Sep 162013


Ayah Bdeir is on a mission to bring DIY electronics to a wider audience with a collection of building blocks called littleBits.

Color-coded into different categories, these circuit board modules can be snapped together with magnets and combined with everyday objects to make anything from a glow-in-the-dark puppets to a bubble blowing flutes to … whatever your imagination can conjure, and all without any specialist knowledge of electronics or design.

“Why not be able to combine felt with wood and light, or popsicle sticks with sound and motion sensitivity?” asks Bdeir, a TED Senior Fellow and MIT graduate who founded New York-based littleBits in 2011.

Each of the littleBits kits contain a collection of electronic bits that magnetically snap together letting users create device prototypes and fun toys. They do away with the need for soldering irons and wiring and break down complex electronic components into fundamental blocks such as switches, motors, connectors, sensors and buzzers.

“They are essentially physical materials with digital behaviors,” Bdeir tells Gizmag. “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.”

Instead of physically programming electronic devices for specific behaviors through connections, bits containing dials and switches allow users to program behaviors more simply. Turn a dial on a pulse bit, for instance, and it’ll go faster or slower depending on the direction it’s turned.

“You can embed intelligent behavior with roller switches, similar to the switch that activates a fridge light, or an AND and OR gate (logic gates are the fundamental of programming),” explains Bdeir. “We are taking lessons and iconography that we are used to every day from consumer electronics (dials, buttons, switches) and applying them to small components, and giving you the ability to learn on the fly, without programming or wiring or soldering.”

littleBits can be combined with other materials such as craft objects and toys giving rise to any variety of mixed creations. Bdeir hopes that the bits will serve as a tool to bring ideas to life. For example, a horse carousel created by littleBit’s lead designer Jordi Borras combines paper cutouts of horses with 3 LEDs, a DC motor and a sound sensor that allows the carousel to be activated by a clap.

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