In a gross affront to smartphones, GPS devices, and certain anatomical organs, littleBits has declared that we as a society should return to the days of using our brains to do our thinking. The simple, space-sensitive blocks--similar to, but in no way affiliated with LEGOs--encourage scientific ingenuity and problem solving by way of snapping together magnetic pieces with individual characteristics to create larger circuits that operate as an integrated whole. Bits are part of an opensource library, with each module tapped to perform a single, designated function, such as light, sound, sensor, button, threshold, pulse, motor, etc. Sophisticated engineers and artists can devise everything from robots to interactive sculptures to LED-based daily affirmations, while the kids and English majors amongst us enjoy the bits' simplicity, and tinker until we get them to light up and spin in circles.
littleBits blocks comprise 4 major categories: power bits (3), which provide the system with electricity; input bits (11), which interpret data or their surroundings (like eyes, ears, and Siri); output bits (7), which make visual, physical, or audible changes on their surroundings; and wire bits (2), which route power and communication between the blocks. Check out specific bits and their traits here.
Starter kits, which run the $89 rate, are populated by 10 littleBits, including the following modules: power; button; dimmer; pressure sensor; pulse; LED; RGB LED; vibration motor; bargraph; and wire. Sets arrive neatly arranged in magnetic cases, along with a quick-start instruction set, a custom-made 9V battery and battery connector, and a custom plastic screwdriver. Anyone not yet ready to commit to that level of tactile manipulation can whet their noodle with a smaller, teaser kit, equipped with 3 bits for $29.