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Lego Mindstorms NXT Robotics Announced 190

Denver_80203 writes "Just when you thought Lego Mindstorms was grinding its last gear, comes the announcement of Lego Mindstorms NXT Robotics Toolset, with sleek servo motors, an ultrasonic sensor which allows robots to 'see' by responding to movement, a sound sensor which enables robots to react to sound commands (including sound pattern and tone recognition) improved touch and light sensors, and a and a programmable brick with at least 7 or 8 RJ11 type jacks. Robot fun! Out in August 2006, and in true Lego style will cost $249." Wired has a preview of the cover story about the new kit on their site.
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Lego Mindstorms NXT Robotics Announced

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  • looks sweet (Score:5, Funny)

    by User 956 ( 568564 ) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @10:30AM (#14399876) Homepage
    But why does it look like an ipod that's been assimilated by the Borg? []
  • I want to go a kick some Korean butt!! If I can program these guys for remote control I'm totally going to save thousands of dollars and spend that on programmers to teach this bot Pride Fighting. Oh, they are so going down!!!
  • by FooAtWFU ( 699187 ) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @10:33AM (#14399899) Homepage
    I guess it's about time to break out the theme music from Close Encounters of the Third Kind...
  • The original (and 2.0) version of their kit was massively popular, and it attracted a "geek base" of fans that wouldn't have accepted your typical "version 2.5". Props to Lego for realizing this and taking a little longer than most companies would to release the "right" product instead of the "quick" product.
  • by edwinolson ( 116413 ) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @10:34AM (#14399914) Homepage
    Or you might be interested in the OrcBoard robotic controller [], which is open source (schematics, layout, firmware, userland tools all GPL). It's being used by a number of robotics classes (6.188 [], 2.12 []), and a robotics competition (MASLab []) at MIT.

    It's a bit different than mindstorms in that it's designed to be used as a slave to a laptop or other more CPU-rich device. But you can use it in stand-alone mode too, if your robots are simple.

    (disclaimer: creator of orcboard)
    • by gatzke ( 2977 ) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @10:37AM (#14399939) Homepage Journal

      Nice, but most people here love RCX because we grew up with legos. RCX lets you get into the game without some crazy robotics boards / motors / computing stuff. Middle school kids can handle it.

      BTW, for everyone with small kids, Lego now has super big quatro legos, double the size of duplo legos which are double normal size. Quatro runs from 1-3, duplo usually starts at age 2+...
      • If a handful of sensors and limited expandability is okay, then by all means, go for mindstorms! You get a plastic-molded case that keeps kid's fingers off it, and a more or less foolproof system.

        At some point, you'll might be interested in doing something more serious or ambitious, which is where the OrcBoard comes in. If you're familiar with HandyBoards, the OrcBoard is designed as a modern replacement for them. Mindstorms is for a different audience.

        The most common type of robot that people use OrcBoards
        • For a system that costs about the same as mindstorms, you get a lot more capability.

          You're kiddding, right? The Mindstorms NXT kit will be sold for $250, while the OrcBoard costs $350 "in limited quantities", without any casing or sensors.

          Casing is a major problem for people that don't have access to the equipment required for PVC modelling.

          Additionally, the Mindstorms controller supports bluetooth communication, which is a very nice feature.

          • Casing is a major problem for people that don't have access to the equipment required for PVC modelling.

            How about access to a supermarket? Get a Rubbermaid or Tupperware sandwich container and some standoffs and you're off to the races with a fairly slick case for under $5 ($10-$15 for the Tupperware, but Tupperware has a stronger edge to the bowl part, which can be worth the extra cost).

            If you're worried about the "ghetto" look, cut properly sized round holes and use rubber grommets or small metal bulkhea
      • Here we go again.. what is it with Americans having to put an 'S' on the end of the word Lego every time they use it...
    • its basically an upgraded Handyboard...

    • The other day, I was thinking of removing the actual microcontroller in the mindstorm to change it for a Atmel AVR. It would be less powerful, but at least we could program in C instead of LabVIEW, and we could use all the new peripherals in that controller. But I never done it, and I guess a LabVIEW hack would be easier to realize.
  • Well... (Score:1, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    my wife is not going to be happy about this...
  • Zoom In! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday January 05, 2006 @10:37AM (#14399933)

    If you look at the high-resolution image [], you can see that it has 7 RJ11 jacks and one USB port (top right corner).

