I’ll admit it: I’ve always wanted an Artoo-Detoo. The plucky astromech droid seems to have all of the best adventures! While I may not be joining the R2-D2 Builders Club any time soon, I can now help my kids realize the dream of building their own droid with the littleBits Droid Inventor Kit. More than just a remote-controlled robot, this is an electronics kit that empowers kids to design, build, and program their own custom droid for a variety of missions. Like all littleBits kits, the electronic components stick together magnetically–no soldering required! As the kids learn new skills, the electronics can be reconfigured for more advanced actions so their droids can be continually customized personal companions.
I talked about the new set with Krystal Persaud, the Director of Product Design at litteBits. She said this set took over a year to develop, starting with the company’s acceptance into the Disney Accelerator in 2016. Out of all the Disney franchises, they were immediately drawn to the Star Wars universe and were “looking for a fit with the story” that would add depth and a chance for new interaction.
Everyone Loves A Droid
According to Persaud, staying away from spaceships and weapons was a conscious decision by littleBits. They wanted a product that would have broad appeal for kids of all genders and backgrounds. Although we may not all love Episode 1, it is part of the Star Wars cannon and seeing young Anakin building C-3PO is a fascinating scene. It shows that individual makers are still creating custom companions in a universe filled with mass-produced droids. Anakin’s curiosity and habit of constant tinkering with machines also matches up well to the 8-10 year-old demographic for the kits.
To help focus young padawans, the kit includes an astromech housing and stickers in addition to electronics and mounting boards. “LittleBits can be so open-ended that it can be intimidating” explained Persaud. “You are creating the droid from scratch!” At 30 pieces total, the littleBits Droid Inventor Kit was designed to be approachable for parents and kids without being too formulaic. A new app provides both control of the droid and ongoing challenges for modifying it using household items.
To make that remote command-and-control possible, the kit comes with something brand new for littleBits: a central control hub that connects it all to a phone for control. “You can mix all of the bits together,” noted Persaud, allowing other littleBits products you might already have around the house to be used through the same command hub and app to give your droid some new capabilities!
Use the Force
Your new custom droid can be remotely controlled through the app, use its own sensors to self-navigate, or you can use the option everyone will try first: Force Mode. (Yes, really!) Stretch out with your mind… focus your thoughts on moving the droid… and then put your hand near the sensor to move it forward.
The sound board also comes with 20 built-in authentic R2-D2 sounds that can be programmed to correspond with actions. Persaud suggested pairing a screaming R2-D2 sound with some whirling actions: “It would make a great motion detector!” (I can already see this happening at our house.)
What’s in the littleBits Droid Inventor Kit :
- 6 Bits, 20 Droid parts, 3 sticker sheets
- Free Droid Inventor app with step-by-step instructions and video tutorials guides kids through creating and customizing Droids
- App includes challenges to promote creativity and customization using household items
- 16+ activities and missions in the app to keep kids playing day after day
- The R2 Unit runs in Drive Mode, Force Mode, Self-Nav, and more
- Comes with 20 authentic R2 Unit sounds from the Star Wars films
- littleBits electronic blocks & Droid parts can be reconfigured in different ways to create brand-new Droids
The Droid Inventor Kit will set you back about $100 galactic credits (assuming a 1:1 exchange rate with USD).