Google has revealed Project Bloks, a collection of toys that that physically represent computer code instructions like on/off and that can be joined together, enabling kids to learn to program through tactile play.

The Bloks research project was unveiled at the International Society for Technology in Education (ISTE) 2016 conference in Colorado, where 16,000 educators from around the world have gathered this week, including a number from Australia.

Bloks – which was co-developed by Google Research, a Stanford University researcher and Ideo – is an open hardware platform that anyone can use to “build physical coding experiences”.

What was shown off today was a prototype but Google hopes to further develop the concept in collaboration with educators, as the main target end users are kids.

There are three components in the Bloks system – a Raspberry Pi Zero-based “brain board”, “base boards” that connect to the brain, and “pucks” – physical representations of programmable commands – that sit on top of each base board.

By daisy-chaining a number of base boards to a brain, kids can create simple programs that can be used to control a variety of things.