actions to demonstrate their comprehension. EMYS’ effectiveness is therefore based on your child retrieving specific Smart Tags and pressing them against the display screen in his base, or touching EMYS on the top of his head to give one answer, vs. on his side to give another answer.
EMYS plays with your kids every day using the same style of interaction that you know and love from popular classic games, such as Guess Who or Simon Says. He encourages kids to play with him by asking questions about various objects. For example, if EMYS wants to teach your child the Spanish word for “yellow” (which is amarillo), he might say, “I like fruits that are amarillo! Show me a fruit with this color. I like all of them! Yum, yum, yum!”. Your child would then look for the Smart Tag with a picture of a yellow fruit on it, such as a banana.
Another way that EMYS provides new vocabulary to your child every day is through a learning modality known as Total Physical Response. TPR helps kids to learn by using whole-body movements. It’s a proven and effective method that enriches simple storytelling and “repeat after me” games by adding in a physical component that kids are asked to execute. For example, EMYS might ask your child to pretend to drive a car, point at something, or “clap your hands or jump when you hear the word “sun”. In this way, TPR greatly enhances the learning process by integrating what’s known as “muscle memory”.
Something else that sets EMYS apart is his ability to express emotion. Featuring 4 different touch sensing points on his head and body, he is an upbeat companion with whom kids can interact in a completely natural way. He talks, dances, reacts to your child patting or tickling him, and encourages him or her to get up and get moving as he helps little ones to deeply grasp the meaning of new words. His friendly face creates a real connection that helps your child develop empathy, too.
And let’s not forget the positive reinforcement that EMYS provides on your child’s learning journey! With each language-learning success, kids unlock new aspects of EMYS’ personality, including dance moves, amusing personas (he can behave like a pirate!), and confirmation of success on his display screen.
You can even dress EMYS up with the modeling clay that comes with each robot (giving him cat ears, or a tail), to add to the fun. This special clay dries after being left out for 24 hours, forming a robust shell that kids can draw, write, or paint on.
It’s incredibly easy to get EMYS up and running. Just take him out of the box, power him on, use the accompanying parental app for iPad or Android to choose the second language you’d like your child to learn (English or Spanish), and set your child’s age and current competence level in the second language. From there, the adventure begins!
The first few days of interactions that your child will enjoy with EMYS will be a “getting to know you” period: a chance for EMYS to explain who he is, how he works, and the different ways they can play together.
Gradually, EMYS will begin to teach foreign words to your child, making sure never to overwhelm or confuse. Over time, he’ll integrate the use of Smart Tags to introduce conceptual groups of words - such as color names, seasons, and foods - first in your child’s native tongue, and later, in the second language.
From physical movements, to funny games and voices, to quizzes, to asking your child to take actions with physical objects, to dressing him up with the modeling clay that he comes with, EMYS is truly a multi-sensory delight that will hold kids’ interest for much longer than an app, computer game, or television show.
Are you a developer with an interest in social robots? If so, we think you’ll find the platform that EMYS is built on to be the perfect launchpad for your own projects! EMYS comes with a full SDK, and the modularity and flexibility of the robot’s software allows for easy development of his capabilities, plus adaptation to new applications.
To help you get a sense of what you could do with EMYS as a developer or robotics enthusiast, take a look at what some of our colleagues in the robotics world have said about EMYS:
All our backers will receive access to our software development kit, which will allow you to program the robot yourself. However, if you choose the Developer Edition backer package, you’ll also receive unlimited technical support directly from us, the FLASH Robotics team, via an easy-to-use online ticketing system.
We can’t wait to meet you and hear about your ideas for what you want to do with EMYS!
If our Kickstarter campaign is funded, we will have everything we need to extend what EMYS can do, and deliver to you a new-and-improved robot that will not only be capable of teaching kids a second language through playtime with the EMYS RFID Smart Tags, but also so much more!
There is still a laborious R&D phase that we have to go through in order to get the robot mechanically and electronically ready for production. Considerable human expertise will also be required in order for us to expand on EMYS’ learning software, so that he can interact with kids in exciting new ways.
There are several different specific areas that we plan to allocate the money to:
- Hiring a handful of educational consultants and developers to assist us in fine-tuning the efficacy of EMYS’ teaching methods according to a child’s age, as well as expanding the learning application/software that powers EMYS, to make it even more powerful.
- Creating the EMYS app for iOS and Android, which parents will use to track kids’ progress, configure the robot, and program tag stickers.
- Finishing R&D on the current hardware. We need to move from the current hardware to a mass production version. This will require a redesign of both mechanical parts and electronics. Again, this will require expanding our team.
- Design for manufacture and assembly (DFMA) work on the robot. We will need to get EMYS mechanically ready for the production processes that we are going to use, and we need to make assembly faster and easier. Preparing molds for the injection molded parts is also something that we need to do.
