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Lego to Open Mindstorms NXT Firmware

Hemos posted more than 7 years ago | from the arise-from-your-grave-oh-plastic-brick dept.

138

ajdlinux writes "LEGO has officially announced that the firmware for the Mindstorms NXT will be open source. They will be releasing several developer kits and the firmware source during August, the kits containing the NXT driver specs, the schematics for the hardware connection and the Bluetooth protocol used by the NXT. The NXT will be only US$250, which is only slightly more expensive than the Mindstorms RIS2 kit. I certainly can't wait. " We had covered the earlier announcement of this kit.

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138 comments

Mail to daddypants sent 5 minutes ago.... (5, Informative)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 7 years ago | (#15244201)

The link is incorrect.

You have trimmed the spaces from the name.

correct one is: http://mindstorms.lego.com/press/2057/Open%20Sourc e%20Announcement.aspx [lego.com]

liquidcoooled

Re:Mail to daddypants sent 5 minutes ago.... (-1, Redundant)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 7 years ago | (#15244224)

Indeed.

I emailed bigdaddy sometime ago to let them know the link was broken, but it looks like someone's asleep at the wheel.

Here's my link to the press release [lego.com]

Re:Mail to daddypants sent 5 minutes ago.... (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15244226)

No mention of the license.

OMFG BARBIE 2 OPEN SAUCE BAR-B-Q DREAM PATIO (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15244206)

why just lego in this space? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15244230)

Is robotics such a tiny market that only Legoi is in here? What about mechano ? Or similar type companies .. i guess because the mindstorms wasn't super successful we have this lack of players in the amateur robotics market.

Re:why just lego in this space? (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15244287)

Indeed. What about the cool kits from fischertechnik [fischertechnik.de] (or from their US branch [fischertechnik.com])? They have many nice toys in their "computing" series.

Re:why just lego in this space? (4, Informative)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 7 years ago | (#15244361)

They are not the only one. Radio Shack is one of the current vendors of the VEX product line of robotics and beginning robotics.

I find the VEX line a bit more fun as it's easier to toss the controller after you get to the more advanced stages and use a 68hc11 or other processor on a dev board for more fun and real brobot action... but then that is a small step away from building one from scratch which makes the VEX a really nice way to ease a child into the world of real robotics wher you fabricate and build most of the machine from parts.

Because the VEX uses standard aircraft servo connectors it's easy to get their sensors and parts to a homebrew processor.

Re:why just lego in this space? Are you kidding? (2, Interesting)

MeBadMagic (619592) | more than 7 years ago | (#15246024)

>i guess because the mindstorms wasn't super successful we have this lack of players
>in the amateur robotics market.

Your kidding right? Mindstorms !IS! SUPER successful! It was so successfull that it created a hacking community that also was so successful that LEGO involved them in the development of updates, as well as this NXT kit. To give the OP some credit, I too had no idea of the success of this kit until I got involved. I hadn't heard about FLL. I didn't know that there are 2 versions of the NXT kit. One for retail, the other for education. I was blown away by all the brainpower LEGO involved from the community to help with this project. From educators, to engineers and everyone in between. There are 3rd party projects that mix this. I believe the success of this kit was inevitable, regarless of the communities participation. Then to embrace the hacker community as well as professional (educators, FLL clubs, competitions, etc.) just made it happen even sooner. There have been development projects to enable the use of other parts and robitic kits. There have been developments for using 3rd party robotic sensors and motors. I for one worship my new robotic overlords!

B-)

Kids today I tell ya... (3, Interesting)

DaHat (247651) | more than 7 years ago | (#15244239)

Getting to play with all of these these new fangled toys at such a young age... robotic lego sets, the internet, cell phones, instant messaging... boy am I feeling old... and yet I'm only 25!

Re:Kids today I tell ya... (1)

XXIstCenturyBoy (617054) | more than 7 years ago | (#15244273)

Children? What do childs have to do with that?

I got my set preordered 2 weeks ago. Even if its 100$ more for canadian customers.I wish I got a boy instead of 2 daughters now :) (Not really. Cause i'd have to share me new lego!)

Re:Kids today I tell ya... (1)

EnglishTim (9662) | more than 7 years ago | (#15244336)

Interesting. All my daughters think Lego Mindstorms is pretty neat.

Re:Kids today I tell ya... (1)

Nogami_Saeko (466595) | more than 7 years ago | (#15247027)

That $100 really frosts me... The exchange rate is $0.90 Cdn to $1 US right now, so the actual price should be $275 Cdn.

