Saturday, 24 March 2012

the Free Universal Construction Kit

Ever wanted to connect your Legos and Tinkertoys together? Now you can and much more. Announcing the Free Universal Construction Kit: a set of adapters for complete interoperability between 10 popular construction toys.

Consider the frustrating experience of purchasing a new computer (a Mac, say) and discovering that it will not play your aunt’s Windows Media video of your little cousins. Likewise, imagine your aunt’s corresponding annoyance when she finds that her PC will not play the Apple Quicktime video you sent her of your cats. This humiliating little episode isn’t an accident; it’s just a skirmish in a never-ending battle between giant commercial entities, played out, thousands of times every day, in exactly such micro-punishments to customers like you. If you’re well-informed, you may happen to know about VLC — a free, open-source video player, developed by independent hackers as a grassroots remedy for exactly this problem. Until the advent of ubiquitous 3D printing, software remedies like VLC weren’t readily available for hardware products, like toys. That’s changing.

Today’s manufacturers have little or no intrinsic motivation to make their products compatible with anyone else’s. Indeed—despite obvious benefits to users everywhere—the implementation of cross-brand interoperability can be nearly impossible, given the tangled restrictions of patents, design rights, and trademarks involved in doing so. So we stepped up. The Free Universal Construction Kit is the VLC of children’s playsets.

The Free Universal Construction Kit adapter collection
Fig. 1. The Free Universal Construction Kit.


F.A.T. Lab and Sy-Lab are pleased to present the Free Universal Construction Kit: a matrix of nearly 80 adapter bricks that enable complete interoperability between ten* popular children’s construction toys. By allowing any piece to join to any other, the Kit encourages totally new forms of intercourse between otherwise closed systems—enabling radically hybrid constructive play, the creation of previously impossible designs, and ultimately, more creative opportunities for kids. As with other grassroots interoperability remedies, the Free Universal Construction Kit implements proprietary protocols in order to provide a public service unmet—or unmeetable—by corporate interests.

The Free Universal Construction Kit offers adapters between Lego, Duplo, Fischertechnik, Gears! Gears! Gears!, K’Nex, Krinkles (Bristle Blocks), Lincoln Logs, Tinkertoys, Zome, and Zoob. Our adapters can be downloaded from and other sharing sites as a set of 3D models in .STL format, suitable for reproduction by personal manufacturing devices like the Makerbot (an inexpensive, open-source 3D printer).


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