Feb 27, 2006

There's just not much activity on the NXT front...

When it comes to videos and pictures, I think the supply has pretty much been exhausted. With the exceptions of the CES 2006 (Jan) and the New York International Toy Fair 2006 (Feb), there doesn't seem to be any other demonstrations of Mindstorms NXT in a public setting. The Education NXT blog still seems to be posting some semi-regular information, but the official site hasn't had anything new since the Feb 12 announcement.

"The NXT Step" blog will be 'on vacation' from March 4th to March 12th. Please note that I will be turning on the "Moderate Comments" feature to prevent any abuses. I'll review any comments received on March 13th.

I've received numerous personal emails regarding my blog - thank you for the compliments. I hope to continue to provide news and information on NXT as it comes.


Feb 25, 2006

FLL, NXT, and Volunteering

As you can see below, the FIRST Lego League is still anticipating the release of NXT in August. They are making the announcement for the 2007 Challenge in Mid-Sept, so students will have about 2-4 weeks to experiment with the new system from the time they receive it.

I'll put in a plug for volunteering for the FLL. Currently the Atlanta, Georgia (USA) volunteer coordinator is looking for adults to volunteer to help with the 3 day event. If you're interested, I can email you the contact information for faster response (the online app procedure takes a little time for you to hear back)

------2006 Schedule------

Current Robot Sets, FIRST DVD's, and Coaches' Handbooks begin to ship

New Release Robot Sets and Field Setup Kits begin to ship

Sept 15
International Challenge Announced

MAKE magazine article on sensors

The latest issue of MAKE magazine has a great primer on sensors. It's not overly technical, but it does assume a very basic understanding of electronics. While it's not specifically about Mindstorms NXT or any particular robotic product, it does use a robot-theme (and illustrations) to introduce concepts such as infrared and temperature sensors. Coverage also includes voltage output, inductive, resistive, and capacitive sensors.

References from the article (and products mentioned) can be found here.

Personal Note: if you've never seen or read MAKE magazine, you really need to hunt down a copy. It's from the same folks at O'Reilly that put out the great technology books.

Sound Sensor coverage on Lego Education blog

Lego Education NXT has posted a closeup picture and some information on the sound sensor... read it here.

Some thoughts: I mentioned in an earlier post how the tone sensitivity could be used to control the bot by using the sounds from a guitar or a touch tone phone (it if's loud enough or if the sensor is sensitive enough). I like that it can distinguish between two voices... I imagine they must be dissimilar in certain ways (my brother and I sound alike, so it wouldn't work for us).

Only the Ultrasonic Sensor is left to cover (unless maybe the HiTechnic sensors will get some coverage here). Thanks go to Lego Education NXT for providing pictures and information on the sensors, motors, and other items...

Containers for my RCX... maybe NXT

Here are some images of the containers I use for my RIS 1.5 - I like them because they are shallow (and easy to see inside when lid is closed) and the clasps are very rugged and won't pop open easily.

Image 1
Image 2
Image 3
Image 4
Image 5
Image 6

They're made by ZAG and sold by Stanley - do a Search for part #14325 (25 Compartment Professional Organizer). You can take out the little yellow boxes or move them around to make space for larger items.

I believe I bought them from Sam's Club for US$6 each... (US$10 online)

They're thin, light, and my favorite part - look at the back - it has the LEGO pattern - holes and studs. Yes, it's the small things that bring me amusement.

Feb 24, 2006

It's quiet out there...

The Mindstorms NXT news can best be summed up with a picture and some music...

Technic tutorials...

I hope that they decide to keep adding to the tutorials here (not much so far)... but if you'd like to see what LEGO is currently offering in terms of Technic training, check out the links below:

Intro to Technic - some simple discussions.

Technic Tutorials - 3 so far. They indicate more will be created.

Technic Glossary - again, not much... very simplified definitions.

Combining Elements - discusses mixing Standard Lego Brick with Technic

Thoughts on NXT vs. RCX in competition...

Read Filip's comment (about power) for the earlier post on weight, and you may be wondering how in the world can an RCX bot compete with an NXT bot?

From a power and weight perspective, one of the 'balancing factors' I can imagine (for now) is the number of extra sensors and more powerful motors that can be made/purchased for the RCX. If you are talking about an 'anything goes' competition, the NXT is at a disadvantage due to lack of additional sensors and motors. But we can't expect this to last too long...

Another 'balancing factor' could be the experience factor. There's a lot more trial-and-error testing with the RCX, and it could be argued that inexperience with the NXT system could help the RCX designer(s). If LEGO Education NXT releases its version in August 2006, the experience factor will last only as long as the time needed for the NXT developers to catch up - could be months... or a year or more.

