If any kids you know have a hankering for tinkering, there will soon be a new way for them to start building something of lasting value. MakerBloks – magnetic building blocks that let kids build, design and create objects with electric circuits — gives kids the charge of creating something familiar that actually works. Who knows what inventions it can lead to?
The company is launching a Kickstarter campaign today to fund its first round of blocks production, alongside the development of companion iPad apps. The tablet apps feature visual recognition software, so as kids play with the blocks, the app follows their progress to reveal new challenges and creative games. An Android app is also being planned.
Starting with basic components like LEDs, speakers, alarms, switches and resistors – MakerBloks gives kids the components to to build everyday items from lights and doorbells to more advanced and fanciful items like spy kits.
MakerBloks is the brainchild of CEO and founder Francois Poirier. With a background in industrial design, wearables and consumer products — as well as pre-school toy design for the likes of Mattel — he started doing electronics projects with his eight-year-old niece.
“I wanted to make something that was really appealing, physical and fun to play with,” Poirier told TNW. “We want to introduce kids to electronics at an early age — six years old — with something inviting.” The block system is something that kids naturally understand.
MakerBloks will offer four different games that teach kids the basics of electronic circuits: Simon-Says Light and Sound Kit, Keyboard Composer Kit, Spy Kit with a voice changing microphone, lie detector test and burglar alarm, and MakerBloks World, which combines virtual and physical worlds.
Each kit features colorful blocks that magnetically connect together on all four sides, a guide explaining each block’s electronic symbol, instructions and a troubleshooting guide and a “hacking” hint, since every game can be assembled multiple ways. But kids can just put the blocks together however they want. “There’s no right way to do it,” Poirier said.
Kids move through educational games that use puzzles, rocket launchers, and imaginative settings to demonstrate how to build and use electronic circuits. The tablet’s front camera uses MakerBloks’ visual recognition software to read when a child assembles the blocks correctly.
Kids can also share their projects and the app will build instruction sheets based on those projects for new building challenges.
MakerBloks also seeks to give kids a solid introduction to electronics, using only slightly friendlier versions of the real symbols, for example. Paired with the iPad app in Workshop Mode, kids get the sense of accomplishment in accumulating badges and trophies to mark their successful projects.
MakerBloks games are currently on pre-order and will be shipping in the fall in time for the new school year. The games are $45 and the iPad app, which will launch at the same time, will be free on the App Store.