littleBits Launches bitLab to Help Users Build and Sell Their Own Hardware

littleBits1Today, littleBits Electronics launched the bitLab, an app store for user-generated hardware. This marketplace furthers littleBits’ goal of giving hardware developers the tools and ecosystem to develop and sell their own littleBits modules.

Analogous to software app stores, the littleBits library acts as the platform, the Bits that developers submit are considered the apps, and the API is bitSnap, littleBits’ magnetic connectors. The operating system is the analog electronic specifications.

The bitLab works by allowing anyone to design the Bit of their dreams and has two major components: a hardware component (the HDK) and a web component (the bitLab website). The hardware developer kit (HDK) includes the Proto Module and bitSnap connectors, which makes the prototyping process a snap for developers. By commercializing littleBits’ proprietary bitSnap connectors—which are the magnetic connectors that snap the littleBits modules together and carry communication across modules—prototypes can now be built with any hardware tool and then seamlessly incorporated into the littleBits library. [Read more...]

Child’s Play Communications Creates CPC Tech

Child’s Play Communications has launched CPC Tech, a new division devoted exclusively to creating awareness of and demand for family-friendly technology products. CPC Tech will be responsible for promoting products ranging from apps to tablets to technology-driven toys.

Recent clients have included multiple Peppa Pig apps, and littleBits, a system of electronic modules that snap together with magnets to create circuits. “We’ve been handling so many child- and parent-focused tech products recently, we’ve decided to launch a group entirely devoted to that category,” said company president Stephanie Azzarone.

COMMENTARY: World Maker Faire Is Where D-I-Y Meets T-O-Y-S!

MakerFaire,crowdshot,littleBitsThis past weekend, under terrific late-summer weather, the New York Hall of Science in Flushing Meadows, N.Y., was the site of this year’s World Maker Faire. The massive, two-day-long science fair/state fair drew large crowds of hobbyists, educators, tech enthusiasts, and more. The exhibitors consisted of a wide range of crafty and tech-savvy folks working in a variety of medium—and they included quite a few toy companies.

Given that innovation and education are among the underlying principles of World Maker Faire—not to mention the larger “maker movement” as a whole—it wasn’t surprising to find many toys aimed at fostering intellectual curiosity in kids. It would take too much space to list them all, but here are three that struck my fancy. Each encourages learning in ways that are hands-on and inventive.

SparkleLabsSparkle Labs: The New York City-based company’s mission is to make science and engineering as approachable as possible. To that end, its Papertronics – Lunar Modules is an origami kit with cute designs on paper, to go with simple electronics that teach the basics of LED circuitry. Suitable for kids ages 8 and up, each kit includes all the materials necessary for three working lanterns: Spaceboy, Alien Girl, and Tabula Rasa. [Read more...]

littleBits Launches Three New Electric Building Kits

LITTLEBITS EXPLORATION KITSlittleBits, maker of an open source library of electronics that snap together for prototyping, learning, and fun, has launched three new littleBits Exploration Kits: the Base Kit, the Premium Kit, and the Deluxe Kit. Each was designed to bring the simplicity of the classic building block to the world of electronics for children, teens, and adults.

The new kits, available at littleBits.com and select specialty retailers, contain an assortment of color-coded electronic Bits modules that instantly snap together with magnets. Bits are color-coded into four categories (blue/power, pink/input, green/output, and orange/wires) to simplify the creation process for builders of all ages and allow users to create simple circuits, or more inventive projects like a Morse code machine, glow-in-the-dark puppet, or a bubble flute. Each kit includes customized, step-by-step instructions to start the building process.

The Base Kit contains an assortment of 10 modules, including a power module, three input modules, four output modules, two wire modules, and one 9V battery, and a handy project booklet with step-by-step instructions for eight creations. Kids can use the kit’s button, dimmer, and buzzer Bits to create a doorbell or turn the DC motor Bit into a tickle machine.

The Premium Kit contains 14 modules, including one power module, five input modules, five output modules, three wire modules, and one 9V battery for a wide range of building and design possibilities. Kids can use the kit’s sound trigger and fan Bits module to create a hypnotizing wheel or take the Kit’s roller and vibe modules and make a drawer alarm.

The Deluxe Kit, which is the biggest littleBits collection ever produced, contains 18 modules, including one power module, five input modules, five output modules, and seven wire modules, and an expanded project booklet featuring step-by-step instructions for 15 projects.

COMMENTARY: Keeping Kids’ Brains Active During the Summer

Now the school year is drawing to an end, parents surely want to keep their little ones mentally active during the summer months. There’s a whole slew of toys out there that are fun and educational, of course, so the trick is to really find the ones that work for you and your kids. However, we’ve got a bunch of toys in our office that’ll help kids of all ages flex those mental muscles, even when they aren’t sitting in a classroom.

Hello SunshineThinkFun‘s Hello Sunshine is a hide-and-seek game that uses a huggable plush toy. Parents of kids ages 18 months and up hid Sunshine according to a set of flash cards. In searching for the toy, kids will learn positional concepts such as in, on top, below, next to, and more. It’s also the perfect game for a rainy summer day that has to be spent inside. [Read more...]