If I want that kit, I'll pop across the border and pick it up - not buy from Canadian retailers...

N.

Re:Kids today I tell ya... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15244994)

how do you think I feel ... I'm 28!

Bluetooth? (4, Interesting)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 7 years ago | (#15244254)

The Bluetooth Developer Kit will detail the Bluetooth protocol embedded in the NXT microprocessor, allowing users to create applications for any Bluetooth device that [????] them to communicate with MINDSTORMS robots.
So does this mean LEGO is or isn't using 'normal' Bluetooth commands?

By default, would I be able to control the sucker from my cellphone? Or is that something they have to specifically program into the control software?

Re:Bluetooth? (1)

Crizp (216129) | more than 7 years ago | (#15244303)

I would think that Bluetooth HID is a bit limited to be used for the purpose of controlling a robot. Most likely you'd need to create a Java app (or whatever your phone can run) to interface with it using a custom command set over the Bluetooth connection.

Re:Bluetooth? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15244411)

normal bluetooth commands??? what the hell are those?

Last I knew bluetooth was a communication protocol and transport and what you did with it dependson the hardware and software.

My cellphone can't talk to a Bluetooth RS232 adapter or printer, yet those talk "normal bluetooth commands" and my laptop happily talks to them..

Bluetooth audio devices are not windows XP compatable without special software to "fix" the broken XP audio device drivers. so XP is not compatable with normal bluetooth commands as well...

I strongly suggest you learn about bluetooth and what it really is before you start worrying about a toy's compatability with your cellphone.

Re:Bluetooth? (2, Informative)

Trejkaz (615352) | more than 7 years ago | (#15244666)

The grandparent poster was probably talking about standard Bluetooth HID. HID should be more than enough to control a robot (since you can basically represent any given joystick as a human interface device.) However, I doubt most phones' limited HID interface would offer nearly enough control for anything serious.

Then again, I thought most of the point of robotics was to make the things able to control themselves with a minimal amount of wetware.

Re:Bluetooth? (1)

MeBadMagic (619592) | more than 7 years ago | (#15245401)

A toy's compatibility with a cell phone is a nice thing, and by all means should be worried about at the time of purchase of the cell phone. I don't know who you service provider is, but if it is a Verison phone, you can pretty much blame them for crippling it. Some providers like Verison, cripple the BT and other communications to the phone so they can charge you for using hardware that you own. Buyer be ware. I have a BT phone (non Verison) that I just LOVE! Being a M$ avoider, I am able to use my BT to do anything. In fact, it was much, much easier to use my SuSE 10.0 BT than XP. I just turned my phone on, paired the device and used the obex file transfer to move my music, videos, pictures, to and from my PC.

Re:Bluetooth? (2, Insightful)

Ohreally_factor (593551) | more than 7 years ago | (#15244561)

That's so pedestrian. Better to get a bluetooth dongle for your computer, and then control it from anywhere the world.

Re:Bluetooth? (2, Insightful)

Rob the Bold (788862) | more than 7 years ago | (#15245071)

Obviously there is a copy-editing problem with that press release.

I think that the Bluetooth HID profile would be a good choice. It is intended for:

Computer keyboards and keypads

Trackballs, mice, and other pointing devices

Game controllers (gamepads, joysticks, steering wheels, etc.)

Battery operated sensors (temperature, pressure, security, etc.)

Simple alphanumeric remote displays

Universal remote controls

Bar code scanners

(From Bluetooth.org)

Unfortunately, most cellphones aren't gonna support that profile. They usually use Headset and/or Handsfree, and maybe Object Push for phonebook syncing and Serial Port Profile because it's already in the chipset firmware.

If they use SPP (the lowest level useful profile), all PC Bluetooth adapters have that profile, so you could control it from a custom app on your computer or PDA. Or a terminal program for true masochists.

Re:Bluetooth? (3, Informative)

MeBadMagic (619592) | more than 7 years ago | (#15245247)

There are several ways you can use
Bluetooth with the NXT. It can be used to send commands the NXT directly. It functions as a Bluetooth Serial port. The commands are well documented. One of the MDP's has already started / developed a java app for cell phones that can function like a remote control for the robot. The NXT programming software can use the Bluetooth to communcicate with the NXT(s) so you don't have to have a USB cable attached to it the whole time. So far, the Bluetooth stack that is supported is the Widcomm and MS stacks. There is a growing list of confirmed adapters from all over the world that work with the NXT. I myself am a MDP, and can attest to the ease of use for Bluetooth. Each NXT can have 2 connections. One in, and one out. You can chain these things together to have a series of NXT's all controlling each other if you wished.

