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Fan-Designed Mindstorms Release Next Tuesday

Zonk posted more than 7 years ago | from the bot-bot dept.

73

EaglesNest writes "The Washington Post has a story describing Lego's new Mindstorms. Two years ago, Lego formed their own 'star chamber' to decide what the next iteration of Mindstorms would look like. Eventually reaching 14 people, the Mindstorm users panel had a huge impact on what will be released commercially next week." From the article: "One member was even able to pressure the company into building a part that makes its debut in the new Mindstorms set -- a rare event at Lego, which treats every individual piece with reverence. The new part is a connector that allows two long pieces to be joined at a 90-degree angle. The resulting toy has much more up-to-date technology than the original set, including a USB 2.0 port for fast downloads and Bluetooth for wireless connections. With the right parts and programming, a Mindstorms robot can dance in response to sounds or follow the beam of a flashlight."

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73 comments

the Mindstorm*s* Users Panel (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15806541)

stupid slashdot

Hmmm (5, Funny)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 7 years ago | (#15806558)

With the right parts and programming, a Mindstorms robot can dance in response to sounds or follow the beam of a flashlight."

You can do the same thing with teenagers and some ecstasy pills....

Yes, but (4, Funny)

0racle (667029) | more than 7 years ago | (#15806560)

With the right parts and programming, a Mindstorms robot can dance in response to sounds or follow the beam of a flashlight.
Can it find Sarah Connor?

Re:Yes, but (1)

Lord Kano (13027) | more than 7 years ago | (#15806679)

That was done in 1984, the real question is can it find the correct Sarah Connor on the first try. It's been 22 years for goodness' sake.

LK

Re:Yes, but (3, Funny)

el_benito (586634) | more than 7 years ago | (#15808564)

Yeah, just point a flashlight at her... duh!

New pieces (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15806565)

... are very common, and a 90* connector has been avaiable for years

Re:New pieces (1)

Meagermanx (768421) | more than 7 years ago | (#15808887)

The Jabba the Hut piece [subjunctive.net] comes to mind.

Re:New pieces (1)

Brieeyebarr (938678) | more than 7 years ago | (#15817553)

Yes, but the new 90 degree connector is specifically for two *long pieces*! Can't you see how this is different?

great news but... (4, Informative)

grapeape (137008) | more than 7 years ago | (#15806572)

The new mindstorms set sounds great, but the article contained rather disturbing news about the financial state of LEGO. How does a company that makes plastic bricks loose over 200 million in one year? Im sure that the new mindstorms will help boost the bottom line but I cant help but think LEGO's biggest problem was when they went away from generic build kits to licensed sets with highly proprietary (i.e. unusable for much else) pieces. Is it that kids arent as creative today or does LEGO just keep them from being able to be creative? Part of what made LEGO's col in my day was that you could create just about anything you could think up. When I was a kid UI was able to build an entire rebel base for my star wars figures with a blanket and lego bricks but today I have to buy a $75 kit. Todays sets appear to be more of a model kit than a creative toy.

Employment Costs (5, Insightful)

Black-Man (198831) | more than 7 years ago | (#15806590)

The Lego company just kept doing business as it always had... which was fine when the bricks were selling, but once the video game crowd eroded their sales - they tanked. Since, they have laid off a number of employees - not making the town they reside in happy but the alternative was much worse. They have also moved production off to eastern european countries where labor costs are reasonable and they can compete in the global market. The new CEO means business and I am optimistic they will survive and maybe thrive.

Re:Employment Costs (2, Insightful)

Shaper_pmp (825142) | more than 7 years ago | (#15816374)

Sorry, but no.

Back in the day lego blocks were general and non-specific. Sets came with instructions for at least two different models you could make with the same bricks, and bricks could easily be mixed-and-matched between sets.

In the last few years (partly as a response to your points) Lego started producing more and more licensed tie-in (cash-in) sets, which had all sorts of weird and wonderful single-use bricks and were, frankly, crap for general creative building.

Granted, the factors you raise may have started the problems with the company, but IMO they had a hefty hand in their own undoing by producing sets that went against the entire point of lego - creative, inventive play.

