SmartBrick is the next level in remote controlling your LEGO®. Build more, play more like never before. Read more
This project was successfully funded on August 13, 2014.
About this project
This tiny brick of goodness works together with an application on a mobile or tablet, allowing to do do things you’ve never thought possible before. Connect it to your LEGO® model, join our social platform, and experience a new way to have bigger and better fun with people just like you. Imagine the impossible, unleash your imagination, and make it real!
Our page in other languages
News & Updates
- We are looking for distributors around the world, if you are interested in it, please fill the reseller form at the bottom of our site: sbrick.com.
- We're very happy we reached the first goal, but this is not the end of the campaign, and we have more cool features for SBrick! Check out the Funding Milestones below and let's raise SBrick to a higher level!
Nicolas tested our prototype, check the video here.
- Our stretch goal is @ 100.000 GBP, the stair top design. To show our dedication, we have decided to manufacture this design nevertheless the result of the campaign, but we still appreciate and need all your help in financing this goal.
- Mahj and Sheepo received our prototype, and started to test it.
- Techcrunch says 'The SBrick Expands Your Lego Universe'.
- Sariel has tested one of our prototype, you can watch the test video here.
- We created an example video for train fans, check out our youtube channel.
Esteem for crowfunding: 'SBrick is one of the best Kickstarter campaign of the summer' Thank you!
- Thanks to Philo we have LDraw file for SBrick. You can download from here.
- New Pledge for Trains & Pledges Summary. Check "How can you help?" section.
- Train fans, you are warmly welcome! Check our forum.
- engineering.com published an awesome article about us.
- New video on our youtube channel about the 42030 profile.
- We are on the front page at EuroBricks.com and BrickSet.com.
- We have opened the the FAQ section (see on the bottom of the page).
- This project has been chosen as a "STAFF PICK"! .
- We have good news about P&P - see our updates.
- TechnicBRICKs.com published a very nice article about SBrick.
- We would like to warmly welcome Sariel amongst our trusted evaluators We are very exciting about our testers feedbacks!
SBrick will change the way you play
The SBrick contains a Bluetooth Low Energy chip programmed to control 4 peripherals and is just a little bit smaller than the IR receiver. It provides two-way communication and the SBrick also keeps the mobile app informed about the battery conditions. You can use it to control the direction and the power of motors and the intensity of lights, allowing precise control over your creations.
The SBrick is more than a just controller for LEGO® Creations. It creates the connection between the internet and your LEGO®, making it possible to keep constant communication between the community and the individual players. The SBrick mobile app can be used to control the bricks simultaneously in a programmed manner. There is no interference between different remote controllers, hence the ability to have races and tournaments with multiple players. Join social.sbrick.com and suggest more features!
The social features of playing with your LEGO® should no longer be something you do on your own. Challenge your friends, compete against them, post the results online, take part or be an organiser of the next local SBrick race or LEGO® exhibition. We’ve integrated all the tools you need to put together a great afternoon for your community. Beyond event management, the SBrick mobile app allows for direct interaction between players. It is the platform for sharing MOCs and SBrick integration descriptions and enables the sharing and hosting of multimedia content relating to the world’s favourite building blocks.
Some pictures from the APP
Design complex and beautiful remote control profiles with the profile designer. Here are a few examples...
How it works?
The short answer is that without financial backing we can’t afford to cover the production costs for the SBrick. By putting this project before you, our aim is twofold; not only to raise the funds needed to bring the SBrick to market, but also to gain your valuable feedback about the product itself. The SBrick is our labour of love, but like any technology we know it can be improved and fine-tuned, so we really want to hear from you.
How can you help?
Pledges. This is the essential part of this Kickstarter campaign. We need your support, so take a moment to see which pledge level suits you the best. We’ve thought up several pledge options, so please have a look and see how you can contribute. Please add three pounds for international packaging and shipping. The more you give, the quicker we can develop the SBrick! Finally, the SBricks will be sent out in order from the highest pledge on down, so the more you give, the quicker you'll get your SBrick! Everything counts.
