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RIMM's LEGO Machines Test Blackberry

CowboyNeal posted about 7 years ago | from the pirate-and-space-accessories-optional dept.

Toys 69

LEGO - my - Crackberry writes "Matthias Wandel is an engineer at Research in Motion (RIMM), the company that makes the Blackberry. What did RIMM turn to for testing the antenna reception of one of its 900MHz devices? LEGO machines. Specifically a device made of LEGO that could rotate a Blackberry about its horizontal & vertical axis in a pre-defined pattern."

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69 comments

The guy's a very busy genius (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18716341)

Check out his site. He's been building amazing stuff for years. I first stumbled on it when I was researching spud guns. He even made his own pipe organ.

Re:The guy's a very busy genius (4, Interesting)

Valacosa (863657) | about 7 years ago | (#18717367)

He is a busy genius - I stumbled across his site when I was told someone mapped the tunnel network below the University of Waterloo. And he did.

IMHO, the coolest thing he ever built was converting a scanner into a digital camera [sentex.net]. People, if you have a few free minutes, check his site out. Lots of cool stuff there!

Re:The guy's a very busy genius (2, Interesting)

orgelspieler (865795) | about 7 years ago | (#18721315)

I first found him while I was looking for homemade pipe organs. There are very few people who have completed such an undertaking. His isn't the best or biggest, but it's the only one I know of that is homemade to to such a minute degree. Most hobbyists use used pipe organ components somewhere.

My favorite works of his are the marble kinetic sculptures.

Surprised? (5, Insightful)

VirusEqualsVeryYes (981719) | about 7 years ago | (#18716351)

I'm not. It seems like a logical choice.

Want to test different angles precisely? Use some sort of robot.

Only going to build it once, and want it to be easy to build? Use Legos.

Need only rudimentary instructions (e.g. "rotate for 0.2 seconds") to rotate something on said robot? Use Mindstorms.

Nothing beats the satisfaction of soldering one's own circuit board and programming in C, but for something quick, easy to use, and powerful, Legos are the best solution.

Re:Surprised? (5, Interesting)

aadvancedGIR (959466) | about 7 years ago | (#18716389)

I think the hardest part of using lego for that kind of work is to have the beancounters accept the expense as work related. Usually, I had to use my own personnal stock when I needed to hold prototype boards together.

Re:Surprised? (5, Funny)

Oktober Sunset (838224) | about 7 years ago | (#18717391)

Thats why you put in a request for a 'configurable block-based modelling and prototyping system', rather than a 'box of lego'.

Re:Surprised? (3, Interesting)

GooberToo (74388) | about 7 years ago | (#18717819)

That's like when NASA put in a request for a convertable GTO (sports car) to pull heavy lifting body designs (shuttle is a lifting body) and film them for research. Of course it was denied. They then put in a request for something like a "aerodynamic research tow vehicle with film platform" and it was approved. And thusly, the lifting body concept was proven and established.

Re:Surprised? (1, Funny)

clickclickdrone (964164) | about 7 years ago | (#18716471)

It's Lego, not Legos you insensitive clod!

Re:Surprised? (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18716527)

Isn't it ironic that the same people who are so critical of a senator talking about "the internets" seem to be the same people who talk about "Legos".

Although strictly speaking, I think the trademark is LEGO i.e. all capitals.

Re:Surprised? (2, Informative)

markov_chain (202465) | about 7 years ago | (#18716931)

There is a project at UCLA to test multiple-in, multiple-out (MIMO) performance of 802.11n. They use Lego robots to adjust antenna spacing. Pretty cool stuff. Link to paper: pdf [ucla.edu].

(I'm not affiliated, just ran into that project while browsing)

Re:Surprised? (2, Interesting)

FuzzyDaddy (584528) | about 7 years ago | (#18717373)

I agree that it's the logical choice, but it is surprising - and cool. One of the biggest challenges of being an engineer is realizing when there is a simple solution to your problem - especially when the thing you need was made for another purpose.

