A few weeks back, I decided to write about robot kits for kids. During my research, I stumbled upon a new robotics kit called littleBits. At first glance littleBits seemed like a toy. But then, I tried it out myself. And I was blown away. Read on to find out why I think littleBits is not only the best robot kit for kids– it’s the best robot kit ever made, period.
- Robots, Robots Everywhere
- Who Will Be the Steve Jobs of Robotics?
- What is littleBits?
- The littleBits System + Arduino = Awesome
- littleBits has changed hobby robotics forever
- littleBits Builds Programming Skills
- C++ Made Easy
- Upgrade Your Computer Skills. Make More Dough.
- 9 Reasons Why littleBits Is the Best Robot Kit In the World
- Is it Possible to Buy littleBits Kits In the USA?
- Which littleBits Robot Kit Is the Best?
- In Conclusion…
Robots, Robots Everywhere
All the media attention has been focused on robots taking over jobs. People are freaking out– and, well, they should be.
Things are definitely changing fast. So much change in such a short amount of time is bound to cause more than a few problems.
But in every crisis, there’s an opportunity. The question is: who will take advantage?
Robot taxis are already roaming the streets of Japan
People are scared because nobody knows for sure what the economy of the future will look like.
One thing is certain: human taxi drivers, cashiers and fast food workers are going the way of the dinosaur. Intelligent cars are already here. And it won’t be long before robots make traditional fast food jobs obsolete, too.
A California fast food chain called Eatsa is already fully roboticized. And other major fast food companies like McDonalds and Hardee’s want to get in on the cost savings, too.
So what kind of employment options will the next generation have when they get to high school, now that fast food jobs are going away?
The human fast food workers of the future might be kind of like highly skilled Wal-Mart greeters. Their main responsibilities could include greeting customers and troubleshooting the robotic cooks and cashiers when they break down.
“I want to try it. We could have a restaurant that’s focused on all-natural products and is much like an Eatsa, where you order on a kiosk, you pay with a credit or debit card, your order pops up, and you never see a person.” – Andy Puzder CEO of Hardee’s and Carl’s Jr, 2016
Who Will Be the Steve Jobs of Robotics?
Back in the 80s and early 90s, only dorks liked computers. But today, you’re a dork if you don’t own an extremely powerful handheld computer known as a smartphone.
Robotics is about to blow up.
The Steve Jobs of robots is out there now. He’s probably about 8 or 9 years old. And he’s most likely building sleek, handsome, useful little robots in his bedroom.
What is littleBits?
At first glance, littleBits seems like a toy. But it’s actually powerful tool. Even professional inventors are using it to create prototypes of new kinds of devices.
The littleBits System + Arduino = Awesome
The biggest name in hobby robotics right now is Arduino. Arduino is an Italian company that makes open source hardware.
Arduino microcontrollers are very powerful and dirt cheap. Robots equipped with Arduino microcontrollers can do amazing things.
My personal favorite littleBits kit contains an “Arduino at Heart,” which is basically an Arduino UNO microcontroller with magnets attached to it.
To build a robot prototype, all you have to do is snap littleBits components onto the “Arduino at Heart” bit. No soldering required.
littleBits has changed hobby robotics forever
Before littleBits, you had to do a lot of boring (and possibly dangerous) stuff if you wanted to build a robot. You had to buy wires, and then you had to learn how to strip them. If you wanted to build your own circuits, you had to learn how to use a breadboard. If you wired something the wrong way, you could fry your equipment– or fry yourself.
The littleBit electronics system eliminates the need to use wires and other traditional electronics tools. It allows anyone to dive right into assembling all kinds of different robots, gizmos and gadgets right away.
littleBits Builds Programming Skills
The Arduino IDE programming language is extremely powerful. It’s also free to use. And it’s a whole lot like C++.
C++ is a professional level programming language. It’s also fairly difficult to learn. But littleBits makes it easy.
With littleBits, you can start simple and quickly graduate to tougher projects.
Once you get the hang of basic circuits, you can level up to learning how to program an actual robot brain.
