Advertising giant Google has unveiled its latest product: a block-based prototyping platform designed to help kids learn how to program, sense, and control the physical environment around them.
Designed with much the same market in mind as the BBC's micro:bit and with a debt of gratitude to the littleBits electronic building block project, Project Bloks
aims to do for physical projects what MIT's Scratch and other block-based languages have done for early-years programming education. Described by the company as 'a development platform for tangible programming,
' the Project Bloks platform is modular: a 'brain board,' based on a Raspberry Pi Zero, provides the guts of the system and connects to generic 'base boards;' these 'base boards' can then be customised in functionality by placing different 'pucks' on top - adding, for example, a button, an on-off switch, or even an analogue knob.
Watching Google's demonstrations of the platform reveal its flexibility: like Scratch, blocks can be combined in logical ways to produce a desired effect. One example has a temperature-sensing block activating lights and a fan, a voice-activated block setting of fan alarm, and a motion sensor, all triggered from a satisfyingly large lever at the top. Other examples include a synthesiser and a control system for a Wi-Fi-enabled drawing robot.
Sadly, Google has yet to confirm a launch date for Project Bloks. Describing the platform as 'still in active research
', the company is asking interested parties to sign up to a mailing list and await further information.