Aug 27, 2006

3rd Party Sensors to be sold on LEGO's site...

It was announced this morning during the Keynote address that LEGO has created a 3rd party Developer Program that will feature HiTechnic sensors and devices available for sale at the LEGO Shop-at-Home and on HiTechnic's website. More information as I can get it... Brian Davis is at BrickFest and may be able to provide more details later.

Video of the announcement here.

Congrats to HiTechnic... I'm looking forward to some great add-ons!

15 comments:

jonathan said...

Wow, that's amazing! Congrats to HiTechnic!

-Jonathan

mindstormmaster1 said...

this is great i hope some of the sonsors will be cheaper now i hope i hope

maniac000 said...

HiTechnic, I have a message for you: Bluetooth

rb95403 said...

Congratulations HiTechnic!

Tony Naggs said...

Jim - I'm not too surprised. John Barnes is an original MDP, and Lego made a hint at some point that they would act as reseller for add-ons.

Also previous pictures of the HiTechnic sensors clearly showed the Lego stamp on the plastics.

Congrats HiTechnic on it being made offical though!


Maniac000 - Bluetooth is not a great choice for connecting sensors:
1. It probably adds $10 or more to the cost.

2. In environments with radio noise, such as at Brickfest or near an operating microwave oven, the communication could suffer from interference.

3. The NXT can only communicate with one Bluetooth device at a time. So if it has to skip between listeining to the sensor and talking to a Bluetooth remote control then both are going to suffer delays.

Ttfn,
Tony

Filip said...

Tony,

I imagine the "Lego" stamp on the plastics was probably due to the fact that they "borrowed" the sensor package from another sensor (to have an early prototype).

When sensors go into production, HiTechnic has to use its own molded plastic encapsulation.

Filip
http://bnxt.com

Brian Davis said...

This is great news for both AFoLs and HiTechnic. I've got to say that they (HiTechnic) were very pleased at the warm and enthusiastic response from the BrickFest crowd (I think I may have been jumping up and down in the back). As Filip mentioned, they are molding their own casings, but the look, feel, and function of these are right in line with LEGO (right up the offset connector).

As to BlueToothing sensors, this was a common thing requested at BrickFest during the NXT Q&A sessions, and Tony has some good points. I suspect adding $10 to the cost is even an underestimate: each sensor would need its own BlueCore chipset, and a microprocessor/PIC to drive it properly, and a whole lot more *power*... powering a LED and some phototransitors is very easy, powering BT is much more energy-demanding. How many battery sets do you want to have to change out of your robots?

Surprisingly, I've had little problem with BT interferance. At BrickFest I don't think any of us had problems (we did a good bit of running around under remote control), and NI Week in Austin had a *hoard* of BT devices and interferenace from industrial demos... yet both Steve and I had uninterrupted BT communication over distances of more than 30 meters, ten times the "specified" maximum range.

Hmm... here's a thought for simple "remote" sensors. Can you make an RFID tag that switchs number in some way based on the output of a simple sensor? True, you'll need a RFID tag reader as a sensor unit on the NXT (and that's going to run around $50), and may be rather slow to boot... but now remote sensors like touch become very very cheap, flat, perhaps literally disposable, and unpowered...

--
Brian Davis

Maniac000 said...

3. The NXT can only communicate with one Bluetooth device at a time. So if it has to skip between listeining to the sensor and talking to a Bluetooth remote control then both are going to suffer delays.

True. But don't try to tell me that you wouldn't say no to a wireless BT Vision Command.

One thing that strikes me about the news is its impact to FLL. Will Hitechnic sensors sold at Shop @ Home be allowed in competition. A compas senosr would come in handy, I'm fairly certain that the tables are suposed to be faced a certain way(?).

Tony Naggs said...

Filip - I want to make my own sensors. So I'm hoping to hear more from Lego about the availablity of compatible connectors soon. ;-)

Ttfn,
Tony

Tony Naggs said...

Re Bluetooth Sensors

It is interesting to hear that this was a populart request at BrickFest. At the moment I can only think of a few cases where this is significantly more attractive than runing a sensor cable or having a second NXT, or a PDA/PC, to do the remote activity.

Though Bluetooth is one of the areas I would like to hack on when the source to the NXT firmware becomes available.

Yes, the $10 is low - I was thinking of it as a minimum bill of materials cost. Additional cost to the resale price could be quite a lot higher.

A7 Engineering for instance have Bluetooth adapters that talk to Atmel, PIC & similar processors for $49 each, in quantities of 100.

Bluetooth is pretty robust, I work in an office where I can see 50+ Bluetooth devices. If the radio hops to a frequency that is busy with noise or another transmission it will retry after a short while. These delays may be more significant when collecting sensor readings in a dynamic environment.

I don't think RFID tags can 'switch number' without having a microcontroller in. Perhaps the switch could just complete a resonant RC circuit, and the transmitter could send a burst of RF and sense received signal after the end of the burst? Sorry to be vague, RF circuits are not really my forte.

Regards,
Tony

Brian Davis said...

> ut don't try to tell me that you wouldn't say no
> to a wireless BT Vision Command.

Yes, but... it would be very handy if the processing was done on-board the camera, to avoid hogging the NXT. And if the processing is on-board the camera, what will be passed on is not image data, but somthing simple. As to BTing the image back... be prepared for a wait. A significant wait.

Tony, as to why BT sensors were so popular, I suspect it might be at least partially due to many folks just not knowing all the details (like the cost). The only reason I do, is while in the MUP/MDP I too asked for them, and when they $50 increase was explained, I found other solutions. This may just be needing to get the information and understanding out into the community.

On RFID tags, I wish I knew how they worked in detail (somebody want to fill me in?). I'm thinking of a RFID tag that can toggle its number by 1 based on a simple physical switch that reconfigures a portion of the circut. I have not idea if that works... and yes, a simple RF ping on a resonant frequency would be just as good (and cheaper!) in most cases. But not as flexible, which is why I was thinking of RFID readers.

On the subject of connectors, I'm not sure they will be released in bulk - I simply don't know where the supplier is, or if they are publicly avalible. But is not, we at least still have the option of "voiding the warrenty" on the cable LEGO sells and cutting them in two... after all, that's exactly what we have done with the 9V system wires for many years (the only supplier of those ever was LEGO).

--
Brian Davis

Tony Naggs said...

Hi Brian

I forgot that Bluetooth is still more known here in Europe. Hmmm, even Target have Motorola Bluetooth headsets at $70. Which is hardly cheap, and I guess they have production runs in the region of 50 000+.

Microchip (www.microchip.com) have some interesting rfPIC processors and RFID tags. (Links are too wide to be readable in these columns.)

My home-made NXT connectors are of somewhat variable quality so far. If I sold a few sensors that I had made I would prefer to use Lego NXT compatible sockets. The manufacturer ident on the connectors appears to be 'BN', but I do not know/remember who that is.

Mindsensors (www.mindsensors.com) have a pretty good trick of having 4 plated-through holes in the circuitboard to connect the Lego Technic/RCX connector bricks to.

Regards,
Tony

Filip said...

Tony,

To build your own sensors, I think you can only do one of two things: do it the way MindSensors does it, or go through the Lego Certification Program. The last thing is the best way, but it only going to be feasible I think for professional sensor building.

Filip
bNXT.com

Paul said...

Anyone know how to get the rj45 mates for a custom sensor for the NXT. Also if any housings are available, similar to what the HiTechnic guys have on their website? I looked at what Mindsensors has done, I want to be able to protect the electronics

Anonymous said...

Where can I find a RFID reader that works with LEGO NXT robot?

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