B-)

What license? (4, Interesting)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 7 years ago | (#15244274)

I can see no mention of the actual license in the press release (or anywhere on the mindstorm site for that matter).

Lego saying its Open Source is all well & good, but that means nothing. It may not be an OSI approved license - but even if it is, the differences between BSD - style "open source" licenses and gpl style "open source" licenses is huge.

Anyone know what the license actually is?

Re:What license? (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15244325)

From your .sig:

Inevitabley, all discussions about digital music lead to the ipod. Consider it a fanboyist godwins.
-wmf


Better watch out, or the apple Boy-Army will be out for u.

ObOnTopic: I think we can be fairly sure the Lego license will be OSI approvable .. wouldnt make any sense otherwise cause people will make a fuss about it.

Re:What license? (1)

Whiney Mac Fanboy (963289) | more than 7 years ago | (#15244447)

Better watch out, or the apple Boy-Army will be out for u.

Don't you worry - I am very respectful of the Whiney Mac Fanboys ;-)

Re:What license? (1)

Ohreally_factor (593551) | more than 7 years ago | (#15244534)

Goddamn right! Otherwise we'd drum you out of the apple boy-Army, and you'd have to sip your latte all by your lonesome.

from my experience of 'the man' (1)

a.d.trick (894813) | more than 7 years ago | (#15244376)

They probably haven't decided. Here's a likely senario.

  1. Some of the techies that were working on the code thought it would be really cool if it they open sourced it. So they bugged their superiours about it.
  2. Then a while later after enough bugging, someone up above heard the plea, although he probably barely knows what open source means, much less what it entailes, or the various different kinds of 'openness'.
  3. Eventually after enough mind-numbing banter among the executives the idea of free code monkey-slaves slounded good, they tell the marketdroids.
  4. These marketdroids, who probaly think 'GNU' is some sort of freek typo, knock up the press release you just saw.

Re:What license? (4, Insightful)

FrankDrebin (238464) | more than 7 years ago | (#15244398)

saying its Open Source ... means nothing

I take your point about reserving opinion until we see the actual license. But so long as hobbyists get sources, who much cares? Lego is at least appears to be learning from the previous Mindstorms go-around and the Sony Aibo debacle. Vast majority of us just want to play with Mindstorms, so opening up the sources in any planned sense cannot be a bad thing, can it? What am I missing?

Re:What license? (1)

marcosdumay (620877) | more than 7 years ago | (#15244916)

"What am I missing?"

I can see 2 possibilites that will make it useless, the need of an NDA, and a license that forbids you from modifying the programs. Also, forbiding the exchange of paths (and the ideal exchange of all the code) will make it much less usefull.

Re:What license? (1)

FunkyELF (609131) | more than 7 years ago | (#15244551)

I'm not familiar with the different kind of open source licenses.

If we're talking about legos, what would the difference licenses mean to the end user.

If someone made modifications to the firmware to make the thing change channels on TV could he release it as a binary without source and charge people money depending on which license the original firmware was released under?

Could someone come up with different scenerios for what would be allowed / not allowed under these different types of OS licenses....

Thanks,
~Eric

Re:What license? (2, Informative)

IpalindromeI (515070) | more than 7 years ago | (#15245195)

Here's the short version.

BSD License: You can do basically anything.

GPL License: You can do basically anything, but you must make your modifications available.

Re:What license? (2, Insightful)

richlv (778496) | more than 7 years ago | (#15245428)

GPL License: You can do basically anything, but you must make your modifications available. ...if you distribute them.
which can be pretty important for companies who see a value in keeping the changes in-house.

Re:What license? (1)

hotspotbloc (767418) | more than 7 years ago | (#15244619)

the differences between BSD - style "open source" licenses and gpl style "open source" licenses is huge.

(insert opinion here)

So very true. Personally, as much as I love the GPL, I think it should be released under a BSD or MIT style license and let someone fork it to GPL. The GPL people win from the BSD code that is released and the BSD coders win since they can sell limited amounts of their finished product.

Using both licenses can benefit all.

If only... (5, Interesting)

VorpalRodent (964940) | more than 7 years ago | (#15244275)

I haven't played with legos for years, but I've heard of these things.

