Build Robots

SBrick Plus lets you program and control any LEGO creation from your smartphone

SBrick LEGO controller

SBrick is slowly but steadily turning into a fully fledged development platform, complementing and enhancing existing LEGO building systems. With SBrick Plus you can remotely control your Power Functions motors from your phone or tablet via Bluetooth, add interactivity with WeDo 1.0 sensors, and use Scratch, Swift or JavaScript for programming your LEGO creations using almost any OS or device. It is an ideal candidate for STEM education, featuring extensive online resources and support.

SBrick LEGO controller
The original SBrick

SBrick Plus, just like its predecessor, was created by Vengit, a startup founded by a team of systems engineers and cloud solutions developers with vast experience in their respective fields. Without their enthusiasm and passion for LEGO such products would not be possible.

What is the SBrick Plus

For a little perspective let’s take a look at the original SBrick (which I will review very soon). It allows you to connect and control LEGO Power Functions motors and lights from any iOS, Android or Windows mobile device via Bluetooth. Each SBrick controls up to 4 motors or LEDs. A single device running the app can control up to 16 SBrick modules for a total of 64 control channels. A standard Power Functions battery box supplies power to the smart brick. It has a footprint of 4×4 standard bricks and a height of 7 standard bricks.

The online Profile Designer tool lets you create custom control interfaces for your LEGO builds. You can select buttons, sliders or joysticks and map these controls to available SBricks. You can also create some basic sequences or use the mobile device accelerometer for controlling your creations.

SBrick versions side by side
SBrick versions side by side | Image credit: Vengit

The SBrick Plus smart hub has similar physical measurements but under the hood there is an entirely different story. It goes further by adding support for LEGO WeDo Education 1.0 tilt and IR distance sensors. It is also more versatile than the WeDo 2.0 smart brick offering more control channels, supporting more programming languages, as well as retaining compatibility with Power Functions hardware.

A Mindstorms EV3/NXT adapter is under development and will allow connecting the more advanced sensors to your SBrick Plus. It will be available in the first part of 2017.

Complex programming is now possible with Scratch, Apple Swift Playgrounds and even JavaScript. This has become more than only a smart brick which you can integrate in your LEGO projects. The SBrick Plus is more like a complete toolkit which now includes online and offline development tools, libraries, as well as an established community to back you up. It is also well supported within educational platforms from Apple, Google and Microsoft, many features being also available for the original SBrick.

Just like the first iteration, the SBrick Plus can be controlled from a mobile app via Bluetooth Smart 4.x. Moreso, thanks to the BLED112 Bluetooth USB adapter you can program and control your SBricks using virtually any type of platform. The adapter enables you to connect with any computer running Windows, Linux or MacOS, Chromebook, Raspberry Pi and many more.

The team behind SBrick puts a strong emphasis on the STEM educational aspect. They have already created a library containing easy to understand 3D building instructions, lesson plans and activities. These are very helpful for teachers in class or for parents looking to homeschool their children. Users will also be able to upload their own projects and documentation to this library.

The team also offers Custom IoT solutions involving the SBrick, including custom firmware and hardware design. An SDK can be supplied should you prefer working with other programming languages such as Python, Java, Objective C and more.

Pricing and availability

The SBrick Plus seeks your support on Kickstarter, and I am sure it will be at least as good as the previous version. With an early bird pledge of US $49 you can buy an SBrick Plus hub, that $10 lower than the original SBrick. A starter pack bundle including both LEGO WeDo sensors, an extension wire for power supply and the SBrick Plus will cost $109. For $119 you will get a package containing 4 NXT/EV3 adapters, a SBrick Plus and an extension wire. The Bluetooth USB adapter, extension wires and colourful cases are already available in the SBrick store.

Worldwide deliveries should start by the end of this year. Check out the campaign page for many other options and info.

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