Case in point - years ago I worked in a lab making diodes on 4" GaAs wafers. Unlike silicon, GaAs is very fragile, and the wafers kept breaking. The problem was that you had to immerse them in beakers, and when you let go of the wafer in the liquid, it would slide sideways, go "tink" against the edge of the beaker, and split in two.

So we looked at the bottles that the processing chemicals came in (the main one was photoresist developer). On the bottom of the plastic bottle it indicated it was polypropylene. So we went to the local KMart, and bought some tupperware that was the same material and the right size and shape. Then, when we dropped the wafer in, it bounced off the side, and we stopped breaking them.

Re:Surprised? (3, Funny)

EatHam (597465) | about 7 years ago | (#18719781)

One of the biggest challenges of being an engineer is realizing when there is a simple solution to your problem - especially when the thing you need was made for another purpose.

I disagree. I believe that what you have just stated is *the* fundamental attribute of an engineer. It's what seperates us from the retards in accounting - they ask for a shovel, we ask for a hole.

Re:Surprised? (1)

bigbananaslug (988497) | about 7 years ago | (#18731423)

Actually, since Mindstorms has buried in it the entire command set of National Instruments' Labview 8.20, you can do a hellova lot better than simple programming.

New patent storm coming! (3, Funny)

erroneus (253617) | about 7 years ago | (#18716361)

We're all familiar with the storm of patents ending with "on the internet." Perhaps now there will be a new storm of patent claims ending with "using Lego."

RIM (5, Interesting)

What'sInAName (115383) | about 7 years ago | (#18716369)


That really *is* Research In Motion!

Cool idea, but I wonder how long the device would hold out. LEGO isn't exactly designed for industrial apps. On the other hand, it is designed for small children, who provide perhaps the toughest test environment imaginable!

Re:RIM (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18716439)

So, is this the first time someone's used legos for a RIMM job?

Re:RIM (3, Interesting)

aadvancedGIR (959466) | about 7 years ago | (#18716509)

It's simple, once you're OK with the prototype, simply superglue it and it will be almost unbreakable.

MEK does it better. (1)

jpellino (202698) | about 7 years ago | (#18717419)

CA super glues have highly variable quality and composition.
Methyl Ethyl Ketone is what we've used to make LEGO devices (including a waldo for our FIRST robotics controller) permanent.
It's nasty stuff we don't let the kids use tho. (for instance ABS Weld-On is 60% MEK)

Re:RIM (1)

snuf23 (182335) | about 7 years ago | (#18716515)

It's just for testing not for mass production or extended use. Besides the components are modular. If something breaks you can easily replace it for a nominal cost.

RIM (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18716409)

I figure if you're going to write an article about RIM's activities, you had best get the name right. It is 'RIM', not 'RIMM'. Both the /. article, and TFA have it wrong....

I am astounded!

anon

Research In Motion Motion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18716775)

It's even faster than just "Research In Motion"

Re:RIMM (1)

Ruvim (889012) | about 7 years ago | (#18717327)

TFA and the /. summary seem to use RIM's stock ticker symbol here (http://finance.google.com/finance?q=RIMM)

Re:RIM (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18727921)

I figure if you're going to write an article about RIM's activities, you had best get the name right. It is 'RIM', not 'RIMM'. Both the /. article, and TFA have it wrong....

I am astounded!

anon

Dear anon,

I can just imagine how utterly befuddled you will be when you look up the company's stock ticker name and find it really is RIMM.

I eagerly await film at eleven of your face when you find out what a fool you've made of yourself.

Lego is for kids. (2, Interesting)

Ihlosi (895663) | about 7 years ago | (#18716443)

Real geeks use(d) Fischer-Technik. More possibilities, less colors. I built robots with it 20 years ago ...