- Cost of materials to build the robots themselves.
Our funding goal for our EMYS Kickstarter campaign is $100k. At the moment, we are also seeking VC funding, but it’s important to us that we validate our concept by introducing it to real people who have kids of their own whom they want to teach a second language.
We are parents ourselves, and we’ve been thrilled by the results kids have gotten so far using EMYS (as well as the way they have reacted to his look and personality), but what we’re truly passionate about is touching as many lives as possible in a positive way through education that feels like fun. That’s where you come in!
Note: In addition to what’s listed in the rewards packages above, all backers who choose a package that includes the EMYS robot will receive access to our Software Development Kit, which will allow you to program EMYS.
FLASH Robotics is a small, dedicated team of robotics researchers, engineers, designers, and teachers based out of Wrocław, Poland. We’ve spent years building and perfecting social robots, having been inspired by their potential to touch lives as we took part in various studies at the Wrocław University of Science and Technology. We have both applied for and participated in various national and European research projects, which has given us the chance to collaborate with several different interdisciplinary and international consortia.
We first developed the EMYS concept in 2009, and over time, our prototypes got better and better, with our software allowing EMYS to operate autonomously and become a believable companion. We are also proud to have developed a full-sized robot called FLASH. It now serves as a research platform at the Robotarium laboratory in Edinburgh.
We firmly believe that the right place for a social robot is at home, and after working with robots in laboratories for many years, we came to the conclusion that our technology is ready to make that a reality! That decision led to our setting up a company in order to bring EMYS to market.
As researchers, we didn’t have much entrepreneurial experience, so we were honored to be accepted into the HAX accelerator, in the heart of Shenzhen, China, often referred to as “the Silicon Valley of hardware”. HAX is a highly competitive program that is known to have a lower acceptance rate than Stanford or Harvard.
At HAX, we met fantastic advisors and mentors who helped us to develop EMYS into a commercially viable product, and connected us with key players in the Chinese manufacturing ecosystem. Here's a sneak peek at what we accomplished during our time in Shenzhen at HAX:
Thanks to our adventures at HAX, today, we are extremely focused on just one task as it relates to robotics: teaching foreign languages, and doing it well! Both our time spent as researchers at the university in Wrocław, and the 4 months we spent in China, made us realize the true importance of learning foreign languages.
We are also parents who, like all parents, want the best for our children. We strongly believe that the technology we have developed and transformed into EMYS has the potential to revolutionize language learning for kids, and to improve their quality of life for the rest of their lives.
There have been quite a few people and organizations who have helped us along on the way on our journey to bring EMYS to market, and we would like to thank them for their support. We would also like to thank every single one of you who decides to back this project on Kickstarter, as without you, we simply would not be able to make our dream of empowering parents and kids with incredibly effective and fun language learning via robotics a reality!
Specifically, we would like to recognize the following organizations:
- HAX Accelerator (hax.co)
- SOSV – the VC behind Hax Accelerator (sosv.com)
- Wrocław University of Science and Technology (www.pwr.edu.pl)
- Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh (www.hw.ac.uk)
- University of Glasgow (www.gla.ac.uk)
- INESC-ID Lisbon (www.inesc-id.pt)
- Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago (www.msichicago.org)
- Our public relations agency, Proper Propaganda (properpropaganda.net)
- LAUNCHLIGHT (www.launchlightfilms.com)
Campaign social media share links:
Please note that the EMYS robot at the beginning is provided with Spanish-English and English-Spanish option. More language options (Chinese, French, Japan, Korean) will be developed in the future.
All our rewards packages that come with an EMYS robot include one year of educational content for little ones to enjoy, which you’ll be able to download to EMYS via the EMYS app for iOS or Android. This content will be released to you over the course of your first 365 days as the owner of an EMYS robot.
Risks and challenges
As passionate engineers and robotics researchers who are also parents ourselves, we feel it’s important to be completely transparent about our undertaking with EMYS. With a product as complicated as ours, there are always issues. These typically include delays during the R&D phase, as well as when working with our suppliers and factories on final manufacturing. We will address this by expanding our team to include the best hardware and software engineers, whom we know personally from our time as researchers at Wrocław University.
Secondly, we’ll be tapping into the academic know-how of our university and the expertise of our mentors at HAX. Having access to the Chinese manufacturing ecosystem during the development and manufacturing phase will be crucial in order to ensure fast and efficient execution of the project, and we are very happy to have this kind of support behind us, thanks to the time we’ve already spent in China.
We’ve worked diligently to determine how much money will be required to meet our goals. To alleviate risk regarding budget constraints, we are also currently looking for VC funding.
Additionally, the control software for our robot has been developed and tested over a long period of time. It is very much “tried, tested, and true”.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter