Micro Bit mini-computer heads for global market

BBC | Published: 13:15, Oct 19,2016

 
 
Micro Bit mini-computer

The Micro Bit is a palm-sized circuit board with an array of 25 LED lights - that can be programmed to show letters, numbers and other shapes - and a Bluetooth chip for wireless connectivity. — BBC photo

The Micro Bit mini-computer is to be sold across the world and enthusiasts are to be offered blueprints showing how to build their own versions.

The announcements were made by a new non-profit foundation that is taking over the educational project, formerly led by the BBC.

About one million of the devices were given away free to UK-based schoolchildren earlier this year.

The BBC says they encourage children, especially girls, to code

However, the delayed rollout of the machines to last year's Year 7s (11-to-12-year-olds) caused problems for teachers who had less time than expected to prepare related classes.

Beyond the UK, Micro Bits are also in use in schools across the Netherlands and Iceland. But the foundation now intends to co-ordinate a wider rollout.

‘Our goal is to go out and reach 100 million people with Micro Bit, and by reach I mean affect their lives with the technology,’ said the foundation's new chief executive Zach Shelby.

‘That means [selling] tens of millions of devices... over the next five to 10 years.’

His organisation plans to ensure Micro Bits can be bought across Europe before the end of the year and is developing Norwegian and Dutch-language versions of its coding web tools to boost demand.

Next, in 2017, the foundation plans to target North America and China, which will coincide with an upgrade to the hardware.

‘We will be putting more computing power in,’ Shelby said.

‘We will be looking at new types of sensors.

‘And also how to display Chinese and Japanese characters - it turns out you need a lot more LEDs than we have today.

‘We also have work to do to reduce the price for developing countries, that's something we're very aware of.’

Micro Bits currently sell for about £13, excluding the batteries needed to power them.

That makes them several times more expensive than another barebones computer - the Raspberry Pi Zero.

But the foundation says they serve different audiences since the Micro Bit is designed for users with little or no coding knowledge when they begin.

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