Until apps write themselves, code will continue to play a significant role in our everyday lives. The world needs developers, so you might as well start them young. With the right training, gifted children can be remarkable programmers, using all those freshly grown neurons to produce something innovative.
For kids under a certain age, however, the lines of letters and numbers are impenetrable. It is for these aspiring hackers that Google is making Project Bloks, a “tangible programming” system based around physical parts. The idea is to cultivate the necessary logic and engineering mindset for development as early as possible.
The fun of Project Bloks is that the child user can control the behavior of simple devices, such as lights, by creating palpable programs. The system is based around the Brain Board, a Raspberry Pi Zero microcomputer in disguise. To start programming, the user connects Pucks — individual tiles that add instructions to the program.
Pucks range from static controls to fader switches, with the instructions written in capacitive ink. Each Puck must be seated on a Base Board, which allows the tile to connect to the program. As there are no electronics inside the Pucks, it is possible to create custom tiles out of any material.
Currently in the development stage, Project Bloks will be no brainless plaything. Based on educational research papers published by Google and other toymakers, including Lego, it will have the full backing of science. Google is working on the concept with Stanford University and IDEO, and says that the system will have an open API.
On paper, Project Bloks draws comparisons with other modular systems that have seen success in recent times, most notably Tinkerbots. With the design still being finalized, there is no release date set for Bloks — but with Google’s backing, it seems certain that the toys will be a hit.
Parents: would you buy a Project Bloks kit for your kids?