Shares. We want to get the word out about SBrick to as many people as possible. The more people that hear about the SBrick the better. Chances are, if you believe in the SBrick you’ll have friends who think the same way. So please share this page through your favourite social media and let people know where you stand on the SBrick!
Suggestions. Do you have an idea how to make the SBrick better? Is there something you think we’ve missed? Let us know! Right now we’re at the stage where we can still tweak the SBrick and take your suggestions on board. We want to hear from you - after all, we’re making the SBrick for you. Your feedback is invaluable.
We have put considerable efforts into making SBrick better. We’ve launched a public testing campaign and sent out numerous bricks to respected fans around the world. We shall take their feedback and build it into the product by the time you receive yours.
Here they are in alphabetical order:
Egor Karshiev Russia
Sheepo's Garage Spain
Do you want be one of them? See the pledges!
Our story so far - problems and challenges
SBrick was created after countless long nights of playing with LEGO® and experimenting with add-ons to enhance gameplay. We are no different than other adult friends of LEGO®. We might be software engineers, but we like to build and we like to play and SBrick makes both of these activities so much better.
At first, SBrick was a Bluetooth remote controller for our LEGO® Power Function devices and a simple mobile app. But it has quickly become something much more. We have made it programmable; the remote control app can be customized easily to suit the set you’re playing with. Today SBrick connects us with fellow players and even helps us organise events like races. Of course the SBrick connects our game and our play to the internet.
We see that in the near future SBrick will help you organise and race in a national tournament with your custom LEGO® creation. If you have a SBrick, you will get your old LEGO® bricks from the attic and will start to build again as new challenges await. Now you can race and be stronger, faster and more agile. We give you yet another reason to play together with your son or nephew.
The first prototype
Everything started with a completely different project involving the BlueGiga BLE112 chip and a smartphone. Then Lénárd got a nice present for his birthday, a new LEGO® set. He started wondering: how cool it would be if that set could be controlled with a smartphone through a BLE112 chip. Could this even work?
Yes, it could - answered Tamás, and immediately presented improvised plans for a solution. Just a few days after the parts had arrived in the mail, the very first prototype was ready. It wasn’t too smart, it wasn’t even a brick, but it worked.
Android app protos, latency, reliability, protocol
The first Android app was created over the course of a single day. We didn’t care too much about the UI or even usability. The goal was simply to prove to ourselves that this idea was worth working on. Even with this rudimentary remote control, it was possible to control our model with reasonable precision.
The first surprise was how well it worked given the amount of resources we had put into the overall design of the system. Latency and reliability wasn’t really an issue, despite us using a simple, naïve protocol.
However once we tried to increase the distance, or install the app on other devices, problems started to show up, and we knew it wasn’t easy to fine-tune the communication parameters and handle all the corner cases.
The first SBrick powered MOC
The project badly needed a shape, some kind of plastic enclosure that would contain the electronics. We tried to make this as small and as thin as possible.
This model was the first that used an enclosure. The electronics were glued into the insides, and everything was soldered together with wires.
The thing looked gorgeous already and we desperately wanted to show it to our friends and strangers.
The first PCB prototypes, thermal and power issues
During the early tests we quickly discovered several serious problems with the first version of the SBrick. The motor driver chips we’d been using were obviously too large to fit into the enclosure conveniently. They took up so much space we couldn’t properly fit even the new, smaller BLE113 chip onto the board, and got nowhere close to the promised 100 metres range.
The prototype also consumed way too much standby current, almost as much as a freely running M motor. Besides wasting the battery, this also meant excessive heating. The first bricks felt lukewarm even after few minutes of use.
LEGO® IR compatibility, case ideas, connector problems, LEGO® design and copyright
It quickly became apparent that if we wanted our customers to replace their IR receivers, we needed to build the SBrick so that the shape of the enclosure made it possible to simply remove the old receiver and snap a SBrick into its place.
