We’re big fans of littleBits here at GeekDad which is why I really like the look of this new Kickstarter project from Sam Labs – a multi-disciplinary team of designers from the Royal College of Art and engineers from Imperial College London. They’ve taken the basic concept of littleBits – individual electronic modules that connect to each other to do things – and re-thought it from the ground up, and won 3 editor’s choice awards at the recent Maker Faire in New York for their work. There are three big improvements over the littleBits model:
Every SAM module has a built in wireless chip, which means that each module doesn’t have to actually be connected directly to the others. The magnetic system of littleBits is great, but there are always times when then become disconnected. With SAM, children can run around the room without their system unclipping or disconnecting.
This also decreases the overall cost of the system as there’s no need for additional modules that enable wirelessness or extension wires
The wirelesses also means that each module must have its own power source, which means you actually need less modules overall. The littleBits equivalent to a single SAM Button would be a Battery, a PowerBit, a Button and the new CloudBit – so SAM modules reduce both the size and cost of the system. Each module has a micro USB port too to allow them to be charged easily.
With littleBits, you either had a small system that did one thing or you could hook it up to an Arduino based system for more control. With SAM, there is a custom-made app that handles all the programming via a simple, but powerful, drag and drop Flow-Based interface along the lines of Scratch. This is a great way of teaching programming skills and visualising the data flows, especially for kids. And of course, this work wirelessly too.
They’re already well on their way to the modest £50,000 goal, so check out the Kickstarter page to help them get there.