    The top three RJ11 ports look like servo outputs, the bottom four look like sensor inputs (though the fourth port is unnumbered; wonder why).

    • I was looking at this too. If you read down the description on the press release it says "Digital wire interface allows for third-party developments" and they do indeed look like some form of RJXX, which makes me quite curious as to just what "third party developments" might include.
  • by everphilski ( 877346 ) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @10:38AM (#14399945) Journal
    I know slashdot ran a story [] on what went wrong, but they are far from dead. There is the FIRST [] Lego Racing League, which is a robotics compeition for grade school kids across the country. (Which then evolves into higher level products as they advance into high school). Heck I know several kids whose got RIS2.0 sets for Christmas. The parents are tired of their kids only seeing computers as video game machines - these kits are an excellent segway between fun and programming. There are plenty of high school and college kids, even adults doing stuff with them too... for example Jin Sato [] there is an available C compiler, even a Real Time OS!

  • by Dareth ( 47614 ) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @10:41AM (#14399972)
    I'm sure plenty of patents on robotics and their associated "Intellectual Property" will need to be defended from this kit. Just imagine what young children might build and do with this without close guidance and supervision! They must learn to respect the intellectual rights of other people or companies. Otherwise, society will crumble and we will all have to go back to playing with Lincoln logs and tinker toys... with the appropriate license(s) of course.
  • I think the neatest Lego thing I've ever seen are this guy's bible stories. He's sold 3 books of them.

    The storytelling is great, and his sets are first class. It reminds me of a movie: []

    It isn't at all high-tech or technical. However, I'm guessing that digital cameras and the internet have allowed him to become very well known.

    I guess with the robot version, you could make an animation involving robots, which would be cool.
  • Software development (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    I really really hope they provide som sort of API to control it using other languages.

    I want to be able to write a program in maybe C#, Java, C++ compile it, translate it and then send it to the control unit.

    The old mindstorms biggest annoyance was the stupid interface, okay labview is a lot better but still not the same.
  • A major problem with LEGO robotics is that they are so much like Microsoft. They really make it difficult to add to the product. The only way I could make the origional kit interesting for kids was to script a Tk interface using Perl's RCX and NQC (not quite c) system calls via their IR tower. This off loaded the application program from the brick to a PC. I have BIG dobts that this particuar kit will simplify the programming with it's newest proprietary programming language (Photoshop like , so they sa
    • It has Bluetooth....does that help?
    • by lisaparratt ( 752068 ) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @11:03AM (#14400112)
      It's got Bluetooth, and they say it will be controllable from a host machine, be it a computer, a PDA, or a mobile phone. What more could you ask for?
    • There are actually many ways to program the original Mindstorms RCX. Although initially the only language was the one it came with, it was soon hacked. Languages were developed that took advantage of the default firmware (NQC), but many more were created that completely replaced the existing firmware. You could cross-compile C for it, and there was also a tiny Java VM that ran on it. Neither of these offloaded stuff to the PC.
    • it's newest proprietary programming language (Photoshop like , so they say)

      The programming language is LabVIEW [] from National Instruments. Its a "graphical" building block language. I haven't used it much, and not for several years. Its used mainly to interface with automatic test equipment to write tests for various equipment. I remember it being quite fun, if a little clunky.

      You have to remember that LEGO's products have to be accessible to children.

    • by morton2002 ( 200597 ) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @03:27PM (#14402793)
      I'll try to dispel some myths here without stepping on the toes of my former employer, National Instruments, which is working with LEGO on the software interface and programming environment for this product. I designed and built the compiler infrastructure (excepting the parser) for targeting the virtual machine running on the brick from a program built in the Mindstorms NXT software environment, so I speak with some authority (and little fear of reprisal as long as I stay within reasonable limits in discussing as-of-yet unpublished details :)).

      If anything, this product is designed to be more extensible than ever. They *want* third party providers to create new hardware and augment the software environment to support it. We built the brick's virtual machine with the understanding that the prior one was extremely limited for C-style programming languages that operate with a stack and a flat memory space. It is still more oriented with the highly parallel nature of the dataflow programming language kids will use, but this should only make things more interesting for the C/compiler hackers and enthusiasts out there.