Re:great news but... (3, Informative)

IDreamInCode (672260) | more than 7 years ago | (#15806631)

I have this set and I have to say it's one of the coolest Lego sets EVER. I even had to go back and reclaim some of my old Legos from my little brother after 10 years or so.

Yes, I'm 25 and still play with Legos.

http://youtube.com/watch?v=Fq2Mu7hadI8&search=nxt- a-sketch [youtube.com] My NXT-A-Sketch

Re:great news but... (5, Funny)

johnw (3725) | more than 7 years ago | (#15806696)

How does a company that makes plastic bricks lose over 200 million in one year?

Probably the same way my children do - by leaving them all over the bedroom floor and having them disappear into the vacuum cleaner.

Re:great news but... (2, Insightful)

ilsa (197564) | more than 7 years ago | (#15806704)

When I was a kid UI was able to build an entire rebel base for my star wars figures with a blanket and lego bricks but today I have to buy a $75 kit. Todays sets appear to be more of a model kit than a creative toy.

$75? Yeah there are sets you can buy for that little. Check out Lego shop-at-home [lego.com] and you will see that lego sets can run up to $249 for the Mindstorms NXT. There are probably pricier sets I am not thinking of.

Inasmuch as I can get 5 new release video games or 12 older games for that money, no wonder Lego is having a hard time competing.

Unrelated, but it's worth noting that the Seattle Nordic Heritage Museum [nordicmuseum.org] has some fabulous Lego displays, all made before Lego came out with the Viking series.

Re:great news but... (0)

Dan East (318230) | more than 7 years ago | (#15806718)

When I was a kid UI...

So what's your last name? Windows, X Windows, OS X?

Dan East

Re:great news but... (1)

Manatra (948767) | more than 7 years ago | (#15806731)

Personally, I gave up on Lego when I entered the local fair's Lego competition and lost to a kid who used one of those lego kits. The theme for the competition was space ships and he grabbed a box off the shelf and built it, while I had this huge bucket of Lego and put together a custom ship.

I probably didn't deserve to win, but it threw me for a loop that a kid who basically plagiarized won the competition.

Re:great news but... (4, Insightful)

erik_norgaard (692400) | more than 7 years ago | (#15806732)

There is a number of explanations:

1) The period of being "child" has become shorter. Previously children would happily play with LEGO till age 15, but now kids loose interest around age 10-12 if not before.

2) Computers take a lot of the attention, which was the reason to launch Mindstorms, make the kid creative with the computer. And when computers don't take the attention then cellphones do. Kids communicate much more (quantity, no word about if this is good or bad) than previously, chat rooms, blogs, sms, social networks etc. None of which involve any bricks.

3) Media take a lot of attention, and there's not much to do about it. Today it is common to find tv sets in childrens room and programs directed towards children get more exposure.

And 3) is part the explanation that childhod has become shorter: Just think about all the boys and girls bands that become the big hit, and kids want to be like them. Say, Britney Spears? (there are certainly others, I'm just not young enough any longer to catch interest).

So, it's no surprise that LEGO looses ground. And they are investigating hugely other ways to get through and catch interests. Which explains the losses.

PS: Don't know if the loss mentioned is actually danish kroner, in which case it's only a 6th.

Re:great news but... (1)

servognome (738846) | more than 7 years ago | (#15815296)

And 3) is part the explanation that childhod has become shorter: Just think about all the boys and girls bands that become the big hit, and kids want to be like them. Say, Britney Spears? (there are certainly others, I'm just not young enough any longer to catch interest).

It's not the emulation of famous people that shortens childhood, its that technology enables them to do a pretty good job at it. Kids today have access to high quality tools (Garage Band, Maya, Photoshop) that they can play around with; they also have internet resources that teach and guide them. Why use plastic blocks to be creative when you can use a professional software.

Re:great news but... (2, Insightful)

awesomo2001 (991790) | more than 7 years ago | (#15806782)

There are too many things to keep kids busy today. For example, tv, video games and let us not forget the Internet. When I was growing up we could only watch cartoons on Sunday morning for an hour and had no access to this amazing toy called a computer. So, I am not surprised that LEGO is not doing so well financially. At least they have started listening to their customers so there is still hope that they will survive for a long time. I would want my kids to have access to LEGO toys more than anything.

