In what the company hopes will alter the perception of littleBits from toy to tool, the electronics kit manufacturer today announced a new component that’ll allow any littleBits creation to the become an Internet-connected ‘thing’ without the need to solder, wire or program for basic projects.
According to CEO Ayah Bdeir, the newly-unveiled cloudBit kit enables the average person to now easily contribute to the Internet of Things “without wasting time prototyping devices from scratch,” she explained to Engadget.
“We look at the spectrum and on the one side they’re developing these devices that are closed and complex and on the other side we have the Makers who are alone in their garages with soldering irons coming up with one-off devices,” Bdeir tells TechCrunch.
The cloudBit connects to a littleBits dashboard, through which Makers have the ability to remotely control their circuits and get a performance readout in real-time. The company partnered with IFTTT, a service that enables basic programming with simple “if this, then that” commands, to open up hardware integration with web services like Facebook, Instagram, Gmail, Twitter, Google Drive and others.
“In the beginning… a lot of the stuff you could do with it was sort of more boyish and playful, so that’s what the world saw us as. Since the beginning of the year we’ve been launching more powerful modules.”
Modules — such as the ATmega32u4-powered Arduino module and today’s WiFi-enabled cloudBit — are now raising the bar of complexity for potential littleBits projects. “If you wanted to recreate a Nest or recreate a Sonos or a DropCam, you could. If you wanted to create the next billion dollar idea, you could do that as well. It’s about versatility, and the more modules LittleBits creates, the more it has.” As Engadget reports, Bdeir is hoping that the kits will be soon be used for rapid prototyping of new ideas, in addition to being a fun hobby toy.
Aside from cloudBit, the company has now begun selling a Cloud Starter Bundle, which comes with six prototyping modules, an insert card with five tutorials, and two accessories to connect everyday objects to the Internet. Between the cloudBit, the Arduino module and the 262 other components available in littleBits’ Pro Library, it looks like there’s now more than enough tech available to move beyond the “toy” perception.
“What we want to do is turn the hardware industry on its head from something that is top down and controlled to something that is inviting to everyone,” Bdeir said.
To say that Bdeir is an evangelist of her company, Makers and the Internet of Things is an understatement. “I once wrote a paper about turning electronics into raw material, in a way as tactile as cardboard and foam,” she tells Wired. “Today, the new interaction is the Internet as material.”
The company has also announced a partnership with RadioShack, which becomes the company’s first brick-and-mortar retailer. littleBits will be available in select markets by next month and in 2,000 retail locations starting this Fall, according to a company spokesperson.