Think Google Home, Siri, or Alexa for kids. Throw it into a built-it-yourself internet-connected dinosaur that only listens when you push its belly, and responds in a Yoda-like voice. There in a nutshell is a learning device I’ve been wanting in my hands since 2016 when I first saw it at Showstoppers in Las Vegas.
Cognitoys shipped me a prerelease STEMOSAUR, and here’s what we’ve got as of 24 hours in.
There are three main parts I’d say to the STEMOSAUR. Part one is the assembly. Part two is the product (which is basically the Cognitoys Dino from a couple of years back.) Part three is coding and learning to code.
If you’ve got no interest in your kid coding on this jurassic platform, or despise assembling things, you might want to go with the original.
Part 1: Assembly
I’ve got a 2yo and a 4yo. I did the assembly myself. I think a six or seven year old would not have any issues.
If you only read one thing, make it this: don’t do anything with the battery box until you’re told to by the instructions. That plastic tab will go in the belly section and hold the door on. Your door isn’t broken. Don’t be like me.
The STEMOSAUR ships with a screwdriver and two types of screws. I’d rather it shipped with one length as I immediately put the wrong screws in. No big, I was able to back them out. The screwdriver was a little too tiny to get much torque and even being an adult of reasonable strength I found I wasn’t turning the screws all the way when they encountered resistance.
Everything plastic slides into place easily, and the three wires you have to plug in are well documented. Shipping versions of this product will include batteries. Mine didn’t. I had a very fun battery adventure here that involved finding all the remotes at work had exploded batteries.
I mistakenly installed the batteries and attempted to get the pack in. Don’t do this until the dino is built. It’ll look like there’s a part missing with how the door will be askew. Really, follow instructions. When you’re putting it in the weird plastic tab will go in place and serve to lock the door down.
Assembled I turned it on, it asked me to download the app, I then learned that it won’t work with 5ghz networks and decided to take it home to make it work there rather than fight with my enterprise network.
Total assembly time should have been around ten minutes had I not kept trying to figure out the battery door.
Part 2: The STEMOSAUR in use (4yo)
The dino is aimed at a child that can press and hold a button and talk while it’s held in an understandable fashion. For the most part Maggie, the 4yo, is capable of this. What I found out she’s incapable of however is following instructions. All she had to say was “dinosaurs love pizza” or “skip” and she decided she was having none of that.
Keep in mind this is aimed at the 7+ crowd. I don’t consider this a failing of the dino, just of my 4yo who wants to fight the dinosaur.
We got past the training, or at least skipped it, and she started playing with it while it told her a story.
During the story it stopped several times and asked how she would feel or what she thought about the events as they were unfolding, it was really engaging. However it wouldn’t accept a lot of her responses.
The dino would ask her for input that could be stated as yes or no, Maggie would respond in natural 4yo “well I think that…” and she’d get back eight seconds later that the dino did not understand.
This would go on and on with no end in sight until I finally would come over and say “yes,” or “no”. So there’s some room for improvement and that’s all done server side so I expect it’ll roll out sometime soon.
There seemed to be no way to stop the long drawn out answers when the STEMOSAUR misheard something. Mostly this was not a problem until it misheard and as far as I can tell read the synopsis to the movie SAW. Yes, the horror torture film. I mean what it read wasn’t scary but it was kind of odd.
She renamed the STEMOSAUR many times, kept asking how it knew that her name was Maggie since she had not told it (I set it in the app,) and after a while moved on to other things.
Overall it kept her engaged the first day for about an hour and then it was time to do other things.
Part 2A: the 44yo plays with the STEMOSAUR
On the install side there are some issues. The STEMOSAUR doesn’t work with 5ghz systems meaning you need a 2.4ghz capable router. Not a huge deal, but something you should know going in.
I’m not sure if it copes with 2.4ghz/5ghz routers with the same AP name. I just connected it to the 2.4ghz Comcast AP I have and moved on.
The setup app crashes a lot. I managed to get it set up and then for reasons unknown it’s decided I can forget about using it again. My bet is this is pre-release only issues and will be pounded out in the next few days. Have submitted a bug report.
I open the app, see Maggie’s set up, bam. Crash, send feedback.
Not a huge issue, but something that’s not perfect out of the box.
I asked the dino a series of questions while it thought I was Maggie. How far is the moon? Really far, farther than you can walk, etc… got back the age appropriate answers. I asked a bunch of questions that didn’t get heard correctly or didn’t get answered – I’m unsure which as I do not see the parent dashboard yet.
I asked questions such as how many quarts in a gallon and it said it didn’t understand the question. Some things it would not understand the question and I’d repeat and it would with no issues.
While it misunderstanding me was not a big deal I’ve gotten spoiled with Google Home and Assistant. With the STEMOSAUR there’s a definite feeling that you’re talking to a computer a long way away. Press and hold button, speak your question, release button, wait 4-8 seconds for a response that will be read out in a slow Yoda voice.
These are things I think can be corrected in the background or with a firmware update. They may not be noticeable to a child, but as a seconds-obsessed tech guy they do feel like I’m going too slow.
Part 3: Coding
Not reached this part yet. Got an email in about getting to the dashboard as that’s not in my instructions.
End of day 1
As we haven’t seen the coding dashboard, parent dashboard, or been able to properly use the app yet (prerelease, don’t judge till it’s out,) I don’t feel we’ve got too much experience in the way of what this can fully do.
At the moment it’s a Yoda dino that amuses my 4yo greatly. That’s a great start. We’ll see how things go next week.
The STEMOSAUR is expected to be shipping soon, you can sign up for their announcement when this happens, or keep reading here and I’ll let you know when it drops.