PS: This is my first /. post so be gentle :-)

Re:great news but... (1)

tehcyder (746570) | more than 7 years ago | (#15824533)

PS: This is my first /. post so be gentle :-)
You must be new here...

Re:great news but... (1)

jmauro (32523) | more than 7 years ago | (#15806796)

Two words: Theme parks. They stopped making bricks and started to diversify. Lost so much that the 4 LegoLand parks are now majority owned by the Blackstone group because Lego couldn't afford them.

Re:great news but... (1)

antifoidulus (807088) | more than 7 years ago | (#15806797)

You have to wonder how the price of oil is affecting them. Plastics are made from oil, and lately the price for plastics has been climbing...Can't totally blame it on oil, but it doesn't help.

Re:great news but... (4, Interesting)

vux984 (928602) | more than 7 years ago | (#15806990)

but I cant help but think LEGO's biggest problem was when they went away from generic build kits to licensed sets with highly proprietary (i.e. unusable for much else) pieces.

They pretty much had to.

If the set has no unique pieces a kid with 10 other sets has no real need to buy it.

My kids are playing with thousands of pieces from my childhood. If lego was selling the same generic kits, I'd be hard pressed justifying buying them any new sets. The star war lego sets, for example, allowed us to build better tie fighters and x-wings than we'd been able to build out of classic space and blacktron...

Part of what made LEGO's cool in my day was that you could create just about anything you could think up.

You can still do that...or perhaps you never could.

Making a decent castle out of classic space lego was almost impossible, and making an x-wing out of the classic yellow castle was an exercise in futility. But with a good mix of lego from a variety of new sets, and you have as much freedom as you ever did. More freedom in some cases... I'd have killed for the ball joints that are common now. ;)

Todays sets appear to be more of a model kit than a creative toy

Individually that's probably true. But lego still lets you go anywhere once you've got a few sets from different 'genres'.

Re:great news but... (1)

mabhatter654 (561290) | more than 7 years ago | (#15807292)

but there's still a lack of basic parts on the shelves. They need to remember the days of "just bricks" when all you got was a bucket of 2x4's ... true they were "boring" but with the new sets you can't get enough pieces to build anything substantial. I know you can get them online, but what they really need is a box of "just blocks" 2x4's and bigger in a variety of colors.

the other issue is almost the other extreme with mindstorms. They need better pieces in order to make more useful models. Once you get past a certian size.. about 12" in any direction they "techinic" models become fragile and unweildly to PLAY with. Then none of the motors and such can power the device.. at least not Lego supplied ones. I know NTX was built with some of these issues in mind.. mainly the "no studs" approach so models will be more "usable".

Re:great news but... (4, Informative)

vux984 (928602) | more than 7 years ago | (#15807604)

but there's still a lack of basic parts on the shelves.

That really depends where you shop I guess. Around here it doesn't seem to be a problem.
The ToysRus, Walmart, and Zellers all have a stack of these on the shelves:

Start with a couple of these:
http://shop.lego.com/product.asp?p=4496 [lego.com] - 805 basic pieces in a variety of colors

Add in one of these for doors and windows:
http://shop.lego.com/product.asp?p=5482&cn=44&t=5& d=11 [lego.com]

And maybe this to get you some wheels and propellers, and other funky parts
http://shop.lego.com/product.asp?p=10159 [lego.com]

Sub in a few star wars space craft to for my classic space stuff.

And I can pretty much recreate my childhood.

All the linked sets are readily available in stores around here, at least.

----------------

the other issue is almost the other extreme with mindstorms. They need better pieces in order to make more useful models. Once you get past a certian size.. about 12" in any direction they "techinic" models become fragile and unweildly to PLAY with. /shrug

This one is a non-issue to me. Lego has a scale limitation for most projects. All you can do is get over it. A lego car can only be so big (and be playable) - the available choices for wheels alone are a limiting factor. For motorized creations, yeah the scale limitations are more insurmountable because now you are limited by batteries, motor torque, and so on, not just lego's structural limitations... but so what?

Suppose you *could* make a working lawnmower out of lego... it would be too dangerous to sell to kids. ;)

Re:great news but... (1)

mabhatter654 (561290) | more than 7 years ago | (#15809879)

I've seen that box on the shelvs and that's exctly what I'm whining about. Out of the 805 pices 100-150 are the really small 1x1 or 1x2 pieces, another 100-150 are 2x2. There's only about 100 or so of the classic 2x4 (or better) blocks in the package. Half of the package of smaller stuff is filler I'm not really going to use. when I was a kid, I used to routinely make creations several feet high or square, (we split the old pile 4 ways when we "grew up") it would take 6-8 of those boxes (at $20 USD each) to get that many of the classic blocks again.

As far as the technic pieces, the new "no studs" policy may help. Everything will be conneted with "pins" or "axles" so it should make better stuff. I'm not wanting to make life-size things, but even "volumous" (but fairly light) things like you can make out of a simple Kinex or Erector set are really difficult from Lego technic. Think Draw Bridge, Robot Arm, Ferris wheel, etc. The new system has great processing power for some elaborate stuff, but the plastic pieces may be the limiting factor.

Re:great news but... (1)

vux984 (928602) | more than 7 years ago | (#15810238)

I used to routinely make creations several feet high or square, (we split the old pile 4 ways when we "grew up") it would take 6-8 of those boxes (at $20 USD each) to get that many of the classic blocks again.

Trust me. There was never a normal single set that could make a creation several feet high out of 2x4s.
I'd be very curious what you think you had?!

I mean, lets look at the basic sets sets" circa 1975-1985 and see what they had for "basic 2x4" bricks. (Not counting anything funky with slopes, or holes for wheels, etc)

These are some of the "basic universal lego sets" from that era. They were the plain white boxes that usually showed a house or tower or garage type building, along with a vehicle or two - boat, plane, truck, helicopter, or something. They were

Set 720, with 325 pieces has 3 -- link: http://www.peeron.com/inv/sets/720-1 [peeron.com]
Set 400, with 294 pieces has 4 -- link: http://www.peeron.com/inv/sets/400-1 [peeron.com]
Set 404, with 467 pieces has 8 -- this set by the way had an MSRP of 40.00 (in 1976)
Set 530, with 263 pieces has 13 -- link: http://www.peeron.com/inv/sets/530-1 [peeron.com]
Set 733, with 493 pieces has 5 -- ... you get the idea...
Set 740, with 523 pieces has 6
Set 744, with 572 pieces has 2
Set 912, with 467 pieces has 8

So even back in the day, the even the universal basic lego sets were pretty anemic on the 2x4s.

However, yes, there were some "really basic bricks only" sets back then too. Lets take a look at a couple of those:

link to box covers: http://guide.lugnet.com/set/?qc=lego/basic/univers albuildingset&v=a [lugnet.com]

Set "10" with 152 pieces has 48
Set "7" with 413 pieces has 157 - link:
Set "5" with 328 pieces has 130 - link: http://www.peeron.com/inv/sets/005-2 [peeron.com]

So how does this compare with modern lego?

Set 4496 with 805 pieces has 66 (the blue tub i linked before)
Set 5486 with 674 pieces has 44 (the red tub i linked before)
Set 4423 with 800 pieces has 142

Admittedly the ratios aren't quite as good as they were in the 70's for but lets look at the price too.
Set 4423 costs $19.99
Set 4496 & 5486 each cost $29.99

MSRP for Set 5 (the only price I have for that line was 9.95 in 1968), according the currency adjuster on the Federal Reserve website, set 5 would cost 57.90 in today's dollars.

Frankly I think availability and Price of basic blocks today at least as good as or better than it ever was. Factor in that you can log into ebay and buy bulk used lego by the pound and its even better.

-regards.

Re:great news but... (1)

ShapeGSX (865697) | more than 7 years ago | (#15810650)

"but there's still a lack of basic parts on the shelves."

The Lego stores near me have a wall full of sorted brick bins in the back of the store. Give them $6 and they give you a bucket to fill up.

Or, if you don't have a lego store near you, you could always do this:
http://shop.lego.com/department.asp?d=37&t=5 [lego.com]

The Lego stores are fantastic places, though. What other store can you go into with your child and walk out with a real quality toy for just $4 these days? They tend to have great sales, too.

Re:great news but... (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 7 years ago | (#15883143)

My kids are playing with thousands of pieces from my childhood.
Somehow, I get the impression you really like Legos.