We also needed to design a PCB and an enclosure so that they would be easy to manufacture, allowing us to offer the end product for a reasonable price.
Several enclosure versions were designed and printed as we searched for both the best material and form for the prototypes and the final version. We bombarded our partners with quotes for various versions of moulding tools, connector pin hard tools and PCB / assembly solutions.
We showed the housing prototype to some hardcore LEGO® fanatics, who encouraged us to change the layout of the electrical connectors: before they sprouted from two sides of the brick, but after taking their advice on board we changed the layout so that all the connectors sprout from one side of the housing, making it far easier to build with it.
This is how we arrived at our current design with the three holes on one side, the four-connector stair-top, and the bottom connector. Because of the current arrangement, the manufacture of the electrical contacts will be more expensive than what we hoped. This is a compromise between price and usability that had to be made.
During the design phase, one very important criteria was to come up with a unique, and useful design. We never wanted to just blatantly copy the LEGO® elements. Doing so would not only draw serious legal consequences, but surely would receive deserved disdain from the LEGO® community. Now we are proud of our solution that is distinctively different in looks from a LEGO® toy, but still compatible with the Power Functions devices.
Future of the SBrick
The SBrick is the first step we’re taking towards introducing a larger family of SBrick products. We have plans on adding other peripherals like the CamBrick, which will provide full HD low-latency video. This will act as your eyes and will allow you to see things in real time and it will open up a whole new world of augmented reality.
Our hope is that our products will be endorsed by the LEGO group - we believe in thinking big! Our plan is to invest any profit from the SBrick into further development of the SBrick and associated peripherals.
Potential of the URC
You’ve probably heard the buzz phrase “Internet of Things” being bandied around. SBrick is a true Internet of Things device in that it can be used not only to control LEGO® creations, but basically anything else that you can think of. The URC (Universal Remote Controller) platform we created is made up of four distinct units; the hardware, app, community services and the diagnostic data warehouse.
Hardware: a really small, Bluetooth, low-energy enabled electronic device, which allows for secured two-way communication with the devices to which it’s connected.
App: a smart remote control engine with security features and modular components for controlling the hardware, together with a fully customizable user interface. And all this, integrated with cloud-based online services.
Community Services: we have created a community platform where users of any given product can link up with like-minded individuals to share their experiences, help one another, and of course, take advantage of customer support.
Diagnostic Data Warehouse: if you want to opt-in to this service, the device will communicate with the DDW. Why is this a good thing? It will allow device-makers to see how their products are functioning, whether all systems are healthy and most importantly to diagnose any problems before they become too serious. This will make it easier to produce better devices for the marketplace and improve the user experience and service support.
We are looking to you for suggestions as to how else you’d like the URC platform to be used. No idea is too small and no dream too big - if you have an idea about other applications, we want to hear from you.
SBrick is not made by the LEGO Group. It is a product of our love and appreciation of playing with LEGO® bricks, with our ambition of adding value to the world matched with our dedication to excellence. LEGO® is a trademark of the LEGO Group of companies which does not sponsor, authorize or endorse us. It does not endorse, sponsor or authorize this product. We have developed it relying on the basic idea that innovation should be open as referred to in many articles about the success story of the LEGO Group. We will do our best to certify SBrick and we ask for your help in achieving this.
Risks and challenges
- Moving from 3D printing to injection moulding is one of the most
important steps in mass producing the SBrick. It will greatly cut down
on the production costs, as creating the right moulds is also the most
expensive step for us. We will not be satisfied with anything less
than achieving the standard you have grown accustomed to whilst playing with your favourite building blocks. We are in the lucky position that the standard for the
material properties of these blocks has already been established - we only
need to improve them a little to be able to deliver the perfect
- The electrical contacts need to be properly designed, tested and
mass produced. The hard tools used for manufacturing these are also
quite expensive and we need to order large quantities to be able to
get a good price. Because of the stair-top design, we need three
different cutting tools, and there's a chance we have to redesign the brick to employ uniform electrical contacts in order to cut the costs on
manufacturing and assembly.
