We tried Kano’s Harry Potter coding wand, and it wasn’t as magic as we had hoped

Kano's Harry Potter coding wand.

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Kano’s Harry Potter coding wand.
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Amazon

Coding kit builder Kano released its Harry Potter coding wand in October.

The wand costs £99.99/$99.99, and is designed to get muggle kids into coding by letting them to code spells which they can then cast using the wand.

Business Insider got with the Kano coding wand to see how it holds up. Scroll on for our review.


The box sure is fancy.

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An unboxed Kano coding wand.
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Isobel Hamilton/Business Insider

First you have to assemble the wand.

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Assembling the Kano wand.
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Isobel Hamilton/Business Insider

Wand assembly is about as simple as it comes, you just slot the pieces together. Here’s us placing the wand’s printed circuit board in the wand.


The design is nice and sleek, but there’s no off button.

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A fully assembled Kano wand.
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Isobel Hamilton/Business Insider

To preserve battery life you need to pry open the case and physically remove the batteries, which is kind of a drag.


We had a go learning how to code on an iPad Pro.

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The Kano wand works with iOS.
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Isobel Hamilton/Business Insider

While the coding wand works with Windows and Android, Kano CEO and founder Alex Klein told Business Insider that it was “designed ground-up to work with iOS and with tablets.” The wand connects to the device via Bluetooth.


A big pro: The coding itself is very satisfying, and rewards experimentation.

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You build code by stitching together coloured blocks.
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Isobel Hamilton/Business Insider

To teach you coding, Kano gives you colourful blocks with changeable variables that you fit together and tinker with to build spells.

You can easily follow the instructions Kano gives you, but it’s super easy to start tinkering around to see how you can customise the spells it teaches you.


On the downside: The wand-tracking is pretty janky.

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“Wingardium Leviosa” posed a challenge.
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Isobel Hamilton/Business Insider

To sync the wand with the tablet, you have to “center” it. However, despite centering it multiple times, we still found the tracking of the wand’s movement to be a little out of sync.

There was a lot of frustrated swishing and flicking as we tried to perform the levitation spell “Wingardium Leviosa.”

This had the unintended effect of immersing us deeper into the world of Harry Potter, as one Business Insider staffer commented, “this is just like the film where they can’t do it!”


Pro: There’s lots of different ways to play.

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Isobel Hamilton/Business Insider

The app has a couple of different modes to mess around with. You can progress through the challenge mode in a linear way to build up your coding knowledge, or mess around in a more freeform mode if you prefer.

Kano has also set up a few pre-built spells that act like minigames, such as trying to hit a quaffle (or it may have been a bludger, full disclosure) through a Quidditch hoop with a bat. One BI staffer said rifling through the minigames reminded them of Nintendo franchise “Warioware.”


We gave it to some kids to see what they think.

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BI gave the wand to some kids (not pictured) to test out.
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Kano

Seeing as the wand is primarily aimed at kids, BI also gave the wand to two children aged 11 and nine to test-drive. They used the wand with a Macbook, and the calibration problems were still in evidence.

However, they really engaged with the app itself. Both children are fans of “Harry Potter,” and loved all the tidbits they could find from the books, from Bertie Bots Every Flavour Beans to the pygmy puffs.

The 11-year old in particular responded to the coding, and had a lot of fun experimenting with exactly how she could change the spell she was building by delving into the different parts of the code.


Verdict: It’s a cool idea but with a major drawback

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Amazon

If it weren’t for the problems with calibrating it, the wand would be an outstanding coding toy. The app is well designed, and has loads of fun things to discover for fans of “Harry Potter,” but it ends up being a damp squib if, after having successfully coded a spell, you need ten or more attempts to actually perform it.