Thursday, 26 January 2017

BETT 2017 Day 1

So its that time of year where we descend on east london and worship at the altar of BETT.

I always enjoy the show and consider it an important event to head to if you are interested in Ed tech. Yes there is lots of selling to avoid, but there are always loads of good opportunities to sample something new, get some free CPD and most importantly talk to people. It is always a great time catching up with people who you perhaps only ever interact with on twitter.

So after a long day has anything perked my interest?

Well yes it has. As always I'm always looking for the next robot. I headed straight to BETT Futures and within the first 5 minutes I'd only seen a few robots that looked quite interesting. 

One is from a company called invent! Which is a crumble based robot and uses the same software as a crumble board. The basic kit seems to be about £50 but have a very  low barrier to entry as it is modular and simple to clip together, together no croc clips. So you can make a robot with sensors or a room guard. For some teachers this could be an ideal kit to start playing around with physical computing, while they get more confident. There was an Arduino version as well that used the same components. 

Simple Robot with switches.

Motion sensor.
I also saw a small robot called a ChickBot which is a low cost robot kit, there were also two versions of this one was a micro:bit based and the other used an Arduino. They are low cost around £17 and are a kit soe has some nice links with DT. The micro:bit one interests me a lot, i'll be getting one.

The InO-Bot from TTS has finally come out, I saw an early version last year. It is a programmable robot that uses a version of Scratch, so is block based so easy to program. It has a large range of sensors and includes slot for a pen that will raise and lower, which for some reason I was very impressed with. The price point is around £100 per unit but if you buy 6 you can get them for about £500 with a charging station. It's an impressive little robot with a large array of sensors. It's a good alternative to an mBot. These already have at school and use successfully with my children. The InO-Bot is more expensive but does have a larger array of sensors. It is definitely worth a look if you are interested in buying a robot for your class,  but I would still look at the mBot first and decide whether the extra sensors are worth the cost.

The mBot is not exactly a new robot but there are a number of new innovations that I spotted for use with Makeblocks mBot. I saw on Google stand, Chosing with Chrome, a web-based interface that will let you program a bluetooth mBot, ( without installing any other software. This is great for schools that have Chromebooks because suddenly is possible for a school to use mBots. Coding with Chrome also works with Sphero and Lego EV3.

 Something else new is that there is a Microsoft Azure plugin for mBlock, which is the software used with an mBot. This gives you access to facial recognition and speech recognition which could be really interesting to use in class. This I need to play with more,

Microsoft Azure and mBlock.

So did I see anything else that caught my interest?

I saw a nice science resource that encourages you to create animations. It has very high quality cardboard cutouts of a variety of scientific processes such as the water cycle, an engine pistons and the earth and moon. The cost of the kits where quite high, and you could make something yourself but they are high quality and it does give a nice context for using animation within science.

Throughout the show one of the big new things was VR. It was all over the show most where using mobile phones with some sort of variation on Google cardboard whether it being a plastic holder or a cardboard one. One stand Avantis had their own solution which was an all-in-one VR headset more similar to a HTC Vive or an Oculus than anything else. It's an android based product and as such has a lot of Android VR experiences. I did query about compatibility with Google Expeditions but they couldn't really give me a clear answer. It works using the Learnpad framework so it deployment of apps and management is fairly easy to use. At £2,000 for 8 headsets, it is a lot but the hardware is impressive. It's definitely worth booking a demo if you're curious about VR technology.

Finally a shout out to PiTop for winning the BETT awards for EdTech Start-Up :o)

Tomorrow I'll be checking out Chromebooks, seeing if there's any more robots I've missed and checking out some more of the CPD.

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