Just look at that robot on that homepage. Imagine all the things that it can do. Why, if Lego scaled up all its parts, I bet it could take on ASIMO easily.

But seriously, if more work were put into developing things like this - toys such that everyday people with some ingenuity and some creativity could program their own robots, I believe that we would have a lot more ideas as far as where to take robots.

Right now, major robotic undertakings seem to be limited to those with the research capital and funding to make them happen. If this were the thing that was researched, I would think that we would be seeing a lot more cool stuff developed as a result.

Especially with the release of the firmware as open source. Lego is just inviting people of all capabilities to work with it.

Re:If only... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15244718)

If You're looking for some more cool lego robots, check out first lego league. http://www.usfirst.org/jrobtcs/flego.htm [usfirst.org]

On the subject of cool consumer robotics products, the VEX kits from radio shack are pretty cool.

Or, if you're into some really beefy robots and are willing to put out a couple thousand dollars, check out innovation FIRST's robotics website http://www.ifirobotics.com/ [ifirobotics.com]. I'm a FIRST robotics mentor, and we use IFI's parts to build some pretty beefy robots in the 130 lbs range, im sure it could easily be adapted to anything you're looking for though, as long as you're using 12v motors.

Re:If only... (1)

MeBadMagic (619592) | more than 7 years ago | (#15245703)

>Just look at that robot on that homepage. Imagine all the things that it can do.
>Why, if Lego scaled up all its parts, I bet it could take on ASIMO easily.

There is nothing stopping you from building ASIMO already. There is a "walker" robot that is buildable in the kit when it comes. It is an amazing robot and by simply building it, I have learned more about robotics that I thought I could in a year. Really. I've always wanted to get involved with robotics from watching things like robot wars, and the ASIMO and the like. When LEGO put out the invitations for participate in the Developer Program, I about hurt myself applying. From playing with this kit, and like the OP, I hadn't played with Legos for years. I was TOTALLY BLOWN AWAY to say the least. This is so far above and beyond what I thought was possible, it almost brings a tear to my eye. My 12yr. old son (who is an avid lego builder) was able to build all the models in the directions and program them for the functionality you may have seen in preview videos, even in the Beta stage. This kit has really open up our minds and gotten the creative juice flowing. Now, if I could just find a way to make money building LEGO's, I wouldn't have to leave the Apt. I could just send my robot shopping for me!

Trust me. LEGO has put sooooo much effort into this kit it is ridiculous. They have been working closely with the hacker community (for years now) preparing for this release. I can guarentee that when you get this kit, you STILL won't realize all that can be done with it. I've had it for over a month, and still stay up nights with ideas going through my head. Then I find out about things like FLL and most recently this whick looks like allot of fun.

>But seriously, if more work were put into developing things like this - toys such
>that everyday people with some ingenuity and some creativity could program their
>own robots, I believe that we would have a lot more ideas as far as where to take
>robots.

So I agree with the OP. I am for sure going to be considering real world robotic solutions to some of the projects I work on. Especially since it is now doable to prototype just about any proof of concept with this kit.

B-)

A whole new world.... (1)

ezratrumpet (937206) | more than 7 years ago | (#15244319)

For all those software parents who were left in anguish by the mechanical engineer parents: your time has come! The next season of Lego League competition promises your children (and you) boundless opportunities for the super-hacked LegoBot.... Kudos to Lego for going open source on this.

Perfect! (3, Funny)

suv4x4 (956391) | more than 7 years ago | (#15244320)

All these years wondering where those robot armies to enslave the human race will come from, and now we know they started as a bunch of LEGO models.

Re:Perfect! (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 7 years ago | (#15244435)

All these years wondering where those robot armies to enslave the human race will come from, and now we know they started as a bunch of LEGO models.

Given a supply of lego it should be possible to build a lego robot which can build new lego robots. I wonder if I should give it a go...

Re:Perfect! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15245648)

LEGO == Mr. StayPuff ?

Does Nintendos new controller use bluetooth (2, Interesting)

majortom1981 (949402) | more than 7 years ago | (#15244323)

Does Nintendos new controller use bluetooth. Imagine getting that to work to controll your robot.

Re:Does Nintendos new controller use bluetooth (1, Offtopic)

Silmeria (972282) | more than 7 years ago | (#15244514)

That would be the ps3 and where they get rediculed for having an odd number of controllers. What those people dont get is that just because bluetooth supports up to 7 controllers, it doesnt mean that is the only input it will take or they all have to be controllers. (some could be cameras, dancemats, arcade sticks etc..)