If you examine the last set of challenges for the FLL, it may or may not be difficult to imagine performing the tasks with the NXT. Lack of 'hands-on' with the NXT is what keeps me from writing 'no problem' - who knows, some of the tasks for RCX may truly be difficult or impossible (?) for the NXT - and by that, I mean the basic retail kit and/or Education version.

I have no doubts the NXT is going to be a powerful robotic construction system... my question is simply whether we should even be comparing the NXT with the RCX? I still tend to think of the two as apples and oranges and, therefore, comparisons cannot be fair to either product.

Thoughts on weight...

Filip brought up in one of his postings the issue of the FIRST Lego League competitions mixing RCX with NXT... got me thinking...

I was looking over some of the designs that can be built with NXT and it occurred to me that there is a SUBSTANTIAL amount of empty space - compared to the RIS and block building.

When it comes to weight, a lot of RIS designs were underpowered by the standard motors. A portion of my design time with the RIS system involved reducing weight; an unfortunate side effect of some of my designs (and maybe yours, too) was that I was forced to reinforce a weak point by building up that area with extra bricks. This hurt my designs in multiple ways, the main 2 being it looked ugly and it was heavier.

With the NXT Technic components, I'm sure weight will always need to be considered, but... look at the empty space of the beams and angled pieces. You'll see holes... LOTS of them.

I realize you cannot compare an NXT bot to a RIS bot - apples to oranges in most cases. But when considering form versus function, it might be interesting to compare 2 bots that perform the same function and weigh them. This may not be that big of a deal, but if the NXT motors are more powerful and the NXT components are even 20% lighter (or more!)... well, think about things like competitions.

If the function is the same (the competition's tasks to complete), but the form is faster, lighter, and more sturdy, are we going to see NXT sending RCX to the bench?

Ultrasonic Sensor's family tree...

I'll file this under "Interesting History Lesson" - John Barnes (HiTechnic) has been working on his version of the ultrasonic sensor for a while... check out this article on one of his early designs... and scroll down to see an early version of the NXT's USonic sensor... love the 'eyes' on it...

(Notice the date on the circuitry schematic)

Feb 23, 2006

LEGO Education coverage of servo motor

Great picture on the LEGO Education NXT blog of the inner workings of a servo motor... also some discussion of why the old RCX motors were not good at holding a straight line.

Also, the site posted (a few days ago) some details on the rechargeable battery that will be compatible with NXT - but NOT sold with the retail version.

Closeup of Software image...

A few items in this picture stand out.

1. The 18 challenges appear to be step-by-step instructions provided on-screen instead of a printed book.

2. The icons appear to be different colors, but this MAY simply be a limitation of the photo.

3. There appears to be no explanation for the word 'humanoid' unless these are the steps to create the AlphaREX.

4. I wish you could see actual text for the 'Programming Brief' and the 'Challenge Brief' sections.

Intelligent Brick menu items

From one of the videos provided by Jeff at nxtbot.com (the 2nd one from top), you can watch as he scrolls, left to right, through the various options on the Intelligent Brick:

NXT Program
My Files
Try Me

Comments on what View or My Files would be? The others, I think, are probably self-explanatory... maybe not. Then again, the options might have changed since this video was taken, too.

Feb 22, 2006

Audio interview with WIRED article writer...

Theworld.org had a short audio interview with Brendan Koerner, author of the February 2006 Wired magazine article "Geeks in Toyland". Click here to listen.

Feb 21, 2006

CNET coverage of Toy Fair 2006 (NXT mentioned)

Picture #2 is of, what else, my FAVORITE NXT robot... no new information that isn't already available, but I'm glad to see that NXT is continuing to get coverage.

Read the accompanying article here.

UPDATE: Did anyone notice that they put a touch sensor at the top? Why?? In the other image, it's the sound sensor (see Feb 19 post picture)... weird.

Bluetooth on my iPAQ

I started playing around with the Bluetooth settings on my iPAQ. I didn't get far, though. Take a look at this collection of screenshots off my iPAQ - you'll see that it's waiting for a response from a BT-enabled device.

I can't wait to use this thing as a control device.

(And as something only a techie could love - my iPAQ has a little blue blinking LED when BT is turned on. It's a nice, calming color.)

Feb 20, 2006

New LEGO Education website to watch...

Reader Mitch E. put me onto this one - it looks like Lego Education has another website devoted to NXT. There's not much on it (yet), but it indicates things will start moving in April 2006.

Check it out here.

And read the Lego Education NXT blog here.

Thanks, Mitch, for the information!

My Favorite Mindstorms NXT robot (so far...)

Okay, I'll admit it - I'm already partial to one of the pre-existing robot designs for NXT. I can't wait to get my hands on the NXT system and build it, and I'll tell you why.

Because it looks like it can be fun to chase the cat or dog with... look at those front claws... it might even be fun to put under the bed and let it rush at my wife's ankles when she gets up in the morning (of course, I'll be sleeping on the sofa the next night).

The thing just looks mischievous. I can't wait to program it for various attack scenarios.

