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Vikas Gupta

Kids love robots.

And now a new San Francisco area company, backed with $1 million from the likes of Google Ventures and Madrona Venture Group, is looking to develop a new class of low-cost robots designed to help five to eight-year-olds learn the basics of programming.

All Things D has details on Play-i, which is led by former Googler and employee Vikas Gupta and former Frog Design vice president of engineering Mikal Greaves. In his LinkedIn bio, Greaves notes that the company’s goal is “to make programming fun and accessible while children play.”

“We believe tangible interaction is what grabs children, something that’s much more engaging for them beyond just having a software screen in front of them,” Gupta tells All Things D.

The Romo robot

Gupta should be well known to Madrona, since the Seattle venture capital firm bankrolled his previous virtual currency startup, Jambool. It sold to Google in 2010, and Gupta later led the consumer payments group at the search giant.

Play-i, which All Things D notes will sell its robots for under $100, isn’t the only company looking to make robots for kids.

You may recall the TechStars Seattle grad Romotive. The startup has since moved to Vegas, but it is continuing to develop the Romo, which we described as a “super cool smartphone-powered robot.” Last October, it raised $5 million from Sequoia Capital, Crunchfund, Ron Conway’s SV Angel and others for its $150 robot.

We’ve reached out to Madrona for more details on its investment in Play-i, and we’ll update the post as we learn more.

You can get a sense of how Romo works here, and it will be interesting to see what approach Play-i takes with its robotic creation.

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