Re:Does Nintendos new controller use bluetooth (3, Interesting)

Trejkaz (615352) | more than 7 years ago | (#15244744)

Strictly speaking the limitation is 8 devices per network, so it doesn't matter what kind of devices they are. The limit is 8 for a net, and one of those is the master. Of course, nothing stops you having five Bluetooth devices in a single device, for a total of 28 peripherals.

That being said, I have a hard enough time finding three players to play a four player game. Can you really imagine trying to find seven players for an eight player game? Not to mention some sucker with a lounge room spacious enough to seat them all.

Great news (4, Informative)

LarsWestergren (9033) | more than 7 years ago | (#15244330)

I think I'm going to have to get one of these soon. I haven't seen any of these nifty Lego toys for adults in any shops in Sweden (for instance) but there are many shops in Europe you can order from online.

If you are heading for Java One this year, there is this interesting seminar:

BOF-0503: Java(TM) Technology in an Intelligent Swarm of Heterogeneous Lego Robots :This session reports on continuing work on developing Java(TM) technology for use in university-level robotics. It focuses on the issue of creating cost-effective and easily programmed intelligent robot swarms (n>10). Interesting swarms are composed of heterogeneous robots, but this quickly complicates programming. The presenters previously simplified the heterogeneous programming problem by using I/O tagging and reported on this at the 2005 JavaOneSM conference, in TS-1464. This presentation describes how they have successfully created a swarm of heterogeneous robots, based on Lego mechanical components, sharing a common code base, with a variety of non-Lego sensors.

PC/MAC (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15244331)

Hardware AND an OS makes a platform.

For what OS will the development tools be availlable on the PC?

Re:PC/MAC (1)

MeBadMagic (619592) | more than 7 years ago | (#15246579)

The ones on the CD will be PC/Mac. However, LEGO had invovled over 100 community folks to prepare all known previous offerings (of the OSS / Linux / 3rd party variety) as well as develop new ones (Java command based remote control, Linux Firmware update/installers, etc.) to be readily available when this comes to market. In fact, they are ready now so one could even expect a little polish.

B-)

A strategy to win the geek audience? (1)

suv4x4 (956391) | more than 7 years ago | (#15244335)

They're either trying to win over the geek population or maybe hope their LEGO models will help the progress of human kind.

I vote for the former, in which case I suspect the next in line will be the sex slave LEGO-bots.

You are correct sir (4, Informative)

technoextreme (885694) | more than 7 years ago | (#15244506)

They're either trying to win over the geek population or maybe hope their LEGO models will help the progress of human kind.

Actually, this was Lego's plan all along. They obtained the help of the most crazed Mindstorms hobbyists to help them design the product line. This wired article is probably the best one that involved the process behind creating the line.
http://www.wired.com/news/culture/0,69946-0.html [wired.com]

Re:You are correct sir (1)

richlv (778496) | more than 7 years ago | (#15245176)

woot. and indeed i hope they succeed.
i am thinking about getting a bunch of lego products (i didn't have them when i was a child ;) ), and was very intrigued by robotic branch - but as a linux user (and with basically no coding skills) i was turned away by the windows-only software.

hopefully open stuff (if concerns raised above regarding license are resolved) will result in nice apps for linux platform, too.

and if it all goes well in that direction, i know i'll be getting heavy beating if somebody discovers the price of these things ;)

Won't the pointy corners hurt? (1)

spun (1352) | more than 7 years ago | (#15245511)

I vote for the former, in which case I suspect the next in line will be the sex slave LEGO-bots.
Ouch. Then again, they do make every other kind of special purpose piece...

does it? (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15244375)

But does it run linux?

Visual Studio Express (5, Informative)

adolfojp (730818) | more than 7 years ago | (#15244430)

You can already program these toys with the free editions of the Visual Studio software.
http://www.windowsfordevices.com/news/NS4127455334 .html [windowsfordevices.com]

Why, oh why didn't we get to have toys like these in out childhood. :-(

Re:Visual Studio Express (1)

KilobyteKnight (91023) | more than 7 years ago | (#15244482)

Why, oh why didn't we get to have toys like these in out childhood. :-(
One of the advantages of having a kid... you have an excuse to buy them now. My son will be getting one of these. :)

Re:Visual Studio Express (1)

MeBadMagic (619592) | more than 7 years ago | (#15245327)

The NXT has something for everyone. I have been testing the NXT for the last month. My 12 year old son and I have had a blast with this kit. He loves to do the building / modifying, and I like more of the programming challenges. Together we make a great team. I never knew about the FLL until I started in the MDP program. Now I plan on not only getting my son involved in FLL, (if we even have it here) but am willing to participate myself or start one if need be. If there was ever a tool (ok, toy) that was just as much fun for the parent as the kid, this is it! Of course there are the toys that are MORE fun for the parent, like when I bought my 3yr. old a N64 for x-mas, but those aren't so easy to justify with the significant other...... If you know what I mean.

