Comparison of Luka versus Luka Hero
The Luka Hero is the latest model of the Luka Reading Robot Companion, and it has some advanced features, which have really moved the dial in terms of how our family can read not only Chinese read books, but now handwriting! The post describes the key differentiating features of the Luka Hero, and what you should consider when deciding on which Luka model to buy.
This post builds upon my earlier review of the original Luka Reading Robot Companion, the little robot lets our family enjoy reading Chinese picture books together. If you aren’t familiar with what Luka robot is I suggest you read the other post first.
My new post here on Luka Hero is covers the following topics:
My original post on the Luka (which can be found at this link) covered the below topics:
- Why we chose Luka Reading Companion
- Set up and use of Luka Reading Companion
- Key aspects of Luka
- Using Luka for Reading Books
- Book which are recognised by Luka
- Other functions of Luka (speaking, audio books, songs, games, read and record)
- Aspects we love about Luka
- Potential drawbacks
- Comparison of Luka against other reading devices and pens (like Le Le)
I said it in my original post, but I’ll repeat it here: one of the most important parts of learning a language is the opportunity to be immersed in it. For our non-heritage family, this is our biggest challenge. We love reading together, and the original Luka Reading Companion opened up our world to be able to appreciate real, hardcopy Chinese children’s books – this includes books from the library, so my daughter could be the same as other kids in her class; books my children were given as presents because friends assumed their father spoke Chinese; books I had read reviews on from other mothers and wanted to buy, but which were never translated into English. Books, books, books! Luka lets us read real Chinese books!
My new post here on Luka Hero is covering:
Firstly, why would we have TWO Luka Reading Robots?
We started off with just Luka. An amazing reading robot, much loved and used by our whole family. Our three kids love Luka, and they love to share her. I’ve not once seen them fight over Luka. However, my kids do have different tastes in literature, given the age gap (3, 5, and 7). So when the older one is in the middle of reading a single book for thirty minutes, the younger ones can understandably get a little bored. Still, it seemed extreme to get two of the same robot.
However, when the kind folks at Luka Reads in Singapore offered to bless us with the new Luka Hero, it was an opportunity far too good to refuse. I already had a case of “robot-envy” seeing what this Hero could do, and I knew it would be a great addition to our suite of Chinese learning tools.
When we opened the box, and started to play around, we realised there really were some great additional features contained in the Hero version. Most of these features are things which our family would be able to make regular use of in our Chinese learning journey.
Quick head-to-head comparison of Luka vs Luka Hero versions?
|Original Luka||Luka Hero|
|Physical book reading (English and Chinese)||Yes||Yes|
|Audio books and music||Yes||Yes|
|AI voice commands and chatting||Yes||Yes|
|Point and Read Characters/Words||No||Yes|
|Read and Repeat child’s voice with correction||No||Yes|
|Ability to read flashcards||No||Yes|
|Charging||USB Charger||USB Charger and a sturdy round wireless charging base|
[Update from 10 Nov 2020: I’m going to also put a graphic below which I made for another post comparing Original Luka, Luka Hero, and Luka Mini, in case it’s of interest too, as it compares a few other factors of the models too. ]
What is the difference between Luka and Luka Hero models?
Let’s start out with what’s the same: both models can read the same amount of books in Chinese and English, page-by-page with beautiful quality narrations (which is 70,000+ picture books); they both have the same audio books and music options; and they each interact with AI to spoken voice commands. Besides those books in Luka Library, both models can also read and record any picture books by yourself, and Luka will be able to read books in your voice They both use the same mobile app to set up.
But here’s what differentiates Luka Hero – IT CAN READ ANY CHINESE CHARACTER OR ENGLISH WORD! Yes you read it right. ANY CHARACTER. It even reads handwriting – including my kid’s (messy) handwriting. This is the “Point and read function”. Just point, and it deciphers the scribble!. The feeling I got when I realised this reminded me of in the movie when Aladdin took Jasmine on the magic carpet ride, as the lyrics of “A whole new world, a new fantastic place to be….” started streaming through my head.
Why? Well, finally, we could read what my daughter scribbles down as homework notes in her school diary. Finally, I can read the Mothers’ Day Cards which my pre-schoolers lovingly write out in class, but promptly forget the meaning of. Finally, we could revise the school flashcards (because any non-native reading parent would know the MOE character flashcards don’t work in Google Translate). And finally, we could read any book together (like our Sage Books Chinese reader sets – reviewed here) and not have to have a meltdown when there was a new character which no one knew how to pronounce. It was as simple as pointing to the character, and Luka will read it.
