Big Kids Will Love Them Too
June 24, 2011 4:43 AM   Subscribe

"Cubelets is a robot construction kit; by combining sensor, logic and actuator blocks, young kids can create simple reconfigurable robots that exhibit surprisingly complex behavior." Watch the Cubelets Engineering Prototypes demo (1.01) on Vimeo.

"The cubelets standard kit comes with 20 magnetic blocks that can be snapped together to make an endless variety of robots with no programming and no wires. You can build robots that drive around on a tabletop, respond to light, sound, and temperature, and have surprisingly lifelike behavior. But instead of programming that behavior, you snap the cubelets together and watch the behavior emerge like with a flock of birds or a swarm of bees."

"Each cubelet in the kit has different equipment on board and a different default behavior. There are Sense Blocks that act like our eyes and ears, Action blocks, and Think blocks. Just like with people, the senses are the inputs to the system."
posted by bwg (14 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
This is an ad for an expensive product that will do less than the purchaser imagines and isn't actually shipping yet.
posted by DU at 5:07 AM on June 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Agreed. A cool idea, but this post is an ad.
posted by Brodiggitty at 5:09 AM on June 24, 2011

It would be interesting to see how the Cubelets behave in groups. Given different configurations for each bot, the emergent patterns of movement could be very chaotic and beautiful. The sensors could be initially arranged to point away from one another while a human introduces movement into the system, setting of a domino-like reaction through the array. I predict we'll see these in a Rube Golberg machine.

What is the upper limit on connectable modules?

A product it may be, but does that make it an ad? (Rhetorical and possibly true, but it's COOL!)
posted by troll at 5:15 AM on June 24, 2011

$300! :o
posted by fairmettle at 5:19 AM on June 24, 2011

well ... at least it isn't a kickstarter project!

(ohh ... is that snarky? ... my first thought was it looks like another geeky-hip kickstarter project)
posted by jannw at 5:45 AM on June 24, 2011

This already exists, and has been around for at least 30 years: fishcertechnik. I remember playing with it at a friend's place in early high school.
posted by nonspecialist at 5:49 AM on June 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

A cool idea, but this post is an ad.

I didn't see it as an ad at all.

Sure, the demo video and the presentation advertises the product (how else are you going to find out about it?), but the demo video clearly mentions it's a prototype, so for me this post was about the idea of the Cubelets and the future possibilities other than use as expensive toys.

It's an interesting concept worth discussing rather than summarily dismissing because you dislike the commerce behind it.

If they'd put up a web site with no mention of purchase they'd likely get e-mail from people asking where they can buy the blocks.
posted by bwg at 5:54 AM on June 24, 2011

This already exists, and has been around for at least 30 years: fishcertechnik. I remember playing with it at a friend's place in early high school.

See also: Capsela.
posted by zamboni at 6:03 AM on June 24, 2011 [2 favorites]

As it is, I don't see this getting very far as a toy. It's looks too much like a bunch of cubes, not something sleek and awesome that's going to excite any but the geekiest in the 10-16 year old set. And the the geekiest are probably already programing Arduinos. For adults, I think the price is high enough that a large portion of their potential market might go the microcontroler and soldering iron route too.

That leaves them with people who have a lot of extra money, a little bit of curiosity (but not enough to break down and learn to solder, program, etc.) and enough spare time to make sticking these things together to see what happens seem like $300 of amusement. I'm not sure you can make a living off of that part of the Venn diagram.

I'm curious to see where they go with this. Adding little seats for action figures is one direction, but I'm not sure how far it will get them. On the other hand, they could add an MP3 player cube, a programmable microprocessor cube, a USB interface cube and a bunch of other I/O options. Not sure that will get them any farther than the "compatible with the latest go-round of GI Joe but it would interest me more.
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:17 AM on June 24, 2011

My kids, who do Lego robotics, would like messing around with this. The "no-programming" aspect would be neat for younger kids. Not sure I'd pay $300 for it, though--that's about what a Mindstorms set costs, and Mindstorms seems like it would have more staying power, being more flexible both in what you can build (my kid has a robot shaped like a shark right now) and how you can program it. Still, if I had $300 lying around, I'd get this for a novelty.
posted by not that girl at 6:55 AM on June 24, 2011

not that girl, I was just thinking that this might be a neat integration with Lego.
posted by bwg at 6:58 AM on June 24, 2011

I loved Capsela when I was a kid, but it doesn't seem to exist anymore. Is there any bare-bones version of this concept that my 6-year-old would enjoy and that doesn't cost 300 clams?
posted by escabeche at 7:43 AM on June 24, 2011

It would be interesting to see how the Cubelets behave in groups.

Reminds me of the amazing TED talk on Siftables, interactive little blocks that can communicate via wireless with their peers and have orientation and location awareness. Cool stuff.
posted by formless at 12:51 PM on June 24, 2011 [1 favorite]

Very cool. I'd thought about a modular, easily connectable kit before, but in the context of sound processing. (Oh, and I have so little electronics knowledge/ability that I have no idea how it would work.) But I got that "what's the price tag?" feeling watching the video. Click to the pre-order page, yup, $300, bummer. I just don't know who's going to buy this, like Kid Charlemagne points out.
posted by benito.strauss at 1:04 PM on June 24, 2011

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