Even in beta form, the models and instructions and programming were something my 12 yr. old was able to figure out on his own. Lego certainly has hit the mark with this kit!

Re:Visual Studio Express (1)

Pike (52876) | more than 7 years ago | (#15247175)

because they cost too much.

Re:Visual Studio Express (1)

adolfojp (730818) | more than 7 years ago | (#15247301)

Come to think of it, you are absolutely right. Had this been available in the times of my childhood, my parents could not have afforded it.

Linux (0, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15244442)

So how long is it gonna take until someone gets linux running on one of these babies when they drop out...

Is it just me? (2, Interesting)

thebdj (768618) | more than 7 years ago | (#15244492)

Or does the "Head" of the NXT remind others of Johnny 5 from Short Circuit?

In any event, this sort of toy just makes me warm and fuzzy inside. Nothing like some Legos and a microcontroller to make the electrical engineer in me happy.

Re:Is it just me? (1)

oddeirik (970950) | more than 7 years ago | (#15246538)

Short Circuit, that's it! I've been wondering what that movie's called, but just couldn't remember anything except for how that robot looked. God, it's been close to 15 years since I saw that movie. And yes, the head does remind me of Johnny 5.
As for the article, this'll hopefully make for a fast release of leJOS for the NXT. Well, and other 3rd party firmwares and too ofcourse. Wise choice, Lego.

NXT Open Source Robot AI Platform (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15244658)

Forth for Mindstorms [hempeldesigngroup.com] was created by Ralph Hempel, one of the select few superusers invited by Lego to participate in the NXT design.

Robot AI Mind.Forth [sourceforge.net] specifically lists the Lego NXT as a candidate platform for installation of the robot AI Mind.

Standards in Artificial Intelligence [blogcharm.com] officially lists the Lego NXT as an accepted standard platform in view of robot AI.

sigh (1)

Trailer Trash (60756) | more than 7 years ago | (#15244676)

"When we launched the legacy MINDSTORMS platform in 1998, the community found ways to do these things on their own, and we were faced with the question of whether to allow it, which we decided to embrace and encourage."

No, you weren't faced with that question. You had no legal, ethical, or moral basis (emphasis on "legal") to "disallow" people from doing whatever they wanted to their own piece of hardware.

What, exactly, is so difficult to grasp about this situation? I'm glad that sane people prevailed, as the programming tools that came with the original brick were a bit lame and the open source stuff that grew up around it rocked. But it should be self-evident that getting a community to write your code is cheaper and results in better code in the end.

Re:sigh (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15244964)

You are incorrect. Intellectual property protection is a critical component of today's market. LEGO spent the money to design and develop that product, which gives you NO RIGHT to go in and modify. If your insane ideas about IP were to be allowed, the amount of innovation in the market would be reduced significantly as corporations stop investing in product development. Honestly, people like you should really think a little harder to understand a topic before you talk about it.

Re:sigh (1)

SMQ (241278) | more than 7 years ago | (#15245513)

You are correct that they had no leagl basis to hinder individual experimentation, but there were many avenues open to TLG (The Lego Group) to stifle the disemination of experimenters' information. There can be little doubt that much of the hobbiest effort infringes many of TLG's copyrights (firmware source code, circuit schematics, etc.) or, more importantly, that implementing many of the hobbiest projects infringes on patents held by TLG, and I'm not talking "IP" or software patents, but honest how-sensors-work type engineering patents.

Other than one project which was asked to change its name for trademark reasons (a custom firmware [sourceforge.net] supporting cross-compiling with gcc or g++ renamed from LegOS to BrickOS), TLG chose to allow the free sharing of their copyrighted and patented design information throughout the hobbiest community. They could have said "You're free to experiment, but you have to keep your discoveries to yourself," but they chose not to, even to the point of letting companies sell sensors for the RCX [philohome.com] (the Lego Mindstorms brain) which directly compete with TLG's own oferings in the same market.

