Kano’s mission is to usher in the next wave of computer knowledge across the globe. “Just as the first PC revolution was about making computers simple for everyone to use, the next revolution is going to be about making them easy to create,” says Kano co-founder Alex Klein. “Making your own computers will be a fundamental part of being a human being.”
But a computer isn’t much good without a screen. So now, Kano and MAP are back with the Screen Kit, a high definition, 10.1-inch display that kids can construct, learning about how screens work along the way.
Like the original Kano kit, the strategy’s the same. With the help of MAP, Kano has designed a simple box full of parts–plug buttons, boards, cables, and cards–that can be assembled into a working screen just by following the instructions in a picture book. It includes a magnifying glass, so kids (or adults, for that matter) can use to closely inspect the parts, while the book elaborates on their function: for example, scrutinizing an HDMI port while the book explains that the wires inside pulse with billions of invisible 1s and 0s, which eventually become an image.
“The goal is to demystify how pixels, gamma, liquid crystal displays, and so on actually work,” Klein says. “We’re trying to put together a narrative that weaves the physical and digital together.”
MAP design director Jonathon Marshall says that, for the most part, designing the Screen Kit was just an extension of the groundwork they laid with the original Kano Computer Kit. That said, designing the actual case the screen rests in proved challenging. “We opted not to make the screen as thin as possible, but to use the transparent space behind the screen to store the Raspberry Pi and keyboard when not in use,” he tells me. “Getting that to work took a lot of finessing.”
The most challenging aspect of bringing the screen to market was just sourcing. Marshall says that “the big international brands we all know”–namely, Apple, Samsung, Microsoft, and other companies that buy out entire factories full of LCDs for their gadgets–make it extremely challenging for small companies like Kano to actually source their panels at an affordable cost. It took Kano a while to find the right suppliers, says Klein, but he feels confident that they’ve now created “the most accessible, low cost HD display” on the planet.
Kano hopes the Screen Kit won’t just be an idle curiosity for makers, but be used by professionals too: architects, museums, universities and so on. And Klein says his company has no intention of stopping here: he says they’re currently brainstorming extending the Kano concept to smartphones, 3-D printers, and more. “The overall goal is to turn computing into a force of creation, not just consumption,” Klein says. “And we intend to do that through great, polished design and story telling.”