Re:great news but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15807302)

I agree that LEGO has been trying too hard to look like any other toy out there - coming up with custom bricks too often (and even making toys without bricks altogether) - in the end leaving too little to the imagination. I remember when I was a kid we only had basic square bricks (trying hard not sound like an old fart here) and likewise I remember the blocky c64 graphics. Both where adequate to create worlds I could sink into for hours on end. And today LEGO and computer game graphics have become overly articulate - they just don't activate your brain in the same way. (I'm not saying it's all bad.)

I wish LEGO would focus on their basic bricks and stimulating imagination. Just look at some of these fan-made robots - mindblowing stuff:

http://www1.linkclub.or.jp/~zizy/ROBO/work2/ [linkclub.or.jp] ... and LEGO actually made some really nice bits a while back for LEGO starwars (though not really fitting into the product line):

http://www.lego.com/starwars/minis/mini_main.asp [lego.com]

-phloe

Re:great news but... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15807421)

If you just want bricks, there's a $19.99 building tub set [lego.com] that contains 805 pieces.

It's a selection of the core basic bricks. If you were trying to build a star wars base you'll have to use all sorts of colors - but it's otherwise a baragin at about 2 cents per brick. Add a couple of baseplates and you're set for epic construction adventures.

If you don't want that set, you're lying about your needs (ie: you really *do* want expensive specialised bricks, and you don't want the basics).

The Wired Article (4, Informative)

Phat_Tony (661117) | more than 7 years ago | (#15806593)

Covered more thoroughly in Wired [wired.com] last February.

Re:The Wired Article (2)

Wishful (526901) | more than 7 years ago | (#15806648)

A company that finally "gets it" regarding open source and "hacking" (the good meaning of the word).

Star Chamber? (3, Insightful)

Ohreally_factor (593551) | more than 7 years ago | (#15806616)

Excuse me if I'm mistaken, but isn't a Star Chamber a secret tribunal used for attacking political enemies of the state? If this is correct, somehow I don't think that Lego used a Star Chamber of fans to design the new Mindstorms.

Re:Star Chamber? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15806664)

Um yeah... Something like this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Star_chamber [wikipedia.org]

Re:Star Chamber? (1)

NightRain (144349) | more than 7 years ago | (#15806672)

It's also a rather awesome online strategy/collectible card game

http://www.starchamber.net/ [starchamber.net]

Re:Star Chamber? (2, Informative)

jimhill (7277) | more than 7 years ago | (#15806687)

You're exactly right. My guess is the author was grasping for "skunk works" in a desperate attempt to look "cool" and "with it" to the new "online generation."

As long as we're being picky (1)

Atario (673917) | more than 7 years ago | (#15810221)

a part that makes its debut in the new Mindstorms set -- a rare event at Lego, which treats every individual piece with reverence
Clearly they don't. Have you seen some of the specialized peices they've been making for the past decade and a half? I can imagine what's next. Look, I built a Lego computer! Which is to say, a regular computer, split in half, with lego dots holding the halves together.

Demo on Microsoft campus (5, Funny)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 7 years ago | (#15806625)

Steve Hassenplug, left, and David Schilling put some robots to the test at a conference this week on the Microsoft campus in Redmond, Wash.

When activated, the robot stood up and yelled "Dear aunt, let's set so double the killer delete select all."

Re:Demo on Microsoft campus (0, Troll)

Blakey Rat (99501) | more than 7 years ago | (#15806635)

Those jokes were funny... when made about the Apple Newton in 1992.

Re:Demo on Microsoft campus (1)

argent (18001) | more than 7 years ago | (#15806910)

"Tablespoons" turned out to be a hoax.

And ironically Microsoft's most reliable text input technique on the Pocket PC is a clone of Palm's original Graffiti... which was developed for the Newton. :)

Re:Demo on Microsoft campus (1)

mabhatter654 (561290) | more than 7 years ago | (#15807318)

Right now Lego's new creation will be more Open Source friendly than ever. Some of the people on the short list were the guys that created LeJOS... a Java-like programming language for RCX. Almost all of the programing tools for RCX were rewritten by hobbists and with Open source licenses. Please Lego, Stay away from the BEAST that is Microsoft. Sure MS could probably do better, but it would be a "slap in the face" to all the help from the community that's kept Lego around this long.

Re:Demo on Microsoft campus (1)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 7 years ago | (#15807493)

Don't forget that Mindstorms NXT will also be compatible with Macs.

Huh. (3, Informative)

SheeEttin (899897) | more than 7 years ago | (#15806703)

Huh. [slashdot.org]

Re: Wha? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15806994)

This is +2 Informative, when the same link is right at the top under related articles?

Look at this comment [slashdot.org] in the thread above.

Lego, slashdot user : seem to go together (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15806735)

Why is it this isn't weird? Lego? Grow up and get some real toys, boys

I'm impressed (2, Interesting)

gripen40k (957933) | more than 7 years ago | (#15806870)

I just have to say that a company that isn't afraid of letting thier consumers in on the R&D of a new prodect is really amazing, even if it is just a select few. I used the original mindstorms kit to build a robot in first year engineering, and from what I saw it was a really interesting kit. We ran linux on our computers so we used the LegOS using some NQC stuff. If Lego will open source their code from the get go then people like me, who preffer to code in C (or something close to it) than with Lego's crazy graphical method, will greatly appreciate it! I can see the new kit to be a big hit on budding roboticists who don't want to spend thousands on building a simple 'battlebot' style robot (here I mean building a car style bot, nothing fancy) only to not be able to re-use all the parts on another bot.

Re:I'm impressed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15807203)

Not a good chance considering it's not LEGO's software. It's a form of National Instruments LabVIEW graphical programming language. Link to LEGO's site about it here [lego.com] .

30 minute kit? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15806906)

Reading the article, I was surprised to find that they changed the kits so that it only takes about 30 minutes to finish a project. Part of the joy of Lego is to lose yourself for hours in the experience.

Re:30 minute kit? (2, Insightful)

ArmyOfFun (652320) | more than 7 years ago | (#15807042)

They must be talking about building a robot according to the plans they provide. Seeing how those plans will act as a tutorial for most people, a decrease from 2 hours to 30 minutes would be welcome.

One of my favorite LEGO books as a kid was one that had page after page of different elaborate scenes but the instructions only showed you how to make a few (typically minor) items in each scene. If you wanted to replicate some of the more cool stuff in a scene, you were pretty much on your own as how to build it.

Don't wait until Tuesday...at Fry's now? (1)

BrianCarlstrom (717058) | more than 7 years ago | (#15806957)

I think I saw this set at Fry's Electronics in Sunnyvale, CA, last night (Friday, 28 July 2006). It was just insider the door on the right under the "Electrical Components" sign and there were a few of them, around 5 that I recall. I have the old Mindstorms set and several of the Star Wars Lego ones (AT-AT and R2-D2) so I'm pretty sure its not just the same old set, but the new one. Unfortunately, I was on a mission some friends to repair a dying TiVo so I didn't spend much time looking at it, plus I probably am supposed to wait for xmas to get it. :)

What piece? (2, Insightful)

mark-t (151149) | more than 7 years ago | (#15806972)

One member was even able to pressure the company into building a part that makes its debut in the new Mindstorms set -- a rare event at Lego, which treats every individual piece with reverence. The new part is a connector that allows two long pieces to be joined at a 90-degree angle.
What piece is that, exactly?

Also... have specs on the NXT hardware been published (either by lego or somebody else) so that people can build their own sensors like they did with the RCX? Lego has been very hacker-friendly in the past, I hope this new Mindstorms set doesn't change that.

Gumstix! (2, Informative)

mabhatter654 (561290) | more than 7 years ago | (#15807402)

One of the first things lego needs to do is allow Gumstix to make a lego casing for their little computers to control a NTX robot. There's already a great hacker community around the Gumstix platform just like the Lego platform.. It's a match made in OSS heaven. Short synopsis of Gumstix is a stripped out sharp Zaraus motherboard (like a slightly large stick of gum) with various attachments and running Linux.

Re:What piece? (1)

tsangc (177574) | more than 7 years ago | (#15810029)

It's a 90 degree angle bracket piece which makes building with the new rounded beam pieces much easier:

http://www.peeron.com/inv/parts/55615 [peeron.com]

It's a very clever and handy piece.