That, to me, is a company "embracing and encouraging" experimenters and hobbiests when they were under no obligation to do so.

sigh nothing that should be whine (1)

LWATCDR (28044) | more than 7 years ago | (#15245534)

No they could have tried to lock down the controller and make it harder to modify. They could have gone after small companies that where selling improved sensors . They could have done lots of things to keep control.
Yes they made the smart choice. However they still had a choice to make. You should praise them for choosing correctly instead of whinning that they didn't see it as a "no brainer".

Labview is an abomination (1)

rana (31171) | more than 7 years ago | (#15244705)

It's a good thing they are opening the firmware, because one thing about LEGO NXT that bothered me was the incorporation of Labview as the programming interface.

It's bad enough that Labview turns electrical engineers into flesh-eating zombies...now they are unleashing it on children!

At least, by opening the firmware and driver details, there should be C-like or BASIC-like alternatives appearing relatively quickly.

Labview AI Language (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15245110)

Labview for artificial intelligence [sourceforge.net] is based on the Lego Mindstorms connection.

Standards in Artificial Intelligence [scn.org] treat Labview as just as good for AI as any other language.

The Singularity Timeline [blogcharm.com] counts on AI development in Labview, LISP, Prolog, Java and all other programming languages.

Re:Labview is an abomination (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15246274)

What's so bad about LabView?

Re:Labview is an abomination (1)

MeBadMagic (619592) | more than 7 years ago | (#15246417)

LEGO has embrased the hacking community and actively sought, promoted, and aided in the development (or added support) of the aready available 3rd party (C-like) programming lanuguages for develpment of NXT programs, firmware, and communication. I don't have the links, but these are already working and available. I have not used graphical programming tools like LabView, and wasn't sure I wanted to start my son out with such software. Then, after actually working with him I saw it as a benifit. I didn't have to explain OOP concepts, or objects working with each other. Simply by working with that software (which he was able to do without instruction, at 12 yrs, beta software even) he automatically is familliar with those concepts, even without the words or understanding. When I get my butt in gear and start working with the other programming environments (specifially linux based) I hope I am able to keep him in OOP mode without having to explain why. The more he can use the software that comes with the NXT, the less confused he will be when we start to go through the details or programming with IDE text based environment. I hope.....

At the most basic level, you can simply send commands via Bluetooth Serial port and controll the NXT directly. So your free to use anything you want. LEGO as proven themselve willing to bend over backward to help the community develop whatever style they want to.

I believe they have gotten it right to use the graphical software for the kids just starting out. It is very empowering to have that instant gratification. Drag a moto block onto a screen. Tell it to go forward 3 rotations. Press download button and your robot moves! In fact, I don't see any other way really for LEGO to meet their one of their important goals of this project, to have a total noob (under 21 kids and over 21 kids) be able to get the kit and have a robot built, programmed, and moving withing 1/2 hour. This goal was realized. Parents who don't have engineering skills or kids without experience have no worries. I don't believe this could be done any other way then the way they have done it. I didn't play with the RCX software, but heard lots of horror stories. I can tell you that those who told the horror stories have also said the version that comes with the NXT is much, much, more refined, and doesn't have the problems / limits they were seeing with the older software. There was also mention from professionals who actuall use and swear by LabView being able to get the LEGO specific objects to work in the full blown professional version.

I am new to this robotic stuff. However, from being involved in the beta program adn listening to those with far more experience that I have, I can guarentee this thing is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay more polished than most are going to expect. I'd suggess reserving opinion until you get your hands on one of these kits. I know from experience that ones own words don't taste very well when eaten. hehehe

B-)

Re:Labview is an abomination (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15246648)

You're obviously someone who has been burned by some really basic LabVIEW techniques with little instruction on the dataflow paradigm, and didn't realize or bother to try to do anything advanced in it. LabVIEW's an excellent language for both the entry-user-level and kick-ass advanced software engineer. It's a real pity you didn't get your head out of your ass for long enough to progress to the second level...

Re:Labview is an abomination (1)

LVuser (972340) | more than 7 years ago | (#15247076)

I haven't used the LV version used by Lego and I haven't used previous versions of Lego software, but I have been using LV as a programming language for some time and it's much more easy and fun (for our purposes) than C, for example.

It also happens that my company teaches a simple mechatronics-style course in a local school to 13 year olds which are not into computers and we use LV as the tool for that. These kids, which are now free from the need to know that "If I don't put a semicolon there it won't work" or "Oh, I forgot to free the memory and my program crashed" can write programs which actually work.