      Finally, the entire compiler was written in LabVIEW itself, which is the dataflow programming language that the Mindstorms NXT programming environment is based on. The LabVIEW-based compiler can parse, analyze, optimize and generate code for other LabVIEW programs, so theoretically the programming environment provided by the product is all the enthusiast or third party needs to extend the product with new functionality. In reality, much of the API used by the compiler won't be initially available to everyone, mostly because that's not what the product is really about -- but this is mostly a matter of time and resources since they're on an aggressive schedule, and it's only a matter of time before they provide an SDK.

      They want this product to be accessible, and have nothing to lose by doing so. Fortunately this time however the underlying technology was designed to make this even easier after the product launches.

      One last request to NI is something that we discussed while I still worked there... Since NI is not ultimately a compiler company, I'd love to see the compiler open-sourced for anyone with access to LabVIEW or Mindstorms NXT. How 'bout it Joel? I've still got some G in me.

      -Robert Morton

      p.s. I left NI on very good terms, and I hope I didn't just undo that :) I'm at Intel now, focusing more closely on the types of performance analysis on which I am so keen, but NI continues to do amazing work, both for its customers and the community.
  • I fear the markets for these toy computers will be very marginal.
    The good old technics Legos were so much catchier in that you could easily create mechanical thinggies like cars, tractors, robots, gearboxes :-o etc. without having to pay $249.
    What I mean is, this is a pretty expensive price for a few sensors and servos that will get thrown in some toydrawer anyways.
  • Bluetooth! (Score:2, Informative)

    by cparisi ( 136611 )
    Bluetooth support is awesome. One of the things I did not like about the original was the IR transmitter.
  • I can't believe they have taken this long to get the next generation of this out. I really thought someone would pip them to the post and grab the market from them. The original mind storm kit was very impressive but it quickly had the smell of death around it. If it wasn't so damn expensive (and I didn't have plenty of other things to do) I would probably get one of these kits. I would like to see an advanced version that was a slave to a CPU rich device as well. Now that would be cool.

  • SNOT fans rejoice (Score:3, Informative)

    by unfortunateson ( 527551 ) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @11:07AM (#14400141) Journal
    Fans of SNOT (Studs Not On Top) Lego design will love this kit, because there aren't any studs. It looks like everything's designed to hook together with Technic axles and connectors, and no "basic brick" connectivity.

    When I was a FIRST Lego League coach, the designs often embedded motors, sensors, even the RCX as part of the structure. The latter was usually a bad, bad, idea, since you'd have to disassemble major parts of your bot to replace batteries, and during a competition, you'd replace batteries every other run.

    I welcome the sensor-laden motors, bluetooth, ultrasonic 'vision'... but I wonder if they've beefed up the programming any. Lack of backward compatibility is a surprise -- I've got a number of old sensors and motors.
  • from the article:

    There were plenty of strategic blunders behind the dismal results: a misguided foray into making PC software games, expensive licensing arrangements (chiefly with Disney), and designs that puzzled rather than entertained. "We had started to make fire trucks that look like spaceships, building systems that no customer could truly appreciate," says Mads Nipper, a Lego senior vice president. "We had to clean that up."

  • Let me tell you, I am buying this the minute it comes out. It looks like Lego really went to bat on the NXT, because they've address all of the problems I had with the original kits and then some. The addition of Bluetooth communication is going to revolutionize this kit as a teaching tool for robotics students, allowing for easy communication between robots for some incredible "Social robotics" experiments. And the price is unbelievable too! Most bluetooth kits are $100 alone. Bravo, lego!
  • Roomba Support (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Netzilla ( 249126 )
    It would be great if it supported the Roomba Serial Control Interface.