Great, Except... (4, Interesting)

andrewdk (760436) | more than 7 years ago | (#15807043)

I've had the set for a while now. I signed up for their Developer Program, but wasn't picked, however they were nice and gave everyone who wasn't chosen the chance to order it a month early. So I was able to play with it and build my robot. The only bad thing is that it's been sitting here next to my linux box while I wait for LEGO to release their SDKs for the bluetooth interface, which is supposed to be in August.

I must note: the bluetooth connectivity to the LEGO NXT is much easier to establish with a Linux box using BlueZ, than it is with a Windows box running MCE2005/SP2 or even Vista. It's just hit or miss with the Windows stuff, depending on whether the driver likes you, the temperature, the time of day, what color shirt you're wearing -- but one rfcomm line and pin confirmation in Linux and it's done.

That is, after all, how I'm going to let you darn slashdotters control it over the 'net, video included, when I finish programming the new protocol into my robot server.

Re:Great, Except... (1)

aichpvee (631243) | more than 7 years ago | (#15808631)

These new Mindstorm sets are going to work with Linux out of the box?

Next Tuesday? More like last month (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15807112)

I ordered and received my NXT last month, directly from Lego. I was surprised - the release date is set for August, yes, but sure enough I've had mine at least a month now.

It's very nice - I've also got an RCX 1.0 and there are companies creating two way interfaces between the two. There are also pre-built compass sensors, tilt sensors, etc.

Mindstorms Review and video (1)

CottonThePirate (769463) | more than 7 years ago | (#15807227)

By accident I got a set of Mindstorms last tuesday. (i mean accident of the Toys'R'US). Having played with it for a few days I can say they are pretty awesome, and I can see a huge potential. Be warned though they are a time sync! Hours go by quickly. Probably it's more stimulating that reading /. comments :) Here is my review complete with a 50 second video of the NXT in action!
Lego Mindstorms NXT review a video [schaab.com]

Re:Mindstorms Review and video (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15807830)

Sink!

Umm, NTX has been for sale... (1)

Thomas Charron (1485) | more than 7 years ago | (#15807296)

I just bought one 2 weeks ago for my son.. Toysrus in Nashua, NH.

  Very nice set, just wish it wasnt so damned expensive.

Rare event? (2, Informative)

wiredlogic (135348) | more than 7 years ago | (#15807516)

a rare event at Lego, which treats every individual piece with reverence

Bullshit. Just look at all the special pieces in the Star Wars kits. Lego has been on a binge of making special pieces for the past 10+ years.

They Listen... but not so well. (2, Interesting)

FeSceptre (956351) | more than 7 years ago | (#15807724)

One major suggestion was completely ignored: To increase the number of output ports. As it stands, the previous version had 3 outputs... and will now continue to.

Big mistake.

Word on the street suggests that additional multiplexers will be made available... elsewhere.

Interesting.

Re:They Listen... but not so well. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15813115)

There isn't enough power for more output ports.

What's wrong with lego kits? (1)

Recurve Boy (936129) | more than 7 years ago | (#15807894)

I keep reading that Lego makes a lot of "specific" kits that can't do anything else. How specialised are these parts exactly? I remember that when I was a kid, I would often get a small Lego kit for presents. Like a Technic kit that had a car on the box and the contents contained the pieces to build the car - of course. Once I was done building the included model, I simply added my new pieces to the rest of my collection. I've not opened a new box of Lego in years, but people make it sound that the pieces are totally incompatible.

Re:What's wrong with lego kits? (2, Informative)

Aladrin (926209) | more than 7 years ago | (#15808159)

I've always felt the same way. It seems to me that people are complaining about 'specific' pieces that came with certain sets and complaining that there's no imagination room. Eh, I call BS on that. There were always plenty of uses for anything I found to be 'specific' as a kid. Even flower stems could be used for antennas and such. You just need to use imagination again, and forget what you've been told.

Re:What's wrong with lego kits? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 7 years ago | (#15808788)

I would suggest taking a look at the current products on the Lego website. You'll see that many of them have much less of the "traditional" bricks. The ratio of more standard bricks to special pieces is much lower. These special pieces are often big curvy or flat pieces that have limited places where they can interact with other bricks. Previously the special pieces were most often small details like a special decal or a slightly odd-shaped piece (like a "faucet" piece) instead of major structural components.

