littleBits wants to add your electronics modules to its collection — and they’re borrowing a chapter from the app store to help make it happen.
The new endeavor, called bitLab, is an exciting advancement of the company’s mission to democratize hardware design. littleBits originally launched in 2011 with a 10-piece kit, and currently offers over 50 bits in its collection. Now, the company will begin allowing independent prototypes to submit their component creations, have them made, and receive a share of the revenue when sold.
As littleBits states, the current catalog can be used to make billions of possible combinations, already helping many people prototype their electronics ideas quickly and simply. But now, if you can’t find that piece you want, or if you’ve got an idea for a circuit you think other people might need, you can help get it made and be rewarded for doing so.
The bitLab process works on a voting platform. Once your bit is designed, you share it with the community to see what other people think. If your design gets over 1,000 votes, littleBits will review your bit, and if it is feasible to manufacture, they’ll manufacture and sell it! The developer will then receive 10% of any sales of that bit.
“For years people have said we’re experiencing a hardware renaissance and while this is true, we’re just at the beginning. We’re barely scratching the surface of what’s possible,” said Ayah Bdeir, founder and CEO of littleBits. “For the hardware revolution to flourish, we need to further democratize innovation and the tools that make that innovation possible. The next great hardware innovations won’t come from the major players, but from the community of inventors, engineers, designers and everyday people. We think the bitLab turns the littleBits library into a meta open source hardware platform that will spur that invention and innovation.”
The launch includes a few bits from star makers, including an EMG bit from Backyard Brains, a touch sensor from Bare Conductive, and what’s sure to be a popular piece, a MaKey MaKey bit. “We’re thrilled to be among the first to develop for the littleBits bitLab. This new marketplace will spur crazy innovation and infinite possibilities for the hardware community,” said Jay Silver, founder and CEO of MaKey MaKey. “For us, it was an adventure to prototype our MaKey MaKey module. We’re excited to see how people react and what else the community dreams up.”
While developing for their ecosystem is a fantastic opportunity, littleBits also realizes that sometimes you just need one custom circuit. To fulfill that need, they’re releasing a hardware development kit. This will include two proto modules, perfboard module, and six of the custom magnetic connectors that make littleBits so fun. You can create your own custom bit that snaps right into place along with the official ones.
If you happen to be at the World Maker Faire in New York This weekend, you will get a chance to hear Ayah Bdeir speak about littleBits and her views on the hardware revolution that is happening all around us.