Wingardium leviosa! Kano, which makes a variety of kid-friendly computer coding products, continues to go beyond the PC with today’s announcement that it has partnered with Warner Bros. to create a Harry Potter Coding Kit, which is a programmable wand and Wizarding World inside Kano’s apps. “How do you build a computer company that gives users an understanding and influence over technology?” asks Kano CEO and cofounder Alex Klein. The answer is to expand the audience of people who could learn coding principles and empower them with a better sense of the tech in their lives by teaming up with one of the world’s most beloved franchises.
The kit, which is available for preorder starting today and will be on sale at retailers October 1, will cost $99 and include a computer board with an accelerometer, gyroscope, and magnetometer. The sensors are programmable and let users do such things as execute spells (such as the levitation one my six-year-old daughter yells at me rather frequently) and explore coding challenges embedded within the included six Wizarding World settings, including the Forbidden Forest and Hogwarts. As with Kano’s earlier products, users can choose to share any creations, from drawings to their spin on any spells, within Kano World for others to enjoy.
When I ask Klein how his five-year-old startup, which has raised $44.5 million in funding according to Crunchbase, came to be putting out a branded product in the world of Harry Potter, which is estimated to be worth $25 billion, he tells me two stories. One, “there was always a desire from the team to connect with comic books and movies and use narrative and character, to bottle the flame of storytelling.” More prosaically, but perhaps more importantly, Kano’s $29 motion-sensor kit was the most popular STEM product that Walmart sold last year, and executives at the retail giant suggested putting Klein together with Warner Bros. to partner on this idea of a buildable, code-able wand.
Klein walked me through the experience of setting up the wand and starting to create programs with it, and it was highly satisfying. As noted above, my daughter is mad for Harry Potter at the moment, and it was impossible not to imagine her delight in fashioning her own piece of Harry Potter’s world, the same way she uses our dogs or toys as jumping-off points for her own stories. Perhaps the coolest part of Kano’s take on Potter is that users are themselves and not one of J.K. Rowling’s characters, and as Klein notes, “This is not a carbon copy of anything in the series.”
After all, he adds, “There’s a small, secret group of wizards in our world who can move objects and who operate behind a veil of secrecy. They’re called programmers, and their powers are only given to a select few by design. But you can learn those powers and create your own magic.”