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MakerBloks, the coolest new STEM toy for all ages

MakerBlok offers an innovative way to teach both children and adults creative ways to think out of the box and create new ways to enjoy exploration and circuit creations.



Circuitry learning for the future

You know those cool science experiments where you take a potato and turn it into a battery with a few pieces of metal and nimble hands? It produces enough power to run a small digital clock or lightbulb and is a great way to introduce STEM thinking and skills. The makers of MakerBloks have brought that concept into the digital age with hands-on building and a digital activity book.


What are MakerBloks?

MakerBloks is changing how kids and parents use tablets. Children (ages six and up) learn everything from electronics to cooking with magnetic building blocks that interact with a digital activity book and a variety of tablet games. MakerBloks helps to get kids working with their hands and thinking outside of the screen to keep learning fun and engaging.

MakerBloks link up to each like dominos, only magnetic. Each MakerBlok links up magnetically and when you assemble each component they form real circuits. Kids can build everything from a lie-detector to a voice changing microphone and more. MakerBloks are intuitive, safe, and connect via Bluetooth. With Bluetooth, the blocks can interact with the digital activity book, available on your tablet. In each chapter of the activity book, blocks can be used to tackle problems and solve puzzles. The activities are based on the story of a curious young girl, Gabi, who lives in MakerCity. Use your blocks to help Gabi and her neighbors solve the puzzles and keep your kids engaged in STEM activities.

What kinds of circuits are included?

Currently, MakerBloks offers three kits: a spy kit, music kit, and circuitry kit. The spy kit lets you build a lie-detector, burglar alarm, and more. The music kit lets budding musicians build their own instruments that can play orchestral, space, and farm sounds. With the circuitry kit you can make your own toys, build a Simon-says game, or a voice changing microphone.

There are twelve types of blocks with which you can interact:

  1. Battery Block: everything starts with this block. All the other block rely on this to do their jobs.
  2. Push Switch: push this and it will trigger the actions of the block next to it.
  3. LED Light: comes in all the colors of the rainbow and will literally light up when you have an idea.
  4. High Resistor: this block dims the light or sound of the block beside it.
  5. Medium Resistor: this block reduces noise and light a little, but not too much.
  6. Low Resistor: this block reduces noise and light a little, you’ll barely know it’s there.
  7. Photoresistor: is sensitive to light. If you cover it, it won’t do anything, but if you put light on it…
  8. Rocker Switch: just like a light switch; flip it and let your ideas flow
  9. Variable resistor: this knob lets you control the intensity of the action
  10. Buzzer: this block makes noise! It’ll cheer you on when you’re right and warn you when you’re wrong
  11. Splitter: takes the energy of the power block and spreads it in three different directions.
  12. Processor: the brain of the whole block set. It makes the games logical so you can enjoy the fun.

Even if you don’t have children, these blocks could be lovely tools for teaching inventiveness to anyone, young and older alike. This would also be an amazing tool for teachers. MakerBloks is definitely worth a look if you’re interested in STEM activities or fostering a sense of thinking outside of the box.


Jennifer Walpole is a Senior Staff Writer at The American Genius and holds a Master's degree in English from the University of Oklahoma. She is a science fiction fanatic and enjoys writing way more than she should. She dreams of being a screenwriter and seeing her work on the big screen in Hollywood one day.

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Snap a business card pic, Microsoft app finds ’em on LinkedIn

(TECH NEWS) Microsoft Pix is teaming with LinkedIn in a neat way that will benefit networking, especially if you have any lazy bones in your body.



microsoft pix

Have you ever been watching some sort of action-adventure movie where there’s a command center with all sorts of unbelievable technology that kind of blows your mind? Well, every day we come closer and closer to living within that command center.

You may think that I’m talkin’ crazy, but check this out – there is a new technology that can scan a business card, and find the business card’s owner on LinkedIn. (Can I get a “say what????!”)

This app is courtesy of Microsoft and goes by the name Pix (it’s not new, but this function is).

The way it works is simple: Bill Jones hands you his business card, you fire up the Pix app (currently only on the iPhone. Sorry, Droids), you snap a picture of the card and the app takes the details (phone number, company, etc.) and finds Bill on LinkedIn. Bingo.

It also will automatically take that information and will create a new profile for Bill Jones within your phone’s contacts. After you scan the business card through Pix, Microsoft will ask if you want to take action.

At this point, Pix will recognize and capture phone numbers, email addresses, and URLs. If your phone is logged into LinkedIn, the apps will work together to find Bill’s profile. Part of me wants to think that this is kind of creepy but a larger part of me thinks that it’s really cool.

According to Microsoft Research’s Principal Program Manager, Josh Weisberg, “Pix is powered by AI to streamline and enhance the experience of taking a picture with a series of intelligent actions: recognizing the subject of a photo, inferring users’ intent and capturing the best quality picture.”

“It’s the combination of both understanding and intelligently acting on a users’ intent that sets Pix apart. Today’s update works with LinkedIn to add yet another intelligent dimension to Pix’s capabilities.”

