A look inside our new smarter kits

Our new Kickstarter campaign is going very well and we now have over a 1,000 backers from all over the world! So far in our campaign, we’ve talked about what you can do with our 3 new kits, but the techies amongst us are curious to know what’s under the hood. So today I’m going to go into some of the key hardware and software choices that we’ve made that makes our kits smarter than the rest.

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What's so special about a Camera or a Speaker? What about a Pixel board with 128 pixels? You may think that you already have all of these devices including a 4K TV with a whopping 8 million pixels so why on earth would you want to buy another set of these?

Our kits are special. They are DIY kits, internet-enabled and programmable. They come with USB sensors that give them extra sensorial powers. Imagine a camera with ears! These are smart devices. You don’t need to be a programmer to program our kits because we've made it very easy for anyone to program our kits with our simple step-by-step guide and the Kano Code platform. Check out some of the projects you can work on with these kits here at Kano Code.

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OK, enough with the preambles, you just want to know what’s inside, don’t you?

All our kits are powered by a mini-computer, more commonly known as a single-board computer. In our award-winning Kano Computer Kit we had used a Raspberry Pi but in these new kits, we’ve had to change this and use a different single-board computer in order to make our new kits smaller, portable and much smarter.

The computer inside, or the Kano Brain we like to call it, runs our very own Linux-based, trimmed down version of Kano OS. On top of that, we’ve developed a Node.js API that talks to the low-level hardware API. The Node.js API exposes endpoints that allow the devices to be interacted with in a simple way e.g. takePicture(). In the near future, we’ll be open-sourcing this API to give our techie friends the powers they need to integrate our kits with their own projects, hardware and software.

We’ve built our coding platform, Kano Code, using Polymer and Blocky. Polymer is Google’s web framework and Blockly is their block-based visual coding framework.

We chose Polymer because it works on all the major browsers, it’s truly modular because it’s build on top of the Web Components API and it’s bantamweight to keep things super fast.

Implementing Blockly was pretty straightforward. We are familiar with it because we’ve used in the past for our Kano OS applications such as Make Minecraft. Our plans for the future of Kano Code include taking beginners through a learning journey from block-based coding to real programming languages. Real coders are in the making!

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Another other piece of cool gadgetry we’re using is Electron. It’s allowed us to write our kit onboarding application in JavaScript and compile it as desktop applications for Windows, macOS and Linux users. It saves us time because we only have one codebase to maintain and more importantly as it runs the application in a Chromium window, the experience feels snappy and native and it looks the same across the different OSs.

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We’ve intentionally chosen JavaScript for as much of the stack as possible and have benefitted greatly not just in saving time developing but making it easier for developers to write maintainable, crispier and robust code. Code that works pretty much seamlessly on most devices and computers.

If you love Web Technologies or are keen to join us on this mission of bringing creative technology to the masses, please have a look at our open job positions. We are hiring!

If you just want to get going, we recommend you try Kano Code. This web-based software is available now for you to play with and to build simple applications, games and animations, powered by your voice, pictures and live data, by simply dragging and dropping code blocks.

We’ve built 100s of cool projects with step-by-step interactive guides to get you going. Look what people have already built on Kano World - the place to share your creations!

More importantly right now, don’t forget to back us on Kickstarter!