C++ Made Easy
There are only a few superficial differences between Arduino and C++. You can copy & paste Arduino code into a C/C++ file, and it will work.
There are a handful of semi visual robot programming languages for Arduino out there that will allow you to get the hang of how C++ logic works. For example, ArduBlock disguises chunks of code as colorful blocks.
Upgrade Your Computer Skills. Make More Dough.
There’s currently a huge shortage of programmers in the US. When I was an IT contractor, most of the developers on my project team were from India or Russia.
The lack of native programming talent in the US has created an opportunity for people that are already here and want to learn C++ and other programming languages.
9 Reasons Why littleBits Is the Best Robot Kit In the World
- Teaches you valuable IT skills.
- Allows you to quickly prototype new inventions.
- Adult hobby robotics pros are using it.
- Components are real sensors and microcontrollers.
- Magnets block you from wiring components together the wrong way.
- There’s no need for wires, soldering irons, screwdrivers or other traditional electronics tools.
- The basic Arduino kit is inexpensive.
- littlBits bits are sturdy and don’t break easily.
- There’s a large community of littleBits fans.
Is it Possible to Buy littleBits Kits In the USA?
Absolutely. Actually littleBits has a shop on Amazon. If you have Amazon Prime, shipping on all littleBits products is totally free.
Which littleBits Robot Kit Is the Best?
In my opinion, the Arduino Coding Kit is the all-around best littleBits kit. It’s very reasonably priced, plus it’s the only littleBits kit that comes with Arduino.
cloudBit Starter Kit
Smart Home Kit
1. The Very Best Robot Kit From littleBits
The Arduino Coding Kit
The thing I like the most about the Arduino Coding Kit is the fact that it comes with a microcontroller– aka a robot brain.
The bad thing about this kit is that you don’t get a huge array of parts with it. But you do get several useful basic bits, including a servo motor– the most popular kind of motor for robots.
- Comes with a robot brain– the littleBit version of the Arduino UNO, the Arduino at Heart
- Enables your kid to learn hardcore programming skills
- Comes with a servo motor
- Not enough sensor / motor bits to make a truly full-featured robot
- Only contains 7 bits and 3 accessories
2. The Second Best Robot Kit From littleBits
The cloudBit Starter Kit
cloudBit is a sort of internet based robot brain. Instead of downloading code from the computer through a USB cable, the cloudBit connects to the web and snatches code from the cloud.
“Arduino at Heart” teaches you Arduino IDE, which is a lot like the professional programming language known as C. But with cloudBit, you can learn an equally hardcore (and even more marketable) programming language: .NET.
When I worked as an IT contractor for the government, our .NET developers earned the biggest salaries.
cloudBit allows you to build robots that send out text messages, check Facebook… or even interact with video games like MineCraft.
cloudBit can also interact with the “Arduino at Heart” microcontroller. So that means that if you buy both the cloudBit Starter Kit and the Arduino Coding Kit, your robot will have two brains: one that sends and receives .NET instructions to interact with the internet, and one that carries around Arduino IDE code.
- Comes with a WiFi powered robot brain that can interact with the web
- Includes a servo motor, a sound trigger and several other useful bits
- Inexpensive compared to the deluxe littleBits kits
- Teaches you a very marketable programming language: .NET
- It only contains 6 bits and 2 accessories
3. The Third Best Robot Kit From littleBits
The Smart Home Kit
This kit is pricey. But, it comes with more components than the other kits.
With this set, you get:
- a light sensor
- a synth speaker
- an IR transmitter that can communicate with a remote control
- an LED display
- an MP3 player
- servo attachments that allow you to use your servo motor in different ways
- and a bunch of other stuff
There is something to be said for building robots the old fashioned way. If you know what you’re doing, you can build a very nice robot for less than $50. But if you want to skip all the extra work involved in taking care to not fry your components by hooking them up incorrectly, get littleBits.
In my opinion littleBits is the best robot kit for beginners on the market, period. It’s so awesome that I think I will buy a kit myself so that I can quickly build and test prototypes. The littleBit magnetic connection system saves time, plus it makes it impossible to accidently damage your equipment.