Well I'm back from BrickFest, with a load of pictures, and an even bigger raft of new ideas. There were an amazing number of interesting LEGO creations there, and if you've never seen what truly talented people can do with LEGO, you might want to check it out. It was a real treat as well for me to finally meet some of the people that I have been corresponding with for almost a year in the MUP and MDP programs, and see their creations in person. There were also a lot of wonderful new news on about the NXT at the event, for instance...
First, LEGO announced that the HiTechnic sensors would be sold via LEGO Shop-at-home, as a "LEGO approved" product. In other words, these will be third-party sensors, but of such high quality that LEGO wants to move them through more official channels. This is not only great news for HiTechnic, but really interesting from the standpoint of being one of the first times LEGO Retail has sold a product developed & produced by a third party. Congradulations to HiTechnic, and thank you LEGO for opening up to yet more new ideas - this is an amazing step forward. Of course, this made me wonder about what FLL would consider an "official LEGO part". I suspect they can not be as flexible on this issue as LEGO is (unless FLL adds such sensors to the base kits), but it's an interesting development in any case. John & Steve actually seemed rather surprised at the applause from the community (most of the folks in the room were not Mindstorms types), but I was not - this is a tremendous step forward in LEGO working with the AFoL community, period.
Second, we (the MUP/MDPs) had several Q&A sessions during BrickFest. The questions that were asked were interesting to me (I noticed a lot of people simply not quite understanding data wires yet, for instance, and there were a lot of misunderstandings about BlueTooth), but in the "new information" category Ralph Hempel (developer of pbForth for the RCX, and one of the original MUPpets) announced that he has ported Lua (a C-like language) to the NXT! He demonstrated the core Lua (all running on the brick, not on the computer; the laptop was just a dumb terminal for these demos), including things like searching and ordering arrays of strings with blinding speed. He has a GDB stub working (all through the USB port, so no soldering onto the board of the NXT is required). Lua on the NXT is not yet ready for release: for one thing, Ralph is waiting for the firmware to go open source (I'd say "hint hint" here, but I already know LEGO is hurrying to do this... be patient, folks) so that the API for things like motors, the LCD, sensors, etc. can be worked in. But even still, this is a tremendous accomplishment, and points to yet another third-party firmware coming out for the NXT. Bravo, Ralph! I'll post a link when Ralph gets something updated. This was one of the most drool-worthy announcements for me at BrickFest.
The folks at NXTasy have done a great job covering events at BrickFest as well (you'll note all these videos are from them) - they have a video of Bryan Bonahoom's NXT playing Tic-Tac-Toe, as well as an interview with the folks at Minsensors showing off some of their new sensors, including a compass sensor (that I will be testing), and a device to use a gamecontroler as a NXT remote control - wonderful stuff! Check out these videos and enjoy living vicariously.
Finally, I also was able to try out a HiTechnic compass sensor - a very fun piece of technology, in a very nice-looking case. I'll report more on that presently. For now, browse and discuss amongest yourselves, while I decompress from BrickFest.
Oh, did I mention a NXTbot with live video streaming back to the computer? Thank you John Brost for that one.