Typically, the world of DIY electronics is reserved for those individuals with at least a passing knowledge of how such things work. Inventor Ayah Bdeir is looking to change that. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you littleBits. These small, color-coded circuit board modules snap together with small magnets, and can be used to make...well, pretty much anything you want to cobble together.
Basically, they're like LEGO meets electrical engineering, and it's bloody awesome.
The littleBits are arranged into different 'kits' on the company website, each of which is geared towards a specific functionality. The Light It kit, for example, contains a UV LED, two standard LEDs, a bargraph, and an rgb LED.
"Why not be able to combine felt with wood and light, or popsicle sticks with sound and motion sensitivity?" asked Bdeir, an MIT Graduate and TED Senior Fellow who founded the startup in 2011. "[littleBits] are essentially physical materials with digital behaviors. There is no reason why you should make a choice between being tactile and being digital, between playing with your hands on the floor or programming on a screen."
Speaking of programming, Bdeir has managed to make even that a tactile experience. Rather than having to hard-code the functionality of their bits, users can configure program behaviors through a series of different dials and switches on the different components.
"You can embed intelligent behavior with roller switches, similar to the switch that activates a fridge light, or an AND and OR gate," explained Bdeir. "We are taking lessons and iconography that we are used to every day from consumer electronics and applying them to small components, and giving you the ability to learn on the fly, without programming or wiring or soldering."
Suffice it to say, these little module carry with them some pretty awesome potential, particularly given that they're made to be combined with whatever craft object a user might desire. Though colorful (and quite easy to use), they most assuredly aren't just for kids, either - the Museum of Modern Art recently featured an installation animated entirely with littleBits.
For Bdeir, the products currently featured on her website and on Amazon are only the beginning. Her and her colleagues intend to continue growing the littleBits library by looking at the technology around us and figuring out the most important interactions associated with each piece of tech - the touch sensitivity of an iPod or the vibration motor on a games controller, for example.
Ultimately, the goal of littleBits is to challenge the monopoly that technical experts have on electronics, and put the ability to move and create electronics into the hands of "artists, makers, students, and designers. So far, it seems it's off to a mighty fine start.
Currently, according to Bdeir there are wireless littleBits in the making. No further details are available at this time, however.
LittleBits can be found on the company website as well as on Amazon here.