    Roomba Vacuum Robot Opens to Hackers 17/0814200&tid=216 []
    • You could probably attach a serial-to-bluetooth adapter, along with a MAX232 (if necessary), to the Roomba's SCI port. That should allow the NXT to talk to the Roomba. In fact, now I'm tempted to try this out...
  • Lego looks pale and boring in comparison to fischertechnik []. VW even built a complete plant using fischertechnik to verify their plan design (see here [], it's towards the end). They offer a driver in C, PASCAL, etc. They have IO extensions. Everything's there.
  • I loved the idea behind the first Mindstorms back when it was released in the late 90s. I have been looking at the Vex kits and other european kits(FischerTechnik). The one thing that I wonder is how easy is it going to be able to use the other Technic kits with this new system. They probably will wait to see how well this does before coming out with an offical expansion (ie treads). It would be awesome if they allowed the servos and sensors to be purchase through Lego Factory. Overall I think this is g
  • Robot Magazine [] has an article on the new brick [] as well of a movie of some robots in action [] created with the new kit.
  • by Spikeman56 ( 543509 ) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @11:38AM (#14400426) Homepage
    I grew up playing with RCX 1.0 and Wired seems to have somehow portrayed it as a failure...

        (From one of the images, I'm guessing of a magazine spread)

    "Building Blocks" - "Two-by-four" lego blocks vs. Technic Blocks a.k.a. Studless legos
    -Okay, firstly "Technic" was a brand of lego's geared towards the technological kids like me who liked to play with motors and buttons. Second, the RCX had 4 holes that could be used with studless legos anyway, all they did with this new thing was add a few more and take off the studs.

    "User Interface" - "Non-intuitive interface, RCX Code Commands, PC Only" vs "Intuitive GUI, drag-and-drop icons, PC and Mac"
    -Whoever said RCX 1.0 wasn't intuitive is crazy, programming with the RCX was about the most basic type of programming I've ever done in my life. You dragged little blocks around to configure the order of the program. You would drag, for example a "Wait Ten Seconds" green block over someplace and then put a "Turn the motor on" purple block right below it. Then you'd download it to your brick (okay, this was a little sketchy at times with IR) then turn it on, select the number of the program and press play. How much simpler could you get? Not to mention it had tutorials that showed everything down to animating how to put in the batteries.

    "Power" - "Two Motors" vs. "Three motors, redesigned for smoother operation"
    -Uh, actually the RCX could power up to three motors too, it just typically came with two.

    "Connectors" - "Two-wire analog cables" vs "Six-wire digital cables"
    -Well yeah, the more the better, but I'd imagine homebrew stuff is simpler than digital, I've never done any so correct me if I'm wrong

    I've always heard about Wired being sketchy about their reporting, grr...

    Nevertheless, it seems like a cool device, especially with bluetooth
  • The first Mindstorms set was really more of a toy then anything, no real robotic concepts could be created except things that mimicked walking or rolling with some pre-programmed commands. There were too few motors and feedback devices. Also the programming environment was definitely aimed at kids.

    Hopefully Lego will realize that adults love this kit too and perhaps even are aiming this new Mindstorms at older people with a more robust programming environment. Reading the press release they are already a
  • by LiLWiP ( 918943 )
    Johnny 5 IS ALIVE!!!!!!!!!! Legos are certainly much cooler than when I was a kid...
    When you want to type a double-quote use " instead
    Generated by SlashdotRndSig [] via GreaseMonkey []
  • Minus the fact that the robot pictured has legs versus tank treads, it's nearly a dead ringer for Number 5 from Short Circuit ( []). Well, that and they made him more appealing to the trendy crowd by fashioning his chest to look something like an iPod knock-off.

    "When LEGO MINDSTORMS launched, we fundamentally changed the way people viewed LEGO building and play and helped spark the trend of affordable and attainable consumer robotics," says Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, CEO,
  • Yeeeesssss, I will have my robotic minions do my bidding and rule the world!!!! Muahaha - Lego Robots! Attack!!!
  • EGO MINDSTORMS NXT will be available at most toy and discount merchandise retailers, select consumer electronics retailers or online at in August 2006 and will have a suggested retail price of $249.99 (USD) and $ 379.99 (CAD).

    Why is the Canadian suggested retail price 30% higher ($90!) than it should be, after currency conversion? The price in Canadian dollars should be about $40 more, not $130 more!

    249.99USD = 290.19CAD, not 379.00CAD

    What's up with that?

  • The inclusion of Bluetooth technology also extends possibilities for controlling robots remotely, for example, from a mobile phone or PDA.

    If I aam reading this right, it means you will be able to use the Bluetooth controller programmatically.

