First Marketplace for User-Generated Hardware Democratizes Hardware Invention
NEW YORK--littleBits Electronics, the company putting the power of electronics in everyone's hands, today announced the launch of the bitLab, an app store for user-generated hardware. The marketplace furthers littleBits' goal to democratize the hardware revolution, giving hardware developers the tools and ecosystem to develop and sell their own littleBits modules.
"When Apple launched the App Store, many apps were games, many were frivolous. But now - 6 years later - there are more than 1.3 million apps that have distributed nearly $15 billion to the software developer community," said Ayah Bdeir, CEO and founder of littleBits. "And those apps are solving huge problems, from cancer detection to transportation and anything in between. We believe the same thing will happen with hardware - developers just need one common platform to develop on, a supply chain that powers it, and a marketplace for community and distribution. We believe the bitLab will be the hardware industry's solution to innovation, scale and growth."
With the bitLab, the littleBits system truly becomes an infinitely open hardware platform that will further spur invention and innovation in the hardware community. The modular platform and its user-generated hardware helps expand the ecosystem, fosters continued breakthroughs in hardware, and allows for infinite scale.
Analogous to software app stores, the littleBits library acts as the platform, the Bits that developers submit are considered the apps, and the API is bitSnap, littleBits' magnetic connectors. The operating system is the analog electronic specifications.
The bitLab works by allowing anyone to design the Bit™ of their dreams and has two major components: a hardware component (the HDK) and a web component (the bitLab website). The hardware developer kit (HDK) includes the Proto Module and bitSnap connectors, which makes the prototyping process a snap for developers. By commercializing littleBits' proprietary bitSnap connectors - which are the magnetic connectors that snap the littleBits modules together and carry communication across modules - prototypes can now be built with any hardware tool and then seamlessly incorporated into the littleBits library. The Proto Module will be sold for $11.95 and is available for purchase at littlebits.cc/bits/proto-module. The HDK, which includes two Proto Modules, one Perf Module and six sets of bitSnap connectors, will be available for $39.95 at http://littlebits.cc/kits/hdk.
The second component is the bitLab web platform itself: once a module is prototyped, it can be submitted to the bitLab where the community votes on it. When a submission receives more than 1,000 votes, littleBits will review the submission to determine production feasibility. Approved modules will be manufactured domestically and available for purchase in the bitLab, with the developer receiving 10 percent of the revenue sold. After proven success, manufacturing will expand overseas.
Just as a software developer kit (SDK) allows people to build apps for the major platforms, littleBits' HDK is opening up an entire world of electronics to the littleBits library, making littleBits an infinitely open platform for hardware innovation. littleBits is launching the bitLab with five partners that have helped beta test the bitLab mechanics. The company calls these "bitLab celebrities" for the status they hold in the hardware development community, including MaKey MaKey and Bare Conductive. Other partner developers include Backyard Brains (EKG sensor for neuroscience), Bleep Labs (drumbeat) and Gabotronics (oscilloscope). To illustrate how user-submissions leverage and add power to the platform, the Backyard Brains EKG sensor module can be used in conjunction with the cloudBit to create a health monitoring system, or just as easily combined with the Synth Kit to create a live instrument controlled with your muscles. The bitLab is open today for new submissions and voting at littlebits.cc/bitlab.
"We're thrilled to be among the first to develop for the bitLab. When we started this collaboration, we knew it could be huge - every object in the world can become a button for littleBits and every littleBits sensor can trigger your real world - from video games to web apps and keystrokes," said Jay Silver, CEO and founder of MaKey MaKey. "It was an adventure to prototype the MaKey MaKey module and we're excited to see what else the community dreams up. This is one small Bit for makers and one giant leap for maker kind."
A decade ago, the idea of taking a two week class in iOS development and making one of the most lucrative and popular pieces of software on people's phones was unimaginable. Now it's entirely possible. The same thing will happen with the hardware community; it will only be a matter of time.
littleBits (www.littleBits.cc) is the New York-based company putting the power of electronics in the hands of everyone. The company makes a library of electronic modules that snap together with magnets to let anyone build, invent, and prototype with electronics -- no soldering, wiring, or programming required. littleBits breaks down complex technology - from music with the littleBits Synth Kit, to space exploration with the littleBits Space Kit, and the Internet of Things with the Cloud Starter Kit - and makes it accessible and modular. The company was founded in 2011 by MIT graduate, TED Senior Fellow and cofounder of the Open Hardware Summit, Ayah Bdeir, and has grown to be a global leader in hardware. The littleBits library includes more than five kits and 60 interoperable modules with products sold in 70 countries around the world.