TinkerBots, which makes a new product that one early kid tester described as “living Legos,” launches today.

Based in Berlin, the programmable robot company is looking to raise $100,000 on Indiegogo. TinkerBots wants to make modular kits that help people build things like toy cars, dogs, ants, and other combinations of batteries, pivots, motors, sensors and non-electronic parts.

It’s not cheap, but it’s not crazy expensive either — a basic TinkerBots kit will cost $159. Preorders are supposed to ship in December 2014 (but knowing how typical delays are for crowdfunding projects, I wouldn’t necessarily plan on having this ready for the holidays).

TinkerBots is one of a bunch of new smart toys that challenge kids (or adults, too) to think creatively and build systems that actually do something. Other similar startups include LittleBits and Play-i. They each have different takes on how abstracted the physical representations are from the act of writing computer code.

In TinkerBots’ case, there’s no code to write, if you don’t want to — but there’s an Arduino-compatible micro-controller inside, so creative kids and adults will be able to write programs for the toys beyond their basic functions.

Want to make a car? Great. There are wheels and axles and other parts. Want to make an animal? Sure, here are some legs. Maybe you have some spare Legos that you can add to build out the head and tail.

Okay, but here’s the cool part. Once you’ve put the pieces together, you press the “record” button on the red power brain block — just as if you were shooting a video — and move the TinkerBot the way you want it to move. Press record again to stop it, and then “play” to see the results.

This is one of those things that’s better seen than described, so here’s a video interview with TinkerBots CEO and co-founder Matthias Bürger.


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