Apple Opens Up Swift Playgrounds to Drones, Robots, Musical Instruments: LEGO MINDSTORMS, Sphero, Parrot

Elephant Built with LEGO MINDSTORMS

Apple announced Thursday that Swift Playgrounds will soon be able to control Bluetooth-enabled Drones, Robots, and musical instruments. To make it clear Apple is serious about these features, the company said Swift Playgrounds 1.5 will support LEGO MINDSTORMS Education EV3, Sphero SPRK+, and Parrot drones.

Apple said it will release Swift Playgrounds 1.5 on Monday, June 5th. That’s the day the company kicks off its annual World Wide Developer Conference (WWDC).

Elephant Built with LEGO MINDSTORMS
Elephant Built with LEGO MINDSTORMS

Swift Playgrounds

Swift Playgrounds is Apple’s educational coding environment. Aimed at kids—but usable by everyone—Playgrounds teaches users to code in Swift using a playground metaphor.

“More than 1 million kids and adults from around the world are already using Swift Playgrounds to learn the fundamentals of coding with Swift in a fun and interactive way,” Apple senior vice president of Software Engineering Craig Federighi said in a statement. “Now they can instantly see the code they create and directly control their favorite robots, drones and instruments through Swift Playgrounds. It’s an incredibly exciting and powerful way to learn.”

Until today, Playgrounds was focused solely on making apps. The ability to control external devices like drones, robots, and musical instruments opens the software—and Apple iPads—to a greater role in maker spaces and other STEM/STEAM education environments.

The Cool Stuff

LEGO MINDSTORMS Education EV3 and the Sphero SPRK+ are commonly used to facilitate STEM lesson and teach early coding. The ability to control these platforms through Playgrounds will add enormous value to iPad for schools with such programs.

With Parrot’s Mambo, Airborne and Rolling Spider drones, users will be able to make them take off, land, turn and perform aerial figures like flips, all using code developed in Playgrounds.

Other products in the announcement include UBTECH’s Jimu Robot MeeBot Kit, Dash by Wonder Workshop, and Skoogmusic Skoog 2.0.

The Big Picture

This is an important development for Apple in the education market. The company is besieged by cheap Chromebooks and an ever-more competent Microsoft, including Surface tablets. The ability to control third-party platforms is going to vastly increase iPad’s value to schools with these education programs.

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