Despite the plethora of apps and games that are slowly breaking down the barriers for learning how to code, one of the biggest remaining hurdles is as simple as they come: humans like to build stuff with their hands.
As an open hardware platform to help developers, designers, and researchers build the next generation of tangible programming experiences, Google’s new Project Bloks has effectively made coding a physical experience that lets kids (and adults) build sequences with physical modules.
Centered around a “Brain Board” main computer – which is built on a Raspberry Pi Zero and sends data via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth – the various “Base Boards” can carry out a multitude of functions that are programmed by modular “Pucks”:
Example projects that have been made with the various components include a Sensor Lab that allows users to experiment with sensors and map an input to an output (such as switching on a light if the air temperature drops), a Music Maker that lets users compose a track using computational thinking combined with looping and layering, and a Coding Kit that lets users put physical code together to send instructions wirelessly to toys.
While Google’s approach may be the most user-friendly, it is far from being the first. In a more detailed research explanation, the Project Bloks team acknowledges that their platform wouldn’t be possible without the research and findings of similar projects over the past few decades ranging from Robot Logo in the 1980s to the more recent LEGO Mindstorms kits.
Although Project Bloks is still in a research phase, the team is looking for participants from around the world to remotely take part in their research studies later in the year.