To anyone (like me) who grew up playing with Legos, this is no revolutionary idea (or to someone, also like me, who just went through their nearly adult child's lifetime collection of Legos....man, we were indulgent with this "teaching toy"), the idea behind Smart Bricks is that giant Lego-like blocks could be used to build houses, building, and bridges.
Obviously, for a couple of generations now, Legos have been inspiring young architects and engineers the world over. In fact, Lego itself has been inspired itself in the last two decades by architects and engineers, offering Lego models of great constructions such as the Taj Mahal or the Eiffel Tower.
Now, enter Smart Bricks, developed by a company called Kite Bricks currently developing a modular construction system that is so much like Lego, I’m not sure what’s harder to believe: the fact that this is serious proposal, that it doesn’t infringe the toymaker’s patent, or that no one has done it yet. The patent (pending) for their "Smart Bricks" reads like a legally binding contract for a particularly prescriptive playdate:
"a first plurality of building blocks in a line, wherein the line defines the base of a wall of the structure and wherein the blocks have top sides that includes first joining features, bottom sides including a complementary second joining features....placing a second plurality of building blocks on top of the first plurality of building blocks, wherein the second plurality of buildings blocks are secured to the first plurality of buildings blocks through joining features..."
If you watch the video provided by Kite Blocks at the top of this post, this patent language is more clearly imaginable.
Compared to current concrete blocks or bricks, Kite Blocks' product offers greater thermal energy control, lower construction costs and greater versatility. The specially formulated concrete blocks are designed to be easily connected and include an internal space for the building’s insulation, mechanical, plumbing and electrical systems. Removable panels make it easy to install and access the building’s infrastructure. They can be easily assembled with just a little industrial double-sided tape and fit with custom finishing, so, like Lego, there’s “no additional need to paint, hang wallpaper or otherwise treat the outer and inner walls of the final structure." This is all better explained by the following promotional video, according to which, one day Smart Bricks will be installed by robots. Of course, it may make any area constructed with Smart Bricks look like a scene from Minecraft (or your last visit to Legoland) - an idea that may have great attraction in promise and disappointment upon fulfillment. But I digress...
Kite Bricks even have that giant flat Lego base - you know the one I'm talking about..the thing that made its easier to get construction started but you had no way of actually storing it save shoving it under your bed. No plans yet for snap on trees.
All that being said, however, Kite Bricks’s Ronnie Zohar told Wired that Lego actually had nothing to do with the development of Smart Bricks. Rather, Zohar was interested in finding an affordable, modular construction system that could be “the solution for building from Africa to Manhattan.” The project is still in the prototyping phase so its hard to know if its efficiency claims are true and more funding is needed to bring it to market. But it does send the mind of a Lego inspired builder reeling into the possibilities of modular construction based on a concept with which we are all well familiar. And withe Minecraft already training the next generation of designers, the CAD/CAM design tool is well beyond the prototype stage.