Technology

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The build-it-yourself coding kit from Kano and Map makes coding accessible to the masses

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Coding is something that, until recently, was seen as the sole reserve of the neck-bearded loner. Thanks to advances in technology and social attitudes, however, it's now seen as a pretty cool skill that could amount to everything from a neat hobby to a legitimate career. To further bolster the legitimacy of the coder and bring the principles of coding and design to the masses, the Map consultancy has worked with the Kano company on a new set of build-it-yourself kits which hope to democratise design and coding. Map, the industrial design studio founded by Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby, and Kano, have designed three new products together; The Pixel Kit, Camera Kit and Speaker Kit, each of which are intended to be made from scratch by first time coders.

The Pixel Kit is an interactive light board made up of 128 LEDs, which can be used to create patterns to display data, animations or games. It can also be linked up with live information streams to display weather reports and sports scores, and can be connected up to a motion sensor, meaning the displays can respond to movement. The Camera Kit is a five-megapixel build-your-own camera, which shoots photos and video, but can also be coded to create filters on images, animated GIFs and time-lapse images. The kit also includes a tripwire sensor, which is an infrared beam that can be used to create spy cams. Finally, the Speaker Kit enables users to build their own speaker, or alternatively a simple musical instrument in the form of a synthesiser. It allows people to compose their own music, and includes a bluetooth enabled speaker, a microphone, an LED audio visualiser, and a gesture sensor.

All three products use software platform Kano Code, and follow on from the build-it-yourself computer that Map and Kano worked on in 2015. Aiming to be connected home devices, they can all connect to the internet to transfer music, images or data over to another device. All the kits are coated in a transparent plastic, which allows people to see the individual parts inside them in order to demystify the design process. Highlight colours have then been used to differentiate between the three products. Bolder colours have also been used to highlight certain controls and buttons, not only for aesthetic reasons, but for an instructional purpose as well.

Jon Marshall, Creative Director at Map, said of the trio of new products: “The basic theme is to unpack technology so that people understand what’s inside and therefore feel empowered and not scared. It’s also about combining physical objects with coding in the real world. It’s not about creating a generation of coders, it’s about understanding the process of coding. It’ll enable people to take coding skills out into the real world, and use them to make something that would enable them to watch wildlife, for example with the camera. That’s really inspiring; it’s not just for kids, but for parents and educators to show that you can take control over the tech that surrounds us and democratise it. When you break coding down, it’s simple and accessible to us all.”

The Camera Kit, Speaker Kit and Pixel Kit are currently on Kickstarter, with Kano and Map looking to reach a $500,000 (£393,000) target to make the project happen. At the time of writing, they have currently fundraised $438,000 (£288,000) and if the targets are reached (which is looking more than likely at this point), preorders will be posted in March 2017.

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