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Code your own camera? Kano's kid-friendly Kickstarter kit can

Kano, the startup that turned the Raspberry Pi into a Lego-like computer that teaches kids to code, is launching a Kickstarter campaign to fund three new computers.

The DIY Kano Camera Kit.

Sean Hollister/CNET

Kano has a different philosophy about computers. "Most of them are sealed up by these polished panes of glass, and people want to know how they work inside," says founder Alex Klein.

So in 2013, the startup turned the inexpensive Raspberry Pi into an award-winning kid-friendly computer by adding a simple picture-book instruction manual and Lego-like blocks of code so kids could teach themselves. They've sold over 100,000 so far.

Now, the company's moving beyond the Raspberry Pi with three new computers. They let kids (or adults) build a camera, LED display, or speaker they can program with the same blocks of code -- each with its own dials, buttons, sensors, and integrated rechargeable battery so you can take them on the go.

The Kano Pixel Kit.

Sean Hollister/CNET

Each has its own "Kano Brain" with a 1.2GHz ARM processor on a custom board, instead of a Raspberry Pi. Each Kano creates its own Wi-Fi network so you can log into a web portal to build and tweak your code, and share creations with other Kano users around the world.

Check out that ball bearing!

Sean Hollister/CNET

What can you do with a programmable camera, screen, or speaker that you couldn't do with a normal one? Klein had a bunch of ideas to start. With some simple code, he turned the ring of LEDs around the camera kit into a countdown timer, and the LEDs into a music visualizer by programming them to light up in response to sound.

Each of the kits comes with an extra sensor, too, like an infrared laser tripwire for the Camera Kit, so you can have it take a picture when someone passes by. The Speaker Kit comes with a gesture sensor, and the screen (Pixel Kit) with a low-tech tilt sensor (you can see the metal ball bearing inside).

Kano's Kickstarter campaign starts today, and you can take your pick of the three kits for $100 (about £77 or AU$130) during the campaign. (As always, there's a chance that Kickstarter projects won't succeed.)

The Pixel Kit, Camera Kit and Speaker Kit will each cost $130 (roughly £100 or AU$170) once they ship in January, May or July 2017 respectively.

The Kano Speaker Kit.

Sean Hollister/CNET