- Sourcing the BLE chips: we plan on producing 2000 units in
the first 30 days, but can only place our order for the chips once
our campaign meets its initial funding goal. We’ve spent the last six
months building a close relationship with all our suppliers to meeting
- One of our greatest challanges is to ensure that our product matches the highest standards set by LEGO Group. With your support we hope to gain certification for the SBrick as we know the LEGO Group is open to innovation and believe our product would be a great fit for them.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
If you pledge for a SBrick please add 3 GBP for shipping.
Safety is at the foremost importance and we would rather be concerned about the safety of your mobile or tablet ;) We have added a child lock feature to the remote control app. This feature hides most of the complex settings and online features.
It is just as plug and play as you would want it from your favourite building blocks.
The SBrick can safely handle 1.5 Amperes per channel. The overcurrent protection of the chip will engage somewhere between 1.6 and 3.5 amperes.
The absolute maximum voltage is 12 Volts. The recommended maximum is 11 Volts. The minimal necessary voltage is about 4 Volts.
The SBrick has an advanced overcurrent and thermal protection. It can handle short circuits on the control lines. The power lines are directly connected to the power supply. Be careful with this if you're about to use custom unprotected LiPo batteries.
The SBrick's BLE module can measure voltage and temperature, so you'll be able to monitor the voltage of your batteries and the temperature inside the SBrick.
No, we don't plan selling battery packs. Yet. :)
We have a stretch goal codenamed "chip tuning". We would build a switching power supply into the brick that could keep the voltage at either around 9V (the voltage of the stock battery pack) or raise it to 11 volts (the maximum that can be safely handled by the chips and the Lego motors) even if the voltage of the battery pack is much lower, making it possible to get the most out of stock battery packs or custom
The increased voltage means increased current (Ohm's law roughly applies here), higher RPM and higher torque.
When using chip tuning, the motor power won't drop as the battery voltage falls with usage. However, the battery life will be shorter because of the greater current.
I see you support EV3 Large motor (I’m guessing with an adapter cable). Do you also support the EV3 M motor? What other kind of electronics do you support?
Any kind of device is supported that can be connected with a PF cable, and which doesn’t draw more current (even for a very short time) than 1.6 Amperes per channel. (The overcurrent trip value of the chip which drives the motors (inside the motors) is between 1.6 and 3.5 amps). While we did not test it with the EV3 M motor, it is very likely that it will work.
Lego's LED lights can be used: switched on-off or dimmed. You can even use the SBrick to power your own circuits: motors, lights, water or air pumps, as long as they are electrically compatible.
You say you control the motors’ power, so I guess you implement PWM. How many steps in each direction?
Yes, we implemented 1KHz PWM. It can be controlled in 256 steps including zero and full throttle in each direction. This can be a problem with servo motors, as they tend to "tremble" at certain PWM duty cycles. The mobile app can work around this by sending only "good" PWM levels to Lego servo motors.
Yes, we implemented coasting (both control lines "disconnected") and braking (both control lines shorted to the positive power rail).
The hardware interface only implements absolute speed settings, but it wouldn't be incredibly hard to create a control knob in an app that looks and works like and incremental control knob (like wheels on the "big" Lego IR controller).
Yes, we would like to release the bluetooth protocol, and allow 3rd party apps and control the electronics. If we reach the appropriate stretch goal on Kickstarter, we will integrate a "profile designer" into our app where you can assemble an arbitrary control interface, so you don't have to write an actual iOS / Android app if all you want is a different control interface.
Yes, we know about WeDo and thought about supporting the sensors. However we would need to redesign the circuitry completely. That can only happen if we have a lot of backers and a lot of resources. We will do our best to support WeDo in the future.
