"We live in an age where software rules," Nayar tells Co.Design. "That’s a good thing from my perspective. On the other hand, I’m a firm believer that we want the next generation to know how to build the stuff that software sits on top of."
Conscious that the prize of a camera itself could bribe kids into building one, Nayar carefully crafted the Bigshot to focus just as much on the educational journey as the entertaining destination. "I’ve put in things that I could use as an excuse for describing concepts," he tells Co.Design, like a hand-cranked power generator and the dynamo cover, which can explain electro-magnetics. "I’m using the camera as a draw, as a hook, as a bait."
By trade, Nayar isn’t a designer. (The professor concentrates on the science of computer vision.) But rather than tap a fancy consulting group for user insights, he picked a more organically grown focus group: his six-year-old son. "He would give me all these suggestions, often good ones and sometimes completely practical," Nayar says of his son, who is now 11. "The interesting thing was he was completely engaged."
Engagement is the impetus behind Bigshot's design, which is why Nayar isn’t offering any metrics on how well children are testing with Bigshot, or even what it is they’re learning. Be they driven by an interest in mechanics or a proclivity for the arts, Nayar just wants kids engaged. This is an important distinction between a project like Bigshot, and a company like LittleBits (who Nayar is quick to say he’s a fan of). Littlebits asks kids to be both inventor and programmer—to decide what it is they want to build. But by asking children to build a specific camera, Bigshot puts a known entity and goal into the users hands, making it an accessible toy for right-brained students.
Bigshot has always been a labor of love, and the plan from the beginning was to send Bigshots to kids overseas, in less developed locales, once the venture started to see profits (Nayar hasn’t chosen a specific country or region yet). In the meantime, this September, The Center for Arts Education is piloting a program to bring Bigshots to underserved communities in New York City. If it’s successful, they’ll scale to more schools.
Read more about Bigshot here.