Hackaball is a throwable computer and connected toy which teaches kids the principles of coding while getting them away from the sofa and engaged in active play – all in one. We took on this project as a challenge to ourselves: design a complex product involving software, electronics and industrial design, raise investment and take it to market. Hackaball’s multi-award winning success proves that a small enterprise can overcome what would, just a few years ago, have been an Apple-sized problem.
Hackaball began as an intern project at Made by Many in 2013. We proved the original concept with a succession of working prototypes, then embarked on a successful Kickstarter campaign that broke its funding target by over 100% and raised almost a quarter of a million dollars. We shipped the finished product to over 2,300 delighted backers around the world at the end of 2016. Hackaball has been lauded in the press (with coverage in Wired, the Guardian, Engadget and Time, which named it one of the inventions of the year) and has won countless awards for product innovation, design and software engineering.
The initial aim of the project was to explore how to connect hardware and software in the field of play. The idea of reinventing the ball arose and over three years prototypes were made (using technologies such as 3D printing and Arduino), tested, learned from and remade. This project involved software, firmware, electronics and industrial design and the creation of a brand that appeals to both boys and girls. The finished product is a beautiful object that offers a compelling, unified and hackable experience which never fails to delight and entertain children, but has also filled a gap in Key Stage 1 computer education. Hackaball enables leaning at the same time as play, and its possibilities as an educational device are only just starting to be explored.
Meanwhile, the learning for Made by Many has been deep and wide, in particular concerning how to work with manufacturers in China, designing hardware in partnership with our industrial design associates (MAP Project Office), and how building IoT products is now possible for almost anyone.
With Hackaball, Made by Many has built a broad competency in the possibilities and processes of IoT design, manufacture and going to market; and we've done it in the hardest but most effective way: by simply doing it.
William Owen, Co-founder, Made by Many
Hackaball proves that the research, design and development required to get a product like Hackaball from concept to market-ready product is in the realms of possibility for any enterprise. Once this would have been an Apple- or Samsung-sized problem: no longer.