Lego ROCKS! (2, Interesting)

ScrewTivo (458228) | about 7 years ago | (#18716483)

Got my 11 year old a Mindstorm set. It is incredible both in the mechanics and software. I was at Disney World and saw the robotic plastic injection machine and the display panel looked just like the Mindstorm programming interface.

Not to diss what RIM has done (old lego set) but I am surprised that we don't read more about Mindstorms at work.

other lego research (3, Interesting)

rucs_hack (784150) | about 7 years ago | (#18716585)

At my university we build robots out of lego to test pathfinding software.

It's cheap, and it can house the motors/circuit boards and stick together under a bit of stress, its perfect.

Meccano is good, but it can take longer to assemble. That's more of use for robots that need to withstand a lot more stress, such as arms.

Re:Lego ROCKS! (2, Interesting)

rsun (653397) | about 7 years ago | (#18717739)

A couple of jobs ago I used a mindstorms set to debug a hardware/software bug in our network controller - every once in a while when the fiber was unplugged things would go haywire. It got really tiring unplugging the cable dozens of times to reproduce the problem so I rigged up a robot to do it for me and let me know when the error had occurred. Alas, the company went belly up before I got the chance to get them to pay for the Lego....

Thats my afternoon gone ... (2, Funny)

AmIAnAi (975049) | about 7 years ago | (#18716485)

Now I'm going to spend the rest of the afternoon thinking of how I can incorporate LEGO into the testing of the products we produce.

Time to start troll-modding use of "Legos"? (3, Insightful)

Andy_R (114137) | about 7 years ago | (#18716505)

At the risk of being modded down... surely by now everyone here ought to know that if you say "legos" not "lego" when talking about more than 1 lego brick, yet another barely-on-topic flame war about the pluralisation of Lego is inevitable? It happens every single time there is a Lego related story.

Is it time to start modding people who still use "legos" when they know what the result will be as trolls?

Re:Time to start troll-modding use of "Legos"? (1)

Filmcell-Keyrings (973083) | about 7 years ago | (#18716763)

I dont know why but the use of legos really annoys me. It's LEGO. I don't know why it winds me up so much, as I'm not normally a grammar nazi. Actually the whole loose / lose thing winds me up too. Maybe I'm just turning into a grumpy old curmudgeon.

Re:Time to start troll-modding use of "Legos"? (3, Informative)

Aladrin (926209) | about 7 years ago | (#18716765)

Or maybe we could just follow the guidelines of modpoints and use the for positive stuff most of the time, and negative stuff sparingly.

The real trolls are the ones who bother to get upset when they are called 'legos'. First, it doesn't matter. Second, it's still mainly a kid's toy, and kids call them legos. Third... We all grew up calling them legos before we learned to be grammar nazis. And finally... It's pointless to try to get people to stop when they KNOW it simply doesn't matter even a tiny bit.

And how are you helping the situation by adding in 'mod down the legos sayers' before the flamewar has even started. Isn't that just more pointless noise?

Here's an old tip for you, and everyone else: DO NOT FEED THE TROLLS.

It's not "Legos," it would be "legos." However... (0, Flamebait)

relifram66 (899283) | about 7 years ago | (#18716895)

Please do not generalize based on your limited anecdotal knowledge.

YOU grew up calling them "legos." That is because your parents, or the people who introduced you to the LEGO Play System (TM), were uneducated on the subject, or simply did not care. I grew up calling the toy by its proper name: LEGO

"Grammar Nazis" used to be called something different: Parents and schoolteachers. It is unfortunate that many of the finer points of the English language are falling by the wayside. Improper English grammar tends to make a writer seem incompetent and ignorant, sometimes even stupid. It is not without reason that bad grammar incenses some of us.

Re:It's not "Legos," it would be "legos." However. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18717135)

A stick up one's ass tends to make one sound pompous and obnoxious, sometimes even anal.
It is not without reason that pointless sillyness incenses others of us.