Since we have no inputs, "programming" will be something very simple. We currently thinking about the possibility of uploading a predetermined "waveform", and making outputs that follow that once or repeat it.
You could make a blinking Christmas tree, traffic lights or such, but due to the lack of inputs no really advanced programming will be available.
Since the BLE protocol will be open, anyone will be able to create a mobile phone app that controls the SBrick.
We are also experimenting with a solution where one could write programs that would run on the mobile device.
We officially support 16 SBrick connections to one phone, that means 64 channels.
This means you can control even the most complex Lego models in existence both in physical reality and in your imagination. :)
How many SBricks can coexist in a small area? Is interference from wifi, microwave ovens etc. a problem?
We have successfully operated as many as 10 devices simultaneously without any difficulties and despite the fact that the BLE protocol of the prototypes is rather naïve it can be optimised somewhat.
We also did not notice any interference from other bluetooth devices, wifi routers or microwave ovens :)
Pledge £5 or more
A regular coffee pledge. We will thank you for this and spend one more energetic hour making the SBrick even better.Estimated delivery:
Pledge £15 or more
Sexify your truck with trophy stickers! You will receive a set of SBrick stickers together with a signed thank you note from the SBrick team.Estimated delivery:
Pledge £29 or more
500 backers All gone!
A limited early bird special which guarantees you not only get one SBrick before anyone else, but you’ll also get it for less than than the eventual sticker price. So you pay less and get it quicker… how good is that?Estimated delivery:Ships anywhere in the world
Pledge £40 or more
This is the most important pledge of all! This "I want a SBrick" pledge will give you exactly that, namely one SBrick from the first production run.Estimated delivery:Ships anywhere in the world
Pledge £55 or more
32 backers Limited (968 left of 1000)
Stand out from the crowd with Collector’s Edition SBrick. Choose the colour you want from the hues available and get your hands on an SBrick which matches your style. Never blend in!Estimated delivery:Ships anywhere in the world
Pledge £70 or more
350 backers Limited (150 left of 500)
Construction Crane Set: receive 2 SBricks and our instructions how to install them into a 42009.Estimated delivery:Ships anywhere in the world
Pledge £120 or more
56 backers Limited (444 left of 500)
F1 Racer Set: receive 3 SBricks and our instructions how to install them into a 42000.Estimated delivery:Ships anywhere in the world
Pledge £180 or more
80 backers Limited (420 left of 500)
Receive our edition of the Volvo L350F Wheel Loader, aka the 42030S. This Wheel Loader will come with a SBrick together with instructions for how to integrate the SBrick to turn it from a regular 42030 into something much more fun! So for only £10 more than the RRP, you’ll get the latest model with everything you need to make it extra-special. We will even sign it for you! Add £20 if you would like to receive is assembled - although we don't know why you would want that :)Estimated delivery:Ships anywhere in the world
Pledge £280 or more
40 backers Limited (60 left of 100)
This is the LEGO® Trains "Diehard" fan pledge, the most effective one at the cheaper price per SBrick. :)
Receive 8 SBricks and get control of your ultimate train layout. Remote control up to 8 trains, or 32 layout devices (track switches, semaphores, etc), or any combination that better suits your train layout specifics.
As a bonus receive the instructions for our track switch and semaphore designs.Estimated delivery:Ships anywhere in the world
Pledge £300 or more
5 backers Limited (5 left of 10)
With this pledge you can become a Beta Tester for the SBrick. Not only will you get a prototype SBrick, but you will get instant access to our social network and profile designer, allowing you to start designing remote control profiles immediately. If the Kickstarter campaign is successful, we will also ship two SBrick units as soon as our production line is operational.Estimated delivery:
0 backers Limited (10 left of 10)
A URC Internet of things pledge. We did it for LEGO® and now we’re looking to see how we can perfect our URC for your products as well. With this pledge, we will find a way to work together with you to integrate our URC platform with you to make your products better! The internet of things is the future, so be a part of it!Estimated delivery:
- (30 days)