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Hands-on review: Dino the Cognisaurus - this is the reptile you’re looking for

04 Nov 2016

Back in my day as a kid, toys were basic things. Tonka toys and matchbox cars were the norm and if you really wanted to get all flash, you bought Lego. Not that fancypants technical stuff, just blocks.

An AI Dinosaur – you’re kidding?

Much has changed since then. Take the Cognitoys Dino. He’s a dinosaur-shaped toy that connects to one of the most advanced AIs around, IBM's Watson.

The clever thing is that even the most technophobic kids (is that actually a thing?) can drive it. All they need to do is press his belly button and speak.

Tucked away in Dino’s nose are a mic and speaker. His speech recognition is about 96% accurate or better. Given how different my Kiwi accent is to the US accent, Dino could still understand me.

Speech accuracy aside, Cognitoys have baked an engaging personality into Dino. Asking him what sort of dinosaur he is results in him telling me that he's “a cognisaur.”

His sense of humour aside, he also looks the part. He resembles a pint-sized green version of Barney the friendly dinosaur. This is further enhanced by his voice. It is that of a kindly grandfather crossed with a friendly green dinosaur. Weird I know, but in use it works.

Dino is like catnip to kids who can’t put him down once they’ve sussed out how he works.

In Use

Dino’s mouth lights up when he speaks. Different colours show what he’s doing and what his status is. He's powered by 4x AA batteries tucked away on his underside. There’s also small slider switch for on, off and different volume levels.

Dino isn't just a talking toy. He’s actually much smarter than that. Using IBM’s Watson, Dino means learns from interactions. He works some of this detail into future conversations. 

Aimed at kids, Dino does not recognise potty mouthed conversations. In use he seemed pretty child safe.

The setup process involving connecting Dino to your phone (so it can access Watson). Next you enter your child’s age. Dino then uses content best suited for that particular age. Dino will also adjust his patter based around how that your child interacts. It’s a smooth and slick thing but it works.

In use, Dino is a lot like a super friendly and patient kindergarten teacher. His storytelling chops are also top notch. He’ll ask if you want him to tell you a story, or you can just say “tell me a story”. He’ll sometimes ask kids for names of specific items for use in the story. This is pretty clever as kids love having family and friends take part in stories.

Verdict

AI has a bad rep. This is a real shame as AI is as much a force for good as it is an aid for Arnie in hunting Sarah Connor. The good side of AI comes to light with Dino. He’s cute, friendly and above all, fun. Trust me, your kids will love Dino.

This highlights the only issue I can see. Dino’s batteries last a week with typical use. Given Dino’s engaging nature, “typical” is likely to be more like “constant”. Dino is such a huge amount of fun for kids that they'll no doubt see him as their B.F.D (best friend Dinosaur). This means keeping some spare AA batteries is a must. Dino costs $199 and is a great value as he’ll keep the kids entertained for hours.

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