It’s the frustration of many a designer: You grow up sketching and making with your hands, only to find yourself 20 years later spending the day in front of a glowing screen. The reality is, building in 3-D requires doing a lot of 2-D work first. Much of this is for practicality’s sake; in the early stages of design, it makes little sense to build a physical model when you can so easily revise and redo with the click of a button.

But what if you could build your design in real life, then tweak it virtually? That’s the idea behind Lego X, which uses networked plastic bricks to build digital 3-D files.

Lego X comes from the same team of designers behind Gravity Sketch, the bonkers Oculus Rift program that lets you draw in 3-D using augmented reality. We’re still waiting for that, but you can see the parallels with Lego X. Both projects bridge the gap between the digital and physical worlds by making the act of designing more tactile. While Gravity Sketch achieved this using virtual reality, Lego X taps something more basic: Our desire to play with toys.

The underside of each brick (they’re Duplo, not Lego, but Duplo X doesn’t have the same ring) has a sensor and a gyroscope, which allow the toys to communicate wirelessly with each other and the software. As you stack one brick atop another, a rendering appears on your tablet in real time. Once you have your digital file, you can modify it to remove the nubs from the bricks, smooth corners, add windows and make other mods to ensure your design look less like blocks and more like a skyscraper.

You might wonder if it isn’t faster to simply design with software from the start. Yes, in some cases. But the Gravity team believes there’s much to be gained from being able to actually build something. “Our understanding of tools and how they relate to the material were transforming is something that dates back to almost stone ages,” says Oluwaseyi Sosanya, one of the designers. Looking at a perspective drawing, for instance, isn’t the same as adjusting a cantilever by adding another brick. Tactility, more so than software, can encourage collaboration and a deeper understanding of just what you’re trying to create. Imagine a group of architects sitting around a table, bricks splayed out before them. Instead of emailing digital files back and forth, each can grab a brick and watch as the design changes. “That’s our dream vision for how it would be used,” says Sosanya.

Ultimately, Lego X is just another tool, a means to get an end. But it hints at an exciting future for designers and doodlers alike. Technology is approaching the point where we can tie the physical and digital together in a way that helps sidestep cumbersome in-between stages. We saw this same idea in Unfold’s wooden measuring tools, which automatically modify digital files. Another example of this interaction is Tangible Play’s Osmo, a toy that uses physical tiles as game pieces on a tablet game.

Read more: Software That Turns Your Lego Masterpiece Into a Digital Building

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