When it comes to educating young children, I tend to have old-fashioned views. I had this ideal image of taking walks in the park, identifying different plants in the yard and calmly coloring at the kitchen table. While I do get glimpses of that idyllic picture, most of the time parenting is a lot messier and chaotic. And then you put a robot in the picture.
As the only Dealerscope editor with a child, I volunteered to Unbox the Miko 3, which we first saw at IFA this year. This approximately foot high, brightly colored robot is intended to be part educational, part fun, with AI to help it interact with kids and grow with them. According to the company, over a three-month period, kids who actively used Miko experienced a 55 percent increase in speaking proficiency, 46 percent increase in physical activity and a 55 percent increase in engagement.
Since I try to avoid too much screentime for my son, I originally didn’t think this would be very helpful; I worried Miko would just be like an iPad on wheels. I soon found out that when it comes to kids’ entertainment and education, Miko puts the iPad to shame.
A Warning about Set Up
Now a caveat. The Miko 3 is meant for ages 4-10, and my son, Max, is just turning two. Any testing I did directly with him needs to be taken with a grain of salt. However, even the most patient kid might get annoyed if their parent does not start up and personalize Miko before handing it over. The approximate 30-45 minutes it took to upgrade and load — which was thankfully mostly hands-off — was trying for my toddler to wait for. But it turned out to be worth it.
The Good and Bad of Having an Integrated Camera
Part of set up was taking a profile picture — also tricky with a toddler — but this feature allows Miko to recognize different faces. Miko can play hide-and-seek with your child and navigate relatively well around household items while searching for their face (I tried it by myself and it passed by me – it was only looking for Max and had a concentrated facial expression on the screen). The Miko Robot will also use its camera to collect information about its environment and better learn how to navigate around a home. It also uses the camera for a fun game called Mirror Me, where it mimics the expression on the users’ face.
In addition, the conversations your child has with Miko are recorded for about ten seconds after the initial action word “Hello, Miko,” which is similar to the smart home assistants we know. While Miko does store demographic information and preferences, it uses it to personalize the experience; this data can also be easily deleted on the app. Children cannot communicate with other Miko users, such as by doing video calls — yes, it can do video calls with other Mikos — without their parents’ consent. For parents still on the fence, the camera can be fully disabled on the app or manually on the robot.
Miko the Teacher
Miko partners with Da Vinci Kids for a slew of educational content. Especially with the power of the upgraded version, Miko Max (no pun intended), there are games and shows for every level and taste. I tried out a few I thought my son might like in two or three years: Clash Critters, where you solve a math problem to get a dinosaur to shoot a monster with a firebolt; Atomic Frenzy, which is a sort of search game using the periodic table; and Spellmaster, which is a fill in the blank spelling quiz. I failed Milky’s Saloon — the icons of the ice cream were too small for my adult eyes.
Beyond games, there are also stories. These are storybook like experiences, where there is a still picture and Miko reads aloud to the child. Miko also offers incentives for completing games and challenges. If a certain level is completed, a new area is unlocked and rewards are given. This enables the robot to grow with the child and constantly offer material for their current level.
Fun Mixed In
There wasn’t much content on Miko that was purely fun and not educational, something I loved. There is KidNoodleTV, which is a selection of kid-friendly TV shows such as SpongeBob Squarepants and Masha and the Bear. There was a selection of fun games, like Oome Crane and Classroom Conga. The touchscreen is perfect for little fingers and even offers coloring and puzzle activities. One of my favorite games was Color Match, which has you click the correct bottle of color to tip it upside down and fill in the picture, complete with sound effects. Classic games for both kids and adults are on there, including Checkers and Battleship.
This only seems to scrape the surface of what Miko offers. My toddler definitely doesn’t have the patience yet to try out the kids’ yoga and meditation feature and could not figure out the Freeze Dance game (although he loved when we asked Miko to play music or dance – both of which the robot can do on its tiny wheels).
Should this robot for kids be on your shelves this holiday season? Absolutely. Just keep any toddlers prone to smashing at an arm’s length. But whenever you bring Miko out, it will be just like Christmas morning.