Tuesday , August 22 2017

Google lifts the curtain on their tangible programming initiative, Project Bloks

Project blocks header

What is Project Bloks, and for that matter what is tangible programming? The initiative is the result of a collaboration between Google, Stanford University and design firm IDEO to create an open hardware platform for building “physical coding experiences”.

Still none the wiser? Neither was I. Bloks is a reference design for a set of physical components that can be snapped together to create a “program” to control something in the real world. This system is specifically targeted at getting kids involved in programming without the need of learning to code. The system comprises of three core components the Brain Board, Base Boards and Pucks (like modules).

Project Bloks 2

The Brain board is the main control interface, built on a Raspberry Pi Zero module along with power and communication interface with the other components as well as Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity.

The Base Boards are an easily connectable block providing a ‘home’ for a single control (puck) as well as offering both haptic and LED feedback to the user when that control is activated. It can also send audio feedback to the brain board.

Pucks, these are the secret sauce. Pucks are single-purpose control modules that can provide signals to turn on and off, stop, go etc. A puck is placed onto a base board with is then connected directly, or via another case board, to the brain board and sends that specific command back to the software.

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The final piece of the puzzle is the software. At present the system can control a tablet interface, drive a mini robot,or control a Lego WeDo 2.0 system.

This isn’t a commercial product from Google. There’re no plans to sell Blok kits on the Google store – unfortunately. Google hopes to provide the basic foundations, tools and reference designs to inspire researchers, educators and innovators to use Project Blok to bring the world of coding to the next generation.

Google is still involved in the project at present but is hoping that others will pick up their free platform and run with it.

Take a look at Google vision below.

If you could get your hands on a Project Bloks kit would you want one? Let us know below.

 
Source: Google.

Duncan Jaffrey   Journalist

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