Kiri is a screen-free smart toy meant to help kids learn languages and more – ProWellTech
After six months of on-site shelter (and now weeks of hiding from the smoke of fires) next to a child who never seems to run out of energy, I am the last person who would try to make someone feel bad for giving their children some screen time.
But if a company wants to build a toy that aims to educate and entertain without the need for a screen, at least it caught my eye.
That’s the concept behind Kiri, a company competing in the (first virtual all!) ProWellTech Disrupt Startup Battlefield this week. They gave the classic wooden block a twist, cleverly packing it to help kids learn things like shapes, animals, and numbers in multiple languages without involving yet another screen.
Kiri is designed to work in conjunction with an expandable set of RFID-enabled cards, with each card representing a different animal, food, etc. Tap the lock on a tile and a built-in speaker announces what has been touched.
A “mode” tab, meanwhile, lets you switch things up with a quiz game (where kids are asked to find and tap a tile that Kiri knows you have), or to quickly switch between English, Mandarin and Spanish .
The Kiri block itself is purposely simple; approximately 2 × 2 ″ of smoothly polished wood, the only visible exteriors are some small holes where the speaker is vented, a charging port and a translucent and iridescent Kiri logo. Touch the blue tile? The logo turns blue. Got the right answer in quiz mode? Green.
Do you want to know what words your child really seems to receive? A companion app allows parents to check a child’s progress (and, of course, order new cards).
Kiri took her first steps into the world at the end of 2019 with a successfully funded campaign on Kickstarter. They originally intended to ship the first units by April of this year, but the pandemic has thrown a key or five in the gears. Nick Porfilio from Kiri tells me I’m now on my way to shipping by the holidays.
Kiri’s $ 99 starter kit comes with the block, bag, and tile set to get you started. The company plans to add more cards and class categories to the mix over time, with a $ 8 monthly subscription meant to keep things fresh as long as your child remains interested.
Porfilio also tells me they are looking to expand beyond tiles over time, citing concepts like Kiri-enabled books and musical instruments. For now, however, they are focusing on putting their blocks in the hands of those who have booked.