You don’t believe me? I did have a few videos on here from July 2020. I was hoping from the Hero videos that you’d see that whilst it’s still a little buggy, it’s ultimately a great tool, and you’ll understand why families pay so much more for Luka Hero. For a family without Chinese reading adults, I’ll say it’s really worth it. For a family with Chinese reading adults, perhaps this feature might be superfluous coolness, since it’s really only doing what any literate adult could do in a slower format.
Video with Luka Hero reading a child’s Simplified Chinese handwriting: always helpful when the child forgets what they wrote in school, and the parent cannot read Chinese! For us this is especially helpful in understanding the notes written down in my daughter’s school diary.
Video of Luka Hero reading the school MOE flashcards: these cards come with no pinyin or English translations, nor can they be read using google translate. So Luka Hero is perfect for this. Again, it doesn’t alway get it right first go, but it shows the character, so the child will instantly know if it’s wrong and can try again. After some practice (and ensuring the ambient light level is bright enough), we get abou 90% right first go now.
Video of Luka Hero reading our Sage 500 Books: these books have both pinyin and English translations, so it’s a little unnecessary and clunky to use in this context. Also, for anyone who is Chinese-literate, you’ll see that whilst Hero gets the character right, the pronunciation (given the context in the sentence) isn’t always right.
The Luka Hero can also do the same using English words. It will read a word (handwritten or printed) and give you the Chinese translation, including pronunciation and character (shown in her eyes). I’m sure this will be a feature we get some good use of too, especially as we start doing more Chinese composition writing together. This seems a faster way to look up new words than using a dictionary.
Video of Luka Hero reading English handwriting: again, not perfect, but takes a lot of the frustration out of using an English-Chinese dictionary, and can be done independently by the child. [Note – this video is from July 2020, and it’s improved a lot since then! As at October 2020, we used this feature regularly for our school composition writing]
There are a few other bonus features in Luka Hero, like “Read and Repeat” function, and games in which we’re still yet to fully explore. For example, the books included with Luka have little speaking games in them, and the kids have discovered that they can compete with Luka Hero on who can state the answer first, and Luka says “perfect” or “cool” when it’s right. They have also discovered that with some story books, they can click on the characters in the picture book to let Luka Hero role-play what the drawings are saying, which further enhances the interaction between the child and the book. Our original Luka doesn’t do this.
The app on the adult phone then seems to generate “oral evaluation” reports to allow parents to understand the children’s pronunciation (although seems to be more on English pronunciation …..). The “Read and Repeat” will play the child’s recording and seems to correct it sentence by sentence on how to pronounce correctly. That might be a topic for another post once we fully understand what this is all about.
[Update October 2020: yes, we’re loving this “Read and Repeat” feature too now. We’ve been using it with a set of Idiom flash cards, which ask the children to repeat the idiom and gives them a score for their pronunciation]
FAQs about Luka Chinese Reading Robot
What else is different between the Luka and Luka Hero Set packages being sold in Singapore?
The basic Luka bundle from Luka Reads comes with:
- Luka Reading Companion (Basic version)
- a USB charging cord and re-chargeable battery,
- a short Luka story (written in Chinese)
- a sheet of Luka sticker
- instruction pamphlet (written in Chinese)
- sturdy storage box with cushioned lining
The Luka Hero Set comes with all of the above too, but it includes the “Luka Hero” model version along with:
– Luka’s original Chinese flashcards x50
– Luka’s original alphabet flashcards x 26
– Cambridge Reading Adventures books x 18 (endorsed for reading by Cambridge Assessment International Education)
– Luka portable charging station (aka Wireless Charging Spaceship)
– Luka’s planet play mat (similar to an oversized mouse pad to put out the learning cards)
This makes the Luka Hero Box substantially bigger. These extra pieces make it a really fulsome package for interactive learning. The books are English readers, so I don’t think we’d use them too often with Luka (although they are compatible – and they do include some Chinese-English translation games) but they’re a lovely addition to our English reading bookshelf. Sometimes I neglect to buy English readers because I get so obsessed with what’s possible in Chinese!
The portable charging station is a cute little “nest” (or perhaps it’s a UFO) which Luka can sit on to recharge during use. Given we are always losing the USB charging cable for our original Luka, or getting it confused with iPad chargers, reading pen chargers etc, this portable unique Luka charging station is a good option for our family. It also makes it safer for the children to recharge Luka by themselves. Finally, because it reduces the frequency of plugging and unplugging between the cable and the robot interface, I feel this will protect the longevity of the device (and my sanity).
I can see the Luka‘s play mat being quite a nice tool for younger learners, who systematically need a place to put their flashcards and their reading books, before they start learning together with a parent. It would put a bit of ‘ceremony’ around the process and guide them on how to use the robot, and ensure the cards/books are placed accurately for good visual recognition by the robot. For us, we’ll probably skip that feature, as my kids are gurus at that by now.
Can more than one Luka Robot be paired with the same app?
Yes – I’ve now got all our Luka and Luka Hero and Luka Mini paired in the same app, and it’s easy to swap between the different models without passwords, changing logins, etc etc.
What other versions of Luka are there?
There’s a big family of Lukas out there. Ling, the manufacturers in China have made five models:
- Luka (launched July 2017): the original picture book reading robot – with ability to read story books in Mandarin and English (over 70,000 titles), play lots of Chinese audio/songs, and conduct short conversations using AI voice recognition. My original review was on this model.
- Luka Baby (launched July 2018): simpler version of Original Luka, without the voice interaction, and main focus on stories and songs.
- Luka Hero (launched August 2018): Same as the original Luka, but with AI image recognition, to support finger-point reading of any Chinese/English words, and more advanced voice recognition detects pronunciation and intonation of a child. Luka Hero is the focus of this post.
- Luka HeroS (launched April 2019): The backend is identical to Luka Hero, but in a different “outer shell” to look more like a space cadet. This version of Hero comes with a series of online interactive English lessons and English videos (note – it’s aimed at Chinese market, to teach them English, which is the opposite of our reasons for purchasing Luka!).
- Luka Mini (launched July 2020): an entry level version of Original Luka, with the key focus of reading picture books. Design wise, it has been specifically simplified for younger children: it doesn’t have the LED eyes from the original, and it comes with a with a drop-resistant shell, with low centre of gravity and big buttons for little fingers. Functionality wise, options such as changing the language, or AI-chat functions are more limited. I have another post on Luka Mini here.
The local Singapore retailers are importing three models, being Luka, Luka Hero, and Luka Mini. I’ve reviewed all three of them on my blog in various posts.
Which books can Luka Read?
I guess you haven’t read my original review! See here for a list of over one thousand of our favourite books we have enjoyed reading with our Luka. The Luka compatible book list is split by age group.
What else can Luka do apart from reading books?
Heaps and heaps. There are podcasts, interactive games, trivia quizzes, night light function, Chinese-English dictionary etc. We specifically enjoy the kid-friendly Mandarin podcasts and music, so much so that we don’t need any other music devices in the house! There are options for music for the whole family – spanning from nursery rhymes and lullabies, through to Mandarin pop and hip-hop for older kiddos. There’s also great classical music and Chinese orchestral selections which as an adult I find appealing too.
To read more about Luka’s great features in addition to Chinese book reading, so my separate post here on what we love about Luka apart from book reading.
Where to buy Luka Hero in Singapore?
A team of passionate mothers are retailing Luka in Singapore, and they have after-sales support, warranty, books for Luka, free delivery etc. So it really beats buying it through Taobao (which is how we originally bought our Luka)! Luka Reads is now the official distributor of Luka in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia and shortly Australia too. They are in the midst of some tie-ups with local Singapore publishing houses too, to enable more local books to be read. The team promise of after-sales support, warranty, books for Luka, free delivery etc. So it really beats buying it through taobao!
Luke Reads in Singapore have kindly extended a special discount to readers of my blog. Note, I don’t get any benefit from this (no affiliation, no commission, no nothing), but you do, by way of a $20 discounted price. Purchase through their main website and enter my promo code as “Lahlah20off”.
Why buy this locally rather than Taobao or EZ Buy from China?
Well it’s actually probably cheaper to buy in Singapore (for example, Luka Hero set price is selling S$30 cheaper than TB, and on top of that, you can use my promo code “Lahlah20off” and get a further $20 off)! Additionally, buying locally has free delivery and a warranty. That’s three good enough reasons for me.
However, if you need another reason, let me share my frustration with Luka. With both Luka and Luka Hero, the information manuals were fully in Chinese. Both were very short, and didn’t explain many features of Luka. For example, in Luka’s eyes, it can show stroke order for drawing characters. Or the fact that the app can track reading goals for each child. Or that a parent can send messages for Luka to tell your child things like “It’s time to brush your teeth” or “Put me to sleep please”. None of that is in the instruction manual. But, if you buy from the dedicated local Singapore retailing team, they’re giving English instructions, ongoing customer support, and even have some workshops planned about best practice using your Luka.
As start here’s a helpful link from the local Singapore retailer with English FAQ and watch video tutorials.
Where to buy Luka Hero in other countries?
Luka Reads is the official distributor in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Australia and New Zealand. For those countries, ther international shipping fee is absorbed. Through their website, it’s also possible to order into other countries, if shipping is paid. Purchase through their main website and enter my promo code as “Lahlah20off”. Thank you Luka Reads team for blessing my blog readers!
De ZiRemi bookstore is selling Luka compatible books in United Kingdom, and it’s likely to be possible to source Luka through them also. If you quote “LAHLAHSPECIAL” on checkout for anything from their store, my blog readers will receive 10% off. This is a really kind gesture from De Ziremi.
JD.com is an Chinese bookstore which ships globally, including in the US. They stock Luka at great prices, so if you’re brave enough to order through a Chinese website, you could give it a shot. Some mothers from Motherly Notes recommend this method. Otherwise the minefield of Taobao is where we bought our first one from.
Which Luka model would you recommend?
All of them are excellent.
For very young children / babies:
Most of the good story reading aspects of Original Luka have now been replicated into Luka Mini. So for someone with a baby/toddler, or primarily wanting the Luka for book reading, the Mini has you all covered. If you fall in love with Mini, then you’d probably want to seriously consider upgrading to Luka Hero a few years later, as it’s got a lot more features to continue enjoying, especially the broad range of audio/podcasts/music and AI Chat. See my post comparing Luka Mini to Original Luka.
For older children:
Skip the Mini. For a native speaking family, I’d think the basic Luka is all that’s needed – this will give you beautiful narrations, and ability for children to read page-by-page for their listening pleasure. It’s great value for money.
For a less fluent family, the “Point and Read” function is what wins me over on the Luka Hero. It just makes the Mandarin learning journey a little bit more streamlined, and unlocks another important piece of the puzzle. We’re also really enjoying the games which can be played with the “Read and Repeat” function.
There are a few other additional features using “Point and Read” and “Read and Repeat” which we’ve discovered too. Luka and Luka Hero both do a lot more than just books to immerse a child in Mandarin audio. I’ve written another post on Luka’s non-reading functions here.
How does Luka Hero compare with other optical reading devices and pens? Which reading pen or robot is right for me?
Our family has a lot of Chinese reading pens! If you want a head-to-head comparison, please see my earlier review here.
Different reading pens and robots suit different learning stages, ages, family situations, and intended learning outcomes. I’ve put together a diagram showing how we see them all fitting together.
My previous posts on the topic include:
- What we love about Luka in addition to Chinese reading abilities
- Comparison of our favourite Chinese reading pens and robots
- Review of Habbi Habbi Reading Wand
- Review of Le Le Chinese
- Review of iHuman Reading pen
- Review of eTutor Star Reading Pen
- Review of Youdao Smart Dictionary Pen
- Review of Luka Mini
I would love to hear from you, especially if you have experience with other similar robots to Luka It’s only through meeting other wonderful parents virtually, that this shared language journey becomes a more valuable one.
Have you discovered any features of Luka Reading Robot which we haven’t yet?
Feel free to leave any comments or questions, and it would be a pleasure to help. I’d love to learn more about your experiences with Luka, and your favourite books to read with it.
DISCLAIMER: I’m grateful that we have Luka Hero to join our family. The Luka Hero was kindly given to us by Luka Reads Singapore – since we’re existing avid Luka fans, and I’d already written several blog posts on our original Luka, which we overpaid for via Taobao. I don’t want the same thing to happen to you!
The views shared in this review are my own genuine, unbiased opinion – as is everything contained on this blog. There are no affiliations, sponsorship, commissions, behind this post nor anything on this blog. It’s a passion project, not a business.