Friday, 15 September 2017 08:15

VIDEOS: R2-D2 comes to life and empowers kids to be inventors


Disney, Lucasfilm and innovative STEAM leader invention company littleBits have joined forces to launch the Droid Inventor Kit, allowing kids to create their own Droid – and even use the force!

I was in an Apple Store a couple of days ago, and saw a very cool transparent R2-D2 unit on display at one of the sides of the store, and was marvelling at its amazingness, and ability to be custom designed in very inventive ways, ideal for both children and adults to simply have some astounding fun!

As I have been travelling to the US for a conference on a short schedule, and then between Sydney and Canberra, I had heard that “Force Friday II” was coming, and had even seen ads for it in New York’s Time Square, but hadn’t been forcefully focusing on what it all meant.

So, when I saw the R2 unit in the Apple Store, and then received a reminder from the amazing folk at iWorldAustralia about the very Droid Inventor Kit that I’d seen there, balance was immediately restored to the force as I finally delved into what this little droid was all about, because just like Ben Kenobi, I hadn’t remembered owning one before.

Ok, so that’s just me playing fast and loose with a line from the original Star Wars. I have owned various R2-D2 toys as a child, something many children in the West could probably say, but now comes the opportunity once reserved only for children from a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away had before us.

You see, the Droid Inventor Kit from littleBits “brings Droids to life, inspiring imagination and invention for kids around the world".

Kids can “easily create and power up their own mechanical companion using littleBits electronic Bits — along with the free Droid Inventor app — to send their creation on more than 17 special Star Wars missions, complete with authentic droid sounds from the Star Wars films".

And, as they “unlock new capabilities and level up their Droid Inventor skills, kids can also learn how to create their own custom R2 Units and experiences, combining play with real hands-on learning".

Let’s take a quick look at what creating your very own R2 unit looks like, and then get back to the rest of this multi-episodic space operatic saga!

Ayah Bdeir, founder and chief executive of littleBits, said: “Today we are continuing a global inventor movement that empowers young people to participate in a story that inspires them to be creators, not just consumers of technology.

“We’ve created a gender-inclusive product that celebrates kids’ own self-expression and ingenuity, while showcasing the same characteristics of imagination, grit and invention that are embodied in the Star Wars franchise.”

With invention at its core, littleBits explains its Droid Inventor Kit “fosters creativity and problem-solving skills".

There are in-app challenges which “encourage kids to reconfigure the littleBits technology in new and unique ways, in combination with household items, so they can create their own custom Droids such as a delivery Droid, a room guardian, and more".

And, as you’d expect and want, the Droid Inventor Kit “includes all the components needed for kids to create their very own Droid. A free app (iOS and Android) completes the experience, providing step-by-step instructions and how-to videos".

  • The app guides kids as they put together their Droid and control it in Drive Mode, Self-Nav, Force Mode, and more, making it the ultimate galactic sidekick.
  • After mastering their Droid Inventor skills, kids continue on to challenges that spark creativity and inspire them to create unique new Droids.
  • Each littleBits electronic block has a different function such as a power, motor, or sensor, which kids can use with their Droid in new and exciting ways.
  • Included stickers and in-app missions encourage kids to customise their Droid using crafts or household objects, giving their Droid its own special personality.
  • Kids will take pride in creating any Droid they imagine, and parents will love the endless play opportunities.

Thee Droid Inventor Kit can also be controlled using code on iPads with Apple’s Swift Playgrounds. Just download and install the latest version of the free Swift Playgrouds app from the App Store, visit the link to the playground, tap on “Open in “Playgrounds”, and you should now see the “littleBits Droid Inventor Kit” in your list of playgrounds.

Tap on it and start coding!

Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math

On top of all that, the company is committed to bringing “more girls into STEM/STEAM by designing products that are gender-inclusive and celebrating female inventors".

To back this extremely important goal up with actual achievement, and not just words, littleBits advises that its products “currently see adoption by girls at around 35% – an industry high".

“The littleBits Droid Inventor Kit has the elements to be one of this year's hot toys," said Jim Silver, chief executive and editor-in-chief of TTPM which is “toys, tots, pets & more” and is an honest review company.

“It combines the huge fandom of Star Wars, STEAM, and tons of creative fun. Its open-ended design and deep engagement will be particularly appealing for both kids and parents, ensuring long-lasting interest through repeat play.”

So, what’s in The Droid Inventor Kit box?

Well, it comes with 20 Droid parts, six Bits, three sticker sheets, as well as a free download of the littleBits Droid Inventor app. There's a video below that shows all these parts and much more!

The Droid Inventor Kit retails for A$159.95, and is available now at EB Games/Zing Pop CultureHarvey NormanAustralian GeographicTech2Go Duty Free stores nationwide and the Apple Store.

iWorldAustralia’s product page is here, but to actually purchase you’ll need to go to one of the stores listed above, or order one from their online sites.

Finally, it seems inevitable that the Droid Inventor Kit will be one of the must-have intelligent toys of 2017, one that plenty of little — and big kids — are going to have some serious fun with, and it's avaialble now at a price that should be within everyone's ability to acquire, with plenty more separate littleBits technology out there (and so much more amazing technology) to keep your kids entertained – and educated. 

Here are some more great videos to enjoy!


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Alex Zaharov-Reutt

One of Australia’s best-known technology journalists and consumer tech experts, Alex has appeared in his capacity as technology expert on all of Australia’s free-to-air and pay TV networks on all the major news and current affairs programs, on commercial and public radio, and technology, lifestyle and reality TV shows. Visit Alex at Twitter here.



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