Kano, the company behind a variety of build-it-yourself computer and coding kits, has unveiled a "laptop" today. A portable computer is probably more accurate. Whereas most laptops have a clamshell design, the new "Computer Kit Complete" keeps the screen and keyboard separate. All of the components are kept inside the display unit, and like a box of LEGO, there's an instruction booklet that teaches you how to put everything together. One of the parts is a Raspberry Pi 3 board, which runs custom software called Kano OS. It's packed with child-friendly programming activities and some basic apps including YouTube and WhatsApp.
From afar, the kit looks like Kano's old Computer Bundle. This deal, which is no longer available to purchase, included the Kano Computer, contained in a transparent shell, and the optional Screen Kit. The new, 10.1-inch "laptop" is different, however, because all of the necessary components are contained in one unit. They include a battery (unlike the Screen Kit), an 8GB memory card, a build-it-yourself speaker and three USB ports. It also comes with a Sound Sensor that connects over USB and, similar to Kano's $30/£30 Motion Sensor, can be used to trigger and manipulate code.
As with all of Kano's products, hardware is only half of the story. Once you've built the "laptop," you'll learn how to make games like Snake and Pong, manipulate Minecraft using code, and program your own music. The software has come a long way since the original Kano computer in 2013, adding additional challenges and some much-needed polish to the user interface. Kano's block-based programming language is easy to follow and there's a game-like levelling system that rewards your progress through all of the tutorials. You can also share your coding projects online and download, or "remix" others posted by the community on Kano World.
The new Computer Kit Complete costs $250/£230 and will be available through the Kano website and select retailers from November 1st.
In addition, Kano is launching a reworked version of its basic Computer Kit today. The 2017 edition comes with a Raspberry Pi 3 board and a programmable light ring that sit inside its plastic container. There are new challenges to complete and data sources, like weather information, sports scores and stock prices, that can be plugged into your coding projects for additional functionality. (Think If This Then That.) All of this will set you back $150/£140 when the first units ship in roughly six weeks.
The new products will come as a shock to people who backed Kano's Camera, Speaker and Pixel kits on Kickstarter exactly one year ago. So far, Kano has only managed to ship the Pixel, a charming and highly educational coding kit centered around a light board. It's not clear when the Speaker and Camera kits will follow. They are, admittedly, more complicated than the Kano Computer, given they require all-new parts and work as a single ecosystem. The idea being that you can use them together, swapping the various sensors to create increasingly elaborate projects. Still, it's notable that Kano has shipped other products before them.