Gaming
Hakitzu: the app which teaches children how to code with fighting robots

“Seriously, getting teenagers to be buzzed about an education app is pretty unusual.” Founder, Frank Meehan.

Hakitzu (short for hacking and Jujitsu): Code of the Warrior is a brand new app created by the Shoreditch-based studio called Kuato. It is a turn based game which teaches kids to code using JavaScript in the most extraordinary manner. As opposed to having to memorise commands, the user actually has to call the functions in real-time to control their character, or they just won’t move. This is all part of a ploy to “gamify education”.

In essence, the game is like chess: two robots are protecting their own central core whilst trying to move to the other side of the arena to destroy the opposing robot’s core. Through performing actions such as move, fire, turn, and punch, your robot can be commanded as you see fit. For example, you could have a move which reads: Move (“forward”, 4); Turn (“right”,1); Launchrocket (); – push the execute button and you’d be in a whole world of fun as your personalised robot (JavaScript dictated again) carries out the commands.

To win the game, you have to hack the enemy’s core three times. This video below depicts the gameplay proficiently:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ZtDBCJkI-qs

In response to questioning about this fusion of education and gaming, CEO Frank Meehan added: “The dynamic in this studio is really interesting; you’ve got a bunch of AI PHDs, game developers, designers and educators (including a winner of The Guardian’s teacher of the year). So it’s just a really cool melting pot which is all about going out there and really getting the kids inspired into it.”

In the month since its release (2nd April) Hakitzu has gone from strength to strength in terms of popularity. Their target age is 11-14, but 8-9 year olds are becoming enthusiastic about it too, could this be the end of Codeacademy and Code Dojo? Well, it certainly has its idiosyncrasies in the fact that, there’s an instant gratification and purpose to the JavaScipt engagement as opposed to just straighter coding.

Hakitzu

When you’ve finished using the game, you’ll have an understanding of variables, functions, core construction of code, and syntax for JavaScript, Meehan also explained. Eric Sheninger, the principal of a New Jersey school echoed his value of the game, citing that the children at his school were “authentically engaged for well over an hour”, and that the project was “very intriguing from an educational perspective”.

Kuato are also currently pouring time and money into researching the ability to create an AI companion who has a grasp on conversation and language, who can also reason with you and get to know the user’s preferences when it comes to learning and frustrations with the coding. You never know, this is the company who are responsible for SRI (or Siri as you’ll know him), the virtual assistant Apple purchased from them and incorporated into iOS.

You can download the app right here, it is currently free.

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