The world of littleBits (the “not-a-toy” toy that I reaaaally wish existed when I was younger) just got a little bit bigger: it can now play friendly with Arduino.
If you’re not familiar with littleBits, it might help to think of it as a DIY Electronics kit mashed up with LEGO. Each “bit” is an individual electronic component, like a speaker, or a light sensor, or a blinky LED. Snap them together, and you can do all sorts of cool stuff — no programming required.
Want to sound a buzzer every time someone walks in a room? Snap a power module to a motion trigger module, snap the motion trigger to the buzzer module, and you’re done. Want to light an LED instead of sounding the buzzer? Swap the buzzer module out for an LED.
That “no programming required” point has always been one of littleBits’ biggest strengths; it meant that anyone could start putting stuff together, pretty much by accident.
Alas, up until now, “no programming required” also meant “no programming allowed”. If you wanted to do something that the pre-provided modules weren’t programmed to do out of the box (like, say, only sounding the aforementioned buzzer on Thursdays or something), there… wasn’t much you could do about it.
There’s a reason why one of Google’s top suggestions for “littleBits” is “littleBits Arduino”. The littleBits idea is great — but once a particularly enthusiastic user hit the limits of what their kit could do, the next step (learning to use a standalone Arduino board, which meant also learning proper circuitry, soldering, etc.) was suddenly a pretty big one.
This morning, littleBits is introducing an Arduino module into the mix. It’ll snap right into place — no soldering required — just like the other littleBits modules, with one big difference: it’s programmable. You get the programmability of an Arduino, without having to learn the myriad other prerequisite skills. You jack into it via the onboard microUSB port, upload your programming via the standard Arduino IDE, and all of your littleBits modules fall in line.
If you’ve already got a littleBits kit, littleBit’s Arduino-At-Heart module will set you back $36. If you’re bit-less, they’re also now selling an Arduino-centric starter kit with the Arduino module and 8 others (a battery, a few switches, a servo, and a control dial) for $89.
littleBits has raised $15.6M to date, most recently in their $11M Series B back in November.
For the Arduino geeks out there, I’ll let the below speak for itself :