If you ever wondered how the coffee machine works or how your iPhone responds to touch, then littleBits are for you. Lebanese designer Ayah Bdeir has recently received an additional $3.5 USD million in venture capital to scale up a hugely popular new line of toys that makes building electronic circuits as easy as fixing up cracks in Beirut’s buildings with LEGO bricks.
Currently unavailable in the Middle East unfortunately, littleBits has literally taken the rest of the world by storm. Within two weeks of marketing her products for the first time, Bdeir sold 2,000 of her LEGO-like bits, and large companies are knocking down her doors.
Good for children and grownups
Albeit designed for children who receive an inadequate introduction to the inner workings of every day electronics while at school, these toys are equally instructive for adults like me.
Comprised of tiny circuit-boards with simple functions designed to snap together with magnets, littleBits require zero soldering, wiring, or programming. Each bit has its own function, such as lights, sounds, sensors, buttons or motors, and can be combined with others to create larger circuits.
They are almost exactly like LEGO bricks that snap together, only they are slightly more sophisticated and are not affiliated with the company.
Among the projects that have been published online or on the company’s Facebook page, we have seen piggy banks that light up and a mini coffee-brewing machine. Theoretically, the sky is the limit, since littleBits can be scaled up indefinitely.
Making electronics fun
“With a growing number of available modules, littleBits aims to move electronics from late stages of the design process to its earliest ones, and from the hands of experts, to those of artists, makers, students and designers,” according to the company’s online literature.
littleBits hosts various workshops and parties to encourage community engagement, which means the company makes building electronic circuits fun (gasp!), and sells the pieces in different sized kits.
And those who are deeply passionate about their littleBits can join an online community to share their latest electronic design project. But be warned: this wonderful educational toy doesn’t come cheap.
The dark side
A 10 piece starter kit sells for nearly $90, reflecting the true cost of materials. Also, as much as we love the concept of making electronics attainable to everyone, we worry that as littleBits grow in popularity, and indeed that is the goal, the planet has to cope with yet another hundreds of thousands of bits of plastic that will eventually enter the waste stream.
There, we said it. That’s our job. Nevertheless, science is cool, and the fact that littleBits was founded by someone from the Middle East makes it even cooler.
All images via littleBits