Pix itself originally launched in 2016 as a way to compete against AI’s ability to edit a photo by use of exposure, focus, and color. This new integration in working with LinkedIn is a time saver, and is beneficial for those who collect business cards like candy and forget to actually do something with them.

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Tech News

Walmart and the blockchain, sitting in a tree

(TECH NEWS) Say goodbye to #foodwaste with Walmart’s new smart package delivery proposal featuring everyone’s favorite pal, blockchain.




Following the trend of adding “smart” as a prefix to any word to make it futuristic, Walmart now proposes “smart packages.” The retail giant filed for a new patent to improve their shipping and package tracking process using blockchain.

Last week, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) released the application, which was filed back in August 2017.

Officially, the application notes the smart package will have “a body portion having an inner volume” and “a door coupled to the body portion” that can be open or closed to restrict or allow access to the package contents.

In other words, they’ve patented a box with a door on it that also has lots of monitoring devices.

Various iterations lay claim to all versions of said box include smart packaging utilizing a combination of monitoring devices, modular adapters, autonomous delivery vehicles, and blockchain.

Monitoring devices would regulate location tracking, inner content removal, and environmental conditions of the package like temperature and humidity. This could help reduce loss of products sensitive to environmental changes, like fresh produce.

Modular adapters perform these actions as well, and also ensure the package has access to a power source and the delivery vehicle’s security system to prevent theft.

Blockchain comes into play with a delivery encryption system, monitoring, authenticating, and registering packages. As it moves through the supply chain, packages will be registered throughout the process.

The blockchain would be hashed with private key addresses of sellers, couriers, and buyers to track the chain of custody. Every step of the shipping process would be documented, providing greater accountability and easier record keeping.

This isn’t Walmart’s first foray into the world of blockchain. Last year they teamed up with Nestle, Kroger, and other food companies in a partnership with IBM to improve food traceability with blockchain.

Walmart also took part in a similar food tracking program in China with last year as well.

And let’s not forget Walmart’s May 2017 USPTO application to use blockchain tech for package delivery via unmanned drones. Their more recent application builds on the drone idea, which also proposed tracking packages with blockchain and monitoring product conditions during delivery.

In their latest application, Walmart notes, “online customers many times seek to purchase items that may require a controlled environment and further seek to have greater security in the shipping packaging that the items are shipped in.”

Implementing blockchain and smart package monitoring as part of the shipping process could greatly reduce product loss and improve shipment tracking.

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Tech News

Experts warn of actual AI risks – we’re about to live in a sci fi movie

(TECH NEWS) A new report on AI indicates that the sci fi dystopias we’ve been dreaming up are actually possible. Within a few short years. Welp.



AI robots

Long before artificial intelligence (AI) was even a real thing, science fiction novels and films have warned us about the potentially catastrophic dangers of giving machines too much power.

Now that AI actually exists, and in fact, is fairly widespread, it may be time to consider some of the potential drawbacks and dangers of the technology, before we find ourselves in a nightmarish dystopia the likes of which we’ve only begun to imagine.

Experts from the industry as well as academia have done exactly that, in a recently released 100-page report, “The Malicious Use of Artificial Intelligence: Forecasting, Prevention, Mitigation.”

The report was written by 26 experts over the course of a two-day workshop held in the UK last month. The authors broke down the potential negative uses of artificial intelligence into three categories – physical, digital, or political.

In the digital category are listed all of the ways that hackers and other criminals can use these advancements to hack, phish, and steal information more quickly and easily. AI can be used to create fake emails and websites for stealing information, or to scan software for potential vulnerabilities much more quickly and efficiently than a human can. AI systems can even be developed specifically to fool other AI systems.

Physical uses included AI-enhanced weapons to automate military and/or terrorist attacks. Commercial drones can be fitted with artificial intelligence programs, and automated vehicles can be hacked for use as weapons. The report also warns of remote attacks, since AI weapons can be controlled from afar, and, most alarmingly, “robot swarms” – which are, horrifyingly, exactly what they sound like.

Read also: Is artificial intelligence going too far, moving too quickly?

Lastly, the report warned that artificial intelligence could be used by governments and other special interest entities to influence politics and generate propaganda.

AI systems are getting creepily good at generating faked images and videos – a skill that would make it all too easy to create propaganda from scratch. Furthermore, AI can be used to find the most important and vulnerable targets for such propaganda – a potential practice the report calls “personalized persuasion.” The technology can also be used to squash dissenting opinions by scanning the internet and removing them.

The overall message of the report is that developments in this technology are “dual use” — meaning that AI can be created that is either helpful to humans, or harmful, depending on the intentions of the people programming it.

That means that for every positive advancement in AI, there could be a villain developing a malicious use of the technology. Experts are already working on solutions, but they won’t know exactly what problems they’ll have to combat until those problems appear.

The report concludes that all of these evil-minded uses for these technologies could easily be achieved within the next five years. Buckle up.

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