And then, of course, there's programming it for sound - barking when chasing the cat, maybe?

Another VIDEO found displaying NXT

A video here that displays the NXT from the 2006 Toy Fair held recently in New York City. It shows that scorpion strike! Thanks to Koshdukai's blog (and recent comment on this blog) for finding this video!

Feb 19, 2006

New Video - NXT and short interview with Soren Lund

Robots-dreams.com has links for an article and video on various robots that have recently made news. The video is nice to watch - not only for the NXT, but also for some good ideas for future robot designs with the NXT based on the behaviors of the other robots in the video. Check it out here.

Questions 3 and 4 (of 4) from Steven Hassenplug

Q&A's with Steve Hassenplug to share below (see earlier post for Questions 1 and 2):

Q: Do you think the NXT system will be more/less/same 'user-friendly' to the younger designers as the RIS?

SH: They've made a big effort to design a system where kids can have a robot running in 30 minutes. I think they've done that.

One big difference between this Mindstorms kit and the first is that they are also trying to design this so adults can use it. The first time they were just lucky. :) (if you consider a good design as lucky)

Q: Finally, 'paid in bricks' sounds nice - did you enjoy the User Panel experience? Any comments on the joys and/or sorrows of the experience?

SH: First, I do want to point out something that's not clear in your blog. LEGO has created two different groups, the Mindstorms User Panel (MUP) and the Mindstorms Developer Program (MDP). The MUP started with 4 of us, and was expanded to 14.

The MDP will consist of 100 lucky developers who have a chance to start building the next (NXT?) Mindstorms community, even before the product is on the market. Hopefully, by the time the general public is opening their NXTs, there will already be a wealth of information available. I think we're already off to a good start...

To answer your question, it's been a lot of fun, and I'm not spending as much money on my hobby as I had been. :) Of course, that may change in August.

Thanks for asking

Feb 18, 2006

Sneak Peek from HiTechnic

Regarding Mindstorms NXT to Mindstorms RCX communications, HiTechnic.com is preparing to announce something new, but you're getting a sneak peek here first, thanks to Steve at HiTechnic!

The HiTechnic Bridge will allow the NXT Intelligent Brick to communicate with the Mindstorms RCX Brick.

The HiTechnic Bridge will use an Infrared (IR) Transmitter and Receiver (connected to an NXT sensor port) and that's how it will 'talk' to the RCX through its IR port. Full bidirectional data transfer will be supported and can be initiated by either Brick.

Look for it in August, to coincide with the NXT system retail release. (And check the HiTechnic website for more info very soon, including pictures.)

Thanks again, Steve, for the preview.

Lego Mindstorms Education NXT - light sensor coverage

Click here to read some information on the light sensors provided by the Education NXT site.

LabView software comparison

Two images of the Labview software (one from the CES in January 2006 and the other from Toy Fair in February 2006) show some slight differences. Click here and see what you think.

Feb 17, 2006

Questions 1 and 2 (of 4) from Steven Hassenplug

I have some Q&A's with Steve Hassenplug, one of the lucky 4 MUPs featured in the February 2006 issue of WIRED magazine, to share below:

Q: What were your after-thoughts on the WIRED article and how it described the User Panel?

SH: It's been pretty cool. I've had friends from all over contact me after seeing the story. I was expecting more people to ask questions that they know I shouldn't answer. But, everyone's been good about it. And, that's nice, because if we (MUPs) don't mess this up, there could be many more opportunities like this one.

Q: Are you working on Legway 2.0? Any comments on what kind(s) of improvement over the RCX version you expect?

SH: I really haven't had a chance to do that, yet. The one big thing I'm hoping is to build one using all pieces from the standard kit.


I would like to thank Steve for taking the time to answer my questions. I'll have questions 3 and 4 up tomorrow.

More Details on the HiTechnic Multiplexor

Steve with HiTechnic emailed me some more technical details about the Multiplexor. Very cool stuff here - I hope you're like me and looking forward to getting your hands on some of these new items when they're ready.

Many thanks to Steve for the details provided below. Check out the HiTechnic site here.


The HiTechnic Multiplexor is designed to extend the I/O capabilities of the NXT by providing four additional sensor ports and four additional motor ports. The Multiplexor could be thought of as a mini-NXT, having its own CPU and I/O support hardware. It is powered from an external 9v supply which may be either a battery pack or 9v DC wall transformer.

The four sensor ports are compatible with those in the NXT, supporting digital I/O and able to perform both active and passive RCX compatible analog input as well.

The four motor ports are also fully compatible to the NXT's motor ports. Software within the Multiplexor receives commands from the NXT and performs motor control functions based upon feedback from the motors' built-in rotation sensors, just as the NXT does.

The HiTechnic Multiplexor has a ninth port, the Connect I/O Port, which connects to the one of the NXT's sensor