In my mind, the pieces in the newer models lend themselves less to flexibility of use. Remember the older sets that showed two or three alternate models that could be built out of the same set? (And that was just what the designers came up with!)

Treats every piece with reverence? (1)

posterlogo (943853) | more than 7 years ago | (#15808194)

...Lego, which treats every individual piece with reverence

Seriously? Maybe with the Mindstorm series, but they certain have no standards when it comes to their core line up. Have you seen some of the bizarre stuff from them lately? Like Dino Attack [lego.com] , where it's a bunch of assault vehicles battling mean dinosaurs. Half the crap looks like it comes practically preassembled, the pieces are so big. What happened to the era of smaller, or geometrically more simple pieces that actually required some imagination to use? I hardly think Lego puts so much thought into every piece.

Re:Treats every piece with reverence? (1)

Scooter (8281) | more than 7 years ago | (#15813760)

I agree. The lego I see in the shops Today does not look like the stuff I played with for hours at a time as a child. I built all manner of things from the simple bricks, and later on from the Technic stuff - not all of which were that successful (like the time I built a chassis for a static steam engine, age 10 with predictable results and a valuable lesson in materials science :P I switched that project to Meccano...).

Today though I see lots of small kits, that oprerry much only build one thing. Take the Star Wars stuff for example: Lego could either use 1000's of generic blocks to build a model so vast that if you stood 20 feet away and squinted, your A-Wing didn't look like it was built by the ancient Egyptians, out of sandstone blocks; or they could just make a "wing" part, and sell a kit that made a small model. Trouble is, these models well, how can I put this? They suck. A Wings don't have little round bits all over them. As a kid, would I want a Lego kit that only makes one Star Wars model anyway, but looks like it was produced by someone who'd never seen the movie, or a proper model, that actually looks a bit like the things I saw on the big screen, and isn't covered in some sort of geometrically arranged skin disease?

The Mindstorms stuff on the other hand, isn't pretending to "be" anything - it's back to the core Lego values - "well sell parts - you make stuff with it."

A change of direction! (1)

poliopteragriseoapte (973295) | more than 7 years ago | (#15808883)

Wow, this is a change of direction!

When Noga and others came up with LegOS [sourceforge.net] , an operating system for the Lego Mindstroms that enabled the writing of sophisticated programs, they were forced to change name, to BrickOS, I guess under legal thread from the Lego company due to misuse of trademark. So much for supporting the community! And the sad irony is that they must have sold lots of Mindstorms due to LegOS - pardon, BrickOS.

So this is a real direction change! I have a lot invested in LegOS code, and I am waiting to see if anyone will port BrickOS to that, or whether there will be any half-decent RTOS that runs on them... I am not holding my breath though.

Re:A change of direction! (1)

SmokeSerpent (106200) | more than 7 years ago | (#15808992)

Supporting the community is one thing, but letting anyone who wants to use the exact same name of your company for the name of a piece of software only with differing capitalization of the letters is a bad idea, even if it is a good piece of software written and maintained by people who love your products. If the developers had half a brain about that sort of thing they wouldn't have named it that in the first place. What educated person in this modern world doesn't understand trademark dilution?

I have to be a kill joy, but I don't really.. (1)

InsideTheAsylum (836659) | more than 7 years ago | (#15809979)

... see the big draw of mind storms. I'm not saying this as someone who has never played with the kit, I have the original mindstorm RCX or what have you lying around in the basement with several huge tubs of legos. I've played around with it quite a bit, but I just don't see the point in creating little robots that do insignificant things. Color me unimaginative, but I'd rather be making AI for a game than playing with lego robots (actually, I'd rather be coding a virtual lego enviroment :))

Imagine a beowulf cluster of these ! (1)

aneeshm (862723) | more than 7 years ago | (#15810002)

No , I'm serious . Why not , instead of having chips only interact with each other , all interact via bluetooth with a centrel computer , which makes a number of chips work in tandem to do things they could not have done individually ? If you want to program AI that is too complex for the chips to handle , do it on the server . This is a bit like an organism which has various body parts communicating via bluetooth with its computer brain . This can provide a good testing ground for AI as well as robotics researchers .

And of course , chips can interact with each other , too , in case you are making something more complex .

I can already see a number of cool possibilities .
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