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Cubelets: My fascination with newfangled blocks meets my fascination with play as emergence.

So many kinds of blocks you could build something to shake a stick at ‘em. [image credit]

Behold Cubelets:

…Cubelets … can be snapped together to make a variety of robots with no programming and no wires. You can build robots that drive around on a tabletop, respond to light and other objects, and have surprisingly lifelike behavior. But instead of programming that behavior, you snap the cubelets together and watch the behavior emerge like with a flock of birds or a swarm of bees.

I have this thing with trying to wrap my head around what toy blocks could be if they met the right kind of tech and had babies. I’m also thinking quite a bit about how play embodies a sort of emergence. And, lo, Cubelets gets at both.

See their video for more on the concept (plus you can get your recommended daily allowance of Dutch accents and beards). And peruse all the different sorts of cubelets.

They’re a bit pricey (and I don’t quite get their pre-ordering scheme), but I like where they’re going and where they’ve already been:

Modular Robotics is a new company, a spin-off from Carnegie Mellon University. We are turning our research prototype construction toy into a commercial product for science centers, children’s museums, and hobbyists, and we’re planning to launch our first robotic kits in 2011. We have received initial funding from private endowments and from the National Science Foundation. We believe that toys shape the way that children think about the world.

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