So, what's so bad about LV?
And why does it turn EEs into zombies?

This means? (1)

Aqua_boy17 (962670) | more than 7 years ago | (#15244975)

"LEGO has officially announced that the firmware for the Mindstorms NXT will be open source."

So, a Lego Vista release is now out of the question? : p

Re:This means? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15246520)

How so? Why would adding MORE OSS to Vista be any different?

AI research? (2, Interesting)

bcmm (768152) | more than 7 years ago | (#15245571)

Cheap, remotely controllable, and now programmable in real languages. Could these be used for cheap research into AI navigation?

Re:AI research? Abso-bloody-lutely! (1)

MeBadMagic (619592) | more than 7 years ago | (#15245881)

I was lucky enough to be allowed to participate in the MDP. (Mindstorms Developer Program) It was my first experience with LEGO robotics, actuall, ANY robotics. I have done lots of programming, but never robotics. Some of the more senior members of the group suggested buildin a 'line follower' bot. This was my first AI project and was allot of fun because the goal was speed within a very defined task. It was VERY interesting to start to think about giving the NXT some autonomous intellegence to navigate the course. This kit has it's bases covered. AI, communication, hacking, building, destroying, etc.

B-)

The new wave of engineers... (2, Insightful)

Kaptain_Korolev (848551) | more than 7 years ago | (#15246750)

When i was younger I grew up programming my Sinclair ZX81 and playing with Lego Technic. This sort of stuff set me on the path to a degree in EEE at university and now a job as an Electronics Engineer.

What do kids have today, the XBox 360 and Playstation, where are the engineers of the future going to come from? But wait there's hope, thank you Lego, thank you for still having the guts to create a great educational 'toy'* that will not only entertain the masses but also teach them as well.

* a 'toy' I might add, that I will be buying for me... a 25 year old big kid.

It's cool and all, but.... (3, Interesting)

mark-t (151149) | more than 7 years ago | (#15246826)

I think that LEGO going with USB instead of IR or some other wireless technique for programming was a mistake.

I've seen I don't know how many USB ports get broken, the plastic bit that guides the connector breaking off, simply by repetitive plugging and unplugging of the connector from the port on the computer. USB drives, digital cameras, and other devices that are generally intended for being plugged in only temporarily... all of them break the port you plug them into eventually. I've seen it happen with many different USB ports on different computers too, so I don't think it's the manufacturer. It seems to me that the port is simply not designed for frequent hardware changes, which of course would happen with this sort of device. (Not to mention that in general it would be handled by kids, which I'm thinking makes it only that much more likely things will break).

For devices who are frequently connecting and disconnecting, wireless is the only way to go. It's a pity that LEGO didn't realize this.

Re:It's cool and all, but.... ( I wasn't informed) (3, Interesting)

MeBadMagic (619592) | more than 7 years ago | (#15246986)

The Bluetooth functionality of the NXT I think falls under wireless connectivity, doesn't it?

As a MDP'er, who didn't play with the previous IR RCX version, I can only tell you that the other MDP'ers who have, have said the BT in the NXT by comparison is a dream. From first hand experience, I only use the BT because your right, I'd hate to actually use a cable. The NXT connects with anything BT that I have. Laptop, phone, PDA, etc. There has also been development of java BT remote control for cell phones. I mean, come on! You can take the box home from the store. Spend 1/2 hour building, installing software, and programming, and have a moving robot working without ever plugging in a cord. The BT stack currently is limited to widcomm and M$, but the list of adapters for those stacks is huge and growing. I already had the cheapest Kensinton I could find for my laptop to talk with my phone, and it just worked with the NXT (which is the norm).

No worries mate!

B-)

Re:It's cool and all, but.... ( I wasn't informed) (1)

mark-t (151149) | more than 7 years ago | (#15247141)

Yes, but afaik, it doesn't use the wireless facility for actually programming it. You plug it in, upload the software, then unplug it and go. If you already have bluetooth hardware on your computer you could probably program it wirelessly too, but that's another piece of hardware you have to buy.

If they included a USB connected bluetooth transmitter/receiver with the unit, it would probably be much better. But I don't think that's part of the package. Out of the box, unless you already have bluetooth, you are going to be plugging and unplugging this thing a lot. And as I said, USB really sucks for hardware that is frequently plugged in and unplugged at will because the port connectors break.

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