    This opens up a huge range of possibilities, including potentially offloading heafty computations to a bluetooth enabled PC. In combination with the ultrasonic sensor and audio sensor, you could make some *really* sophisticated stuff, in theory!

    • In truth, the old system could do the same thing with the IR device it came with. Its just that few people bothered to make anything complicated enough to warrant it. The same will happen here; certainly elementary and high school teachers will be ill equipped to use this functionality.
      • The applications with IR would be far more limited, since you're restricted to short-range and line-of-sight. Bluetooth has a longer range and is not line-of-sight - with a good setup and a couple of PCs you could have a robot that could maintain it's uplink through your whole house.
  • My wife finally came through and bought me an RIS 2.0 kit for punishment, Lego obsoletes it the moment I open it...bugger...

  • by cr0sh ( 43134 ) on Thursday January 05, 2006 @03:51PM (#14403060) Homepage
    I currently own an RIS, and I rarely mess with it (mainly because I have waaaay too many other projects to do so). I love Lego, ever since I was a child (one of my first real Lego kits was the Expert Builder crane - can't remember the number right now). When the RIS came out, I had to have it, so I bought it, and then later bought a couple of upgrade kits (the remote control/sensor pack and the expansion parts kits). But something always disappointed me, and the NXT seems to be the same way:

    Not enough I/O ports!

    On the NXT, if you look closely, you are still limited to three motor outputs (that fourth port on the controller at the "top" is for USB). As for inputs, there still seems to be a limit of 3 general purpose inputs, plus one extra "special" ultrasonic input (it is strange - they mark the other inputs on the controller brick, but leave the ultrasonic unmarked - I have to assume that it is meant for the ultrasonic sensor only).

    What if you want to hook up more sensors, or more motors? What if you want to hook up old sensors and motors, how do you do that? From what it appears, you can't - you can only hook up the same number of motors and sensors as the old RIS (minus the special ultrasonic sensor).

    This is what makes me wonder whether Lego is paying attention at all to the market they created. For anyone who has perused the websites of Lego RIS creators, they will quickly learn that there are a few things that these people want: more motor outputs and more sensor inputs (witness the number of people creating numerous schemes to allow multiplexing of the I/O space), a greater variety of sensor types (witness the number of people making and selling custom sensors), and an easy/efficient way to network the controller bricks.

    I will go further to say that there are many people who would love to see more than just motors - I know of some builders who have taken miniature pneumatic solenoid switches and converted them to allow them to control Lego pneumatics. How about a real Lego pneumatic pump (instead of having to build one from parts - although there are a ton of ingenious designs)? How about a Lego linear actuator (I have seen people build these too from Lego mini-motors and worm gears)? Why not a Lego stepper motor?

    Furthermore, all of this could have been built into the same four-stud plate electrical connector - even the new motors with their in-built rotation sensors could have used this (two wires for power, one or two for the sensor). You would have to maybe round/notch the corner of the plate to indicate "pin 1" (like an IC chip), and you would need to add some additional protection (maybe diodes or something) for n00bi3s who connect the lines wrong, but it could be done. Standardize the motor output pins on the place (and sensor input pins) to be the same as current motors and sensor hookups. If done right, all the old stuff could work with this system, and new parts, like the new motors and sensors, could be added as well. Or, go with the current RJ jacks, and add dongles to connect old sensors/motors (maybe they will do this - I can assure you if they don't, someone else will).

    Ultimately, at the minimum, they really need more I/O jacks for more motors and sensors, and a way to easily network the controller bricks. Perhaps the USB port will facilitate the networking of the controllers (?) - we won't know until people start playing with them. If Lego was smart, they would release a "super-controller" that had more I/O for those who want it and need it. It seems strange that the original Lego controllers developed at MIT had way more I/O capability than this new controller. There is no valid excuse, unless they just want to avoid confusion (which I can't understand, because they don't seem to understand that young kids are not really their target market for Mindstorms).

    For myself, I am finding that if I want to do any kind of real development of robotics, it is just best to stick to breadboards, a soldering iron, PIC controllers and/or BASIC Stamps, hobby R/C se

  • in true Lego style will cost $249

    That isn't bad considering that the current robotics set is $200 and isn't nearly as cool.

Statistics are no substitute for judgement. -- Henry Clay