Re:Time to start troll-modding use of "Legos"? (1)

asninn (1071320) | about 7 years ago | (#18716777)

Naw, just mod them "-1, Ignorant". :P

(And seriously: I know that such a moderation does not exist, but maybe it should. The opposite of "+1, Informative", maybe?)

New mod categories required (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18717599)

Naw, just mod them "-1, Ignorant". :P (And seriously: I know that such a moderation does not exist, but maybe it should. The opposite of "+1, Informative", maybe?)

I agree, I think we also need a "-1, Unfunny" for poor attempts at humor.

Hell no! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18722231)

I don't support imaginary property rights, so just why would I care that calling them legos makes the Lego trademark generic? It's a completely lost cause. If you have to correct everyone who isn't a Lego fanatic, you've already completely lost the case for the trademark being anything but generic.

The battle is over. I xerox things, I once played with legos, I wipe my nose with kleenex, and I google for information. They're words now, they have been for years and there's no going back, no matter how many annoying letters legal departments send out to protect trademarks that were generic long before I was even born.

They should be glad they've been so successful.

Re:Time to start troll-modding use of "Legos"? (1)

xero314 (722674) | about 7 years ago | (#18722619)

surely by now everyone here ought to know that if you say "legos" not "lego" when talking about more than 1 lego brick, yet another barely-on-topic flame war about the pluralisation of Lego is inevitable
The pluralisation of LEGO is imposible, because not only is "pluralisation" most likely not a word, but also because LEGO is a brand. You can't have more than one LEGO. On the other hand you can have more than one LEGO brand building block, LEGO brand building brick, or even just LEGO brick.

On the other hand being anal about the term people use to refer to the blocks in a children's toy is a little asinine.

Re:Time to start troll-modding use of "Legos"? (1)

Pluvius (734915) | about 7 years ago | (#18724115)

The pluralisation of LEGO is imposible, because not only is "pluralisation" most likely not a word, but also because LEGO is a brand. You can't have more than one LEGO. On the other hand you can have more than one LEGO brand building block, LEGO brand building brick, or even just LEGO brick.

Fair enough, though it doesn't work for Lego any more than it does for Coke, Kleenex, or Band-Aid. The biggest problem I have with Lego zealots, though, is when they insist that something is "made out of Lego." No, it's not made out of Lego, it's made out of plastic. "Made out of Lego bricks" would be fine, though a waste of words in my opinion.

Rob

Re:Time to start troll-modding use of "Legos"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18728931)

The biggest problem I have with Lego zealots, though, is when they insist that something is "made out of Lego." No, it's not made out of Lego, it's made out of plastic. "Made out of Lego bricks" would be fine, though a waste of words in my opinion.

So who's the fucking zealot here? Lego is wrong for you and Lego bricks is way too much for you. (That's entirely apart from the fact that the company would rather you call the product "LEGO (tm)").

Has it occurred to you that Lego bricks would also be in error? The proper term would be "LEGO (tm) BRAND bricks". And if you just call it plastic, do you seriously believe it wouldn't engender a long conversation about precisely where the plastic came from "so I can get some of that shit for my kid"?

Let's just get used to the fact that any product name will, in common parlance, be reduced to the minimum configuration that gets across what people are talking without regard to what the manufacturer would like to hear.

Do you get all nervous and sweaty when someone says, "Can I borrow your cell to make a call?" Why not, since we all know we should ask for "your cellular telephone". After all, it's common knowledge that a cell is really an abstract concept which should be properly be used only to refer to the boundaries of operation of a cellular telephone tower (or similar housing) for the technology required to make operations possible within a specific geographical area.

Fuck the grasping IP lawyer scum who think they can take over the English language for their own narrow, marketing and profit-making purposes.

Re:Time to start troll-modding use of "Legos"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18729271)

The pluralisation of LEGO is imposible, because not only is "pluralisation" most likely not a word, but also because LEGO is a brand. You can't have more than one LEGO. On the other hand you can have more than one LEGO brand building block, LEGO brand building brick, or even just LEGO brick.

On the other hand being anal about the term people use to refer to the blocks in a children's toy is a little asinine.

Of course -- here in the US, we would spell it "pluraliZation". Who are you, anyway, to say what is and is not a word. Are you on the side of those who believe the dictionary is prescriptive, instead of descriptive?

You would do better to turn your snooty nose up at the marketing fucks who expect you to say what they feel is the "proper" way to say the name of their company or products. It's just a lame, bullshit way to keep their preferred name in your mouth for as long as possible.

Since you seem to have unlimited time on your sticky, little hands, go to the Adobe site and read the palaver about how they're offended when people say they PSed a photo. No, they would much prefer that you say you used "Adobe PhotoShop (tm) Graphics Editing Tool (or similar) to put your little dick on the Statue of Liberty. It's as bad as those fucking gyrenes who have to keep saying, "When I was in the United States Marine Corps ...." instead of just "the marines". We know where you were, jarhead; we don't need the constant branding.

Similarly for store clerks (and their advertisers) who constantly tell you a product is "forty-nine ninety-nine". Goddamnit -- the box costs you fifty bucks, especially after taxes and such shit. No way will you walk out of the store for "forty-nine ninety-nine".

I dearly love saying back to them, "OK, so that one's fifty bucks; how much is that one?", to which they always say, "That's "seventy-four ninety-five". That way, I can say, "OK, fifty bucks versus seventy-five bucks. So what am I getting extra for my twenty-four dollars and ninety-six cents difference?"

Re:Time to start troll-modding use of "Legos"? (1)

xero314 (722674) | about 7 years ago | (#18738429)

I think you missed my statement that being petty about what people call a product is asinine. I happen to call them legos. I grew up playing with legos and my kid will also play with legos. But if you are going to be a prick about what people call a product, then you might as well be technically correct (technically there is no such product as Lego). So go on calling things what ever you want and making up what ever words you think accurately describe the situation, just don't come down on other people when you don't have a leg to stand on. (This was not directed at the parent, just trying to clear up my original post).

No way will you walk out of the store for "forty-nine ninety-nine".
Unless you are shopping in an area without sales tax. In places like the state of Delaware you actually pay the price on the tag (assuming your foolish enough to not barter for a better price). Plus the company is probably legal bound to have their sales clerks quote exact prices or risk being sued.

I'm disappointed (5, Funny)

Flying pig (925874) | about 7 years ago | (#18716713)

I once had an engineer working for me who could have designed that in no more than 6 weeks. At the very least he would have used PTFE for all the bearings, glass filled nylon for the articulating parts, industrial grade stepper motors and a couple of networked industrial controllers for the program. He would probably have designed a cover made from a single sheet of vacuum formed Makrolon to ensure nobody touched any rotating parts while it was in use, plus some sort of optical scanning system to stop it moving if anything came too close. And there would probably have been change out of $100000.

Engineers today, what do they know? Make it too simple and too cheap and the boss will think anybody can do it.

Re:I'm disappointed (3, Funny)

Migraineman (632203) | about 7 years ago | (#18717617)

Hey! You worked with Biff too?

Biff loved his Pro-E. We needed an enclosure for a manufacturing test fixture. He contracted a CNC machine shop to build a custom box about 8" x 10" x 10" ... out of a solid billet of aluminum. The thing was pretty - had all sorts of recessed vent panels and integrated mounting bosses. But damn, this is a test fixture. The operator connects a cable to the UUT (Unit Under Test) and presses a key on the computer keyboard. We must've spent a couple thousand bucks on that one bucket. I'm not a big fan of Bud boxes [budind.com], but they certainly have their place.

(background: At a staff meeting, Biff stood up to extole his credibility and the virtues of Pro-E. And I quote, "I may be big, I may be ignorant, I may be fat ..." we didn't need to hear any more. Y'all can figure out what the second "f" stands for.)

A voice from the 1950s! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18716851)

I'm an old IT engineer who still remembers the days when there were no software failures, because the hardware wouldn't stay up long enough for you to find any.

In those days hard engineering was the rule, and when you wanted to prototype a small machine or provide a simple service like rotating an aerial, you used MECCANO.

Of course, those were analogue days, but the principle of using a construction toy for real work still applied!

Obligatory Mythbusters comment (2, Interesting)

hugorxufl (1071598) | about 7 years ago | (#18717057)

Come to think of it, I'm surprised one of the Mythbusters haven't used Lego robots in their test rigs. Maybe they're biased toward combat-capable machinery.

Robot Developer Wanted (1)

Doc Ruby (173196) | about 7 years ago | (#18717325)

Where do I find a hacker to give my stack of LEGO Mindstorms so he can combine them with my Bluetooth Roombas for a home automation army that I can lead around town with my mobile phone?

I'm not kidding.

Correction (1)

Diablerie (195323) | about 7 years ago | (#18717343)

According to Research in Motion's web site (www.rim.net), the correct acronym for the company name is RIM.

RIMM is the company's NASDAQ stock symbol.

Lego's are awesome (2, Interesting)

jbeaupre (752124) | about 7 years ago | (#18718167)

I bought some for my last job for surgical device prototyping. Sometimes to mock up mechanisms or as test stands. But a few times we made working devices. No, never used on humans. Lego's are fun, but not FDA approved.

mindstorms-based panorama camera (1)

smellsofbikes (890263) | about 7 years ago | (#18719041)

My brother built something like this LEGO panoramic camera mount [ivrpa.org] using Mindstorms. His digital camera screw-mounts to it, and it turns a precise number of degrees and pushes the camera's shutter button, then turns again... A lot of other people have done similar things. I'm in the midst of building a LEGO-based robotic arm to grab rings and feed them into a spotwelder. LEGO is a great prototyping tool and with the addition of mindstorms you can build amazing things: the LEGO rubik's cube solver [ito.com] is pretty old, but the LEGO car assembly line [nexus404.com] is pretty spectacular. That's like $5000 of LEGO right there.

You go RIM! (2, Funny)

Meorah (308102) | about 7 years ago | (#18719295)

BES still won't work with a native Exchange 2007 environment, but hey... they have more important things to do, like make lego robots!

Re:You go RIM! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18751703)

The LEGO robot was actually built before there *was* a BES, and, in any case, Matt works on handheld code, not on server code.

Is there a commercial version of Lego? (2, Interesting)

TomRC (231027) | about 7 years ago | (#18719343)

Seems like there's a market for a modular rapid prototyping kit, that gets past a few of the Lego limitations.

You'd want it to be stronger - with modular connections that lock together rather than relying on friction joints at any point in the structure.

You'd want more flexibility of orientation - e.g. parts that can be connected at any planar-rotated angle with respect to each other, and then locked at that angle.

You might prefer to give up the ability to completely re-use parts, in exchange for being able to easily cut parts of the precise length needed, from longer stock - no need to fit your design to the limited lengths available, also reducing the number of fewer component types you need to keep on hand, and eliminating the problem of needing "just one more part".

What else?

Probably Avoids Interference Too (2, Informative)

Arguendo (931986) | about 7 years ago | (#18720685)

I'd bet one big advantage of Lego is that it helps avoid any RF interference caused by metallic structures. That's a big deal if your goal is to test the strength/efficiency/pattern of the radiation. In fact that may have been what gave him the idea to begin with.

Asteroid (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 7 years ago | (#18721451)

Back in the old days we used this to make Asteroids in our game..

Get some polystyrene, spray-paint it and stick it on a little lego twistee thing with a black background...

Take a photo with a webcam(*), do one turn of the steering wheel (which turns the asteroid 1/32 of a full circle), take another shot, and repeat 32 times..

Import into deluxe paint, and voila, one asteroid!

Woosh....
(*)(Of course, webcam's used to be called "Digitisers" back then)
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