January 15, 2014
LittleBits: The Next Generation Toy For The Engineer Wannabe
Lee Rannals for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
An MIT entrepreneur has developed the next generation toy for the child or adult who wishes to be an engineer.
The fast-growing startup littleBits sells small modules that can be connected together to help create motorized toys, interactive art displays, flashlights and even musical instruments. The “Bits modules” are each integrated with electronic functions like lights, sounds and motors, and they can be snapped together with magnets to create whatever the imagination can dream up.
“The mission is to put the power of electronics in everyone’s hands,” MIT Media Lab alumna and entrepreneur Ayah Bdeir, the littleBits CEO, said in a statement.
LittleBits recently closed an $11 billion funding round and has sold hundreds of thousands of Bit modules. Last year, Fast Company named Bdeir as one of the 100 most creative people in business, and the startup has also earned itself numerous awards.
“Big technologies that have transformed our society have typically started in the hands of experts and large companies, and then someone democratized them into the hands of everyone,” she said in a statement. “So that’s what we’re doing for electronics.”
The Bit modules are a square-inch and are color-coded plastic chips with tabs that hold the connecting magnets. There are more than 50 bits that can combine to create more than 150,000 different circuit combinations. The bits include: blue bits that work as power sources, such as USB and coin-battery power; pinks bits that work as inputs, such as sensors and triggers; greens bits that work as outputs, such as buzzers, lights, and fans; and orange bits to help extend wires.
For the type who may not be creative but still have an engineering mind, littleBits has instructions on its website for various devices that can be built, such as a motorized iPhone mount. LittleBits also has a Synth Kit that allows users to create traditional analog synthesizers to help make music. The company collaborated with Korg on this project to bring music to its Bit module collection.
“It’s an easy, easy way for kids to get started on electronics and making interactive objects. But we take care to not dumb down the electronics in any way for adults,” says Bdeir.
New York’s Museum of Modern Art has been using bit modules since 2012 to power 4-foot-tall kinetic sculptures made of wood, cardboard, and acrylic displayed in its shop window.