I have 99 problems but a brick is not a brick…because Brickit uses AI to scan your Lego and give you building ideas. A genius idea for fools.
Lego and compatible building bricks have been causing controversy and consternation for years. A parent’s worst nightmare is walking on it barefoot. Should you keep the sets together or have bins in different colors and/or sizes? Can you use “a Lego” as a name or is it “a Lego brick”? And if you’ve lost all the instructions, what should you build?
As we know from “The Lego Movie,” there are purists who insist on following instructions robotically, and then there are freewheeling creative types. The Brickit app offers a third way.
The free app is available on iOS or Android. There is also a premium Pro option. At the time of writing, there was a seven-day free trial of Pro, after which it costs £3.58 per month or £42.99 per year.
Once the application is installed, lay out your bricks flat. First remove the large base blocks. Next, lay out your Lego well, so that each brick is visible.
Brickit uses the phone’s camera and two neural networks. The individual bricks are detected in the photo. The other tries to recognize everyone. These are both offline on the phone itself, for speed. Finally, it gives you a bunch of suggested builds, complete with instructions, pulled from the Brickit servers. Click on a brick in the instructions and the app shows you exactly where in your pile to find it.
The creators of Brickit claim that its recognition model is constantly improving. The free version recognizes the most popular 100 bricks, while Pro recognizes 1,600. The database of over 2,500 potential builds is the same for both versions.
Work to improve brick detection is underway, and Brickit has also recently launched a major user feedback loop: see a misidentified brick and you can report it, so the app can continually improve.
There is also a social aspect – you can upload photos of your own creations. The app’s creators decompile favorites and create building instructions for them, adding user-generated designs to the growing database of potential builds.
Technology is constantly evolving. The makers of Brickit say they’ve tried video, AR and more, but the current system is the best compromise between accuracy and speed. This is important because the app is intended for children under the age of seven. Read: short attention spans.
I’ve tried the app several times, with my large Lego collection and average attention span. I enjoyed the brick recognition process. It feels exciting and high-tech as it scans the stack of bricks. I liked the look of the 256 creations offered (classified by category). There’s also a ‘finder’ button so you can find specific bricks in your stack from a menu. But building was more frustrating. For example, I chose a cute angel to build, which didn’t seem too taxing.
The app duly showed me where to find the right bricks in my big pile…in fact, it showed me enough to build a whole choir of angels. If I needed two of a certain brick, it would tell me where to find all 12 in my collection. That was true most of the time, but of course he only sees the bricks from one side, so sometimes he’s wrong. He also cannot specify the color of the brick at this time. (So my angel turned out very strange – you can see it at the top of this page.)
The makers say that’s part of the fun: the app successfully directs you to about 75% of what you need and you have to improvise the remaining 25%. But if you’re under seven (or an adult accustomed to 100% working instructions), it can be frustrating.
Or it could be the third way, neither a goodie nor a baddie in terms of “The Lego Movie”. Children especially want to use their imagination and creativity, but may not know where to start. The app gives them a bunch of ideas to get them started. And help find coins in the pile.
I liked it but didn’t feel the need for the Pro version. The free app is quite good and the subscription model is too expensive. I would gladly pay £5 to recognize more bricks, to help fund its creation and continued development, and to avoid publicity. But I can’t imagine paying more than £40 a year for this privilege. I don’t need another subscription in my life.
Ideally, Lego will buy the app, keep it free, continue to improve brick recognition, and give you the option of paid access to a huge library of instructions. You can even choose a more complex construction and order the additional bricks you need. It would be the perfect way to bring the humble building block into the 21st century. Until then, get the free Brickit app and enjoy its simple genius. Just be careful where you step.
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