Kano is a computer-building kit developed in 2013 designed to open the world of computers to children around the world.
Currently, Kano sells a computer kit called Kano Complete. This kit contains everything needed to build a Raspberry Pi 2-based computer including a keyboard, computer case, and screen. Once the unit is constructed (the screen, for example, is put together including its driver board, buttons, and cables), the Kano system has a built-in operating system that is geared for learning and entertainment.
The system introduces the user to a few basic programming languages in a Linux environment which include
- Terminal Commands
Kano Complete. Image courtesy of Kano.
As learning progresses, rewards are unlocked on the machine in a similar manner to many RPG games. This helps to not only encourage further learning but also helps to boosts confidence in a computing environment. The operating system, Kano OS, is an open source Linux operating system which is designed to be both intuitive and helpful in a computer learning environment.
But Kano is starting a new project on Kickstarter that will help to change how users learn about computers.
The Kano 2
Kano has started a Kickstarter projected that will allow users to build three different projects and connect them to their Kano computer. What makes these kits significant is that they are constructed in a similar fashion to Lego with each piece slotting into each other. Once the parts are put together, the finished piece can then be connected to the computer.
But what are these three projects?
The Camera Kit
The Camera Kit is a camera that anyone can make that has a large amount of flexibility for programming projects. The camera kit uses a 5 megapixel camera, comes with storybook-like instructions, has many added features (such as flash with colour control), and other add-ons for interesting projects such as the tripwire sensor.
The Pixel Kit
The Pixel Kit is a large LED display which, like the camera kit, has a storybook instruction manual, multicolor LEDs, and add-ons such as buttons and tilt sensors. One feature that is rather impressive is the use of visualised control—so instead of needing to send large chunks of binary data to code the display, the Kano software makes it easy to control.
The Speaker Kit
The Speaker Kit is a speaker that, just like the camera and pixel kits, is constructed from small parts. The kit includes a storybook instruction manual, easy-to-code features such as instruments and samples, pieces to create a drum pad, and a gesture feature that can be used to stream and bend music, loops, and beats.
Standalone Units and Coding
Arguably the most important feature of the Kano 2 Kits is their independence from a main controller. While they are coded from an external machine, this is done wirelessly and through a web browser. Each kit contains a small computer internally that allows the units to be programmed and then taken wherever they need to be. Just like Kano OS, the Kano 2 kits teach you from the ground up. As the user levels up, more challenges become available.
Kano 2 Kits come in parts that fit together like Lego. Image courtesy of Kano.
Coding the Kano kits could not be simpler with a user-friendly GUI which can be used through any web browser. Instructions are dragged from a menu on the left and adjusted with drop down boxes in a near identical manner to a jigsaw puzzle.
The Kano 2 Kit GUI that runs in any browser. Click for larger image.
As an example of its simplicity, using the GUI application to turn on all the lights on the pixel display took less than 30 seconds. This is rather amazing considering the time it took me to do the same task with a microcontroller was around an hour (after realizing that configuration bits were not set, a wire was soldered in the wrong pad, the computers USB link failed for some unknown reason, and the datasheet for the display is not clear).
The Kano 2 Kits are truly amazing as learning tools and are what the educational sector has been looking for. With the release of these new kits, we may begin to see more people interested not just in the software side of computing but in the hardware side as well.
Many people take hardware for granted but without revolutionary new hardware, new software will have to rely on increasingly aging technology. Kano could be key in teaching these concepts to the next generation.