Design News, April 2013

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— Charles Murray, Senior Technical Editor, Electronics & Test For More Information: To see the full slideshow:| Fisker Automotive: Chicago Autoshow: Electronics & Test Electronic Learning Toys Can Help Educate the World Lego-like toys from littleBits Electronics that snap together with magnets try to teach everyone about electronic design. the lego craze may have quieted over the past 81 years, but the toys continue to shine their brilliance on young and old alike. The more than 400 billion blocks out in the world have shown us how playing with our imagina- The cutesy looking design littleBits toys pack quite a creative potential for innovators of all ages.  tion can make learning fun. Like Lego, littleBits Electronics is on a mission. It wants to give the world appendable toys that help make electronics and circuitry builds an easy, fun, and educational experience for all creative people. Ayah Bdeir, the founder of littleBits, was always interested in science and engineering growing up in Lebanon. Naturally, she gravitated toward an education in engineering. After getting her master's degree from the MIT Media Lab, she began to see that much of the world did not get enough exposure to the technological world behind the electronics that surround our everyday lives. She built her company with an eye toward lessening the intimidating nature of electronics. LittleBits bills itself as "an open-source library of electronic modules that snap together with magnets for prototyping, learning, and fun." The latest littleBits platform v0.3 offers a wide array of electronic blocks. The magnetic connections ensure that current always flows in the right direction (and that components don't fry). The blocks are grouped into four different categories: power, input, output, and wiring. The color-coded, neatly packaged, and well-labeled components include wall power adapters, buttons, dimmers, light sensors, bend sensors, pressure sensors, motion triggers, LEDs, fans, servo motors, Design News | april 2013 | www.d esign n –32– Source: littleBits Electronics there's not a lot of demand," he told the audience. "Well, right, there's not a lot of demand for pure electric cars. But hybrids are on the rise and plug-in hybrids will be the next big step." Fisker's comments are consistent with those of industry analysts who have said they expect plug-in hybrid sales to rise, while pure electrics will fall over the next few years. A recent study from KPMG International, for example, contended that consumer interest in plug-in hybrids jumped by 15 percentage points in 2012 alone, while pure electrics fell by five points during that period. The inspiration for Fisker's $100,000-plus Karma came to him while watching actor Leonardo DeCaprio drive to the Academy Awards in a Prius a few years ago, Fisker said. Seeing a wealthy actor making an environmental statement by driving a Prius made him realize that there could be a market for those who want eco-friendly luxury. As a result, Fisker made it a mission to build a vehicle that would be easily recognized as a hybrid but would offer more style than a Prius. "With our car, we were very set on the idea that when you pass it by, it should not resemble a Mercedes or BMW," Fisker explained. "It should look like a completely different type of vehicle, which it does." The Karma, which Fisker said can range from $100,000 to $125,000, accomplished that by employing solar roofs, reclaimed wood, 22-inch alloy wheels, and diamond-dust paint, in addition to the hybrid electric powertrain. Fisker added that the company's engineers considered alternatives to a gasoline-burning engine, which is used by the Karma as a range extender and will be employed in the Atlantic. "We thought about other forms of energy, whether ethanol or diesel," he said. "But we wanted the consumer to have convenience. If they run out of electricity, there will always be a gas station. There are still more gas stations in the US than diesel (stations)." Thus far, the biggest challenge has been the cost of starting a car company and dealing with a seemingly endless roster of regulations, he said. After investing more than a billion dollars, the company has sold only about 2,000 Karmas to date. "If you want to start a chain of 1,000 restaurants, you could start with one little restaurant and a couple hundred thousand dollars," Fisker explained. "But that just doesn't work in the car industry.You need hundreds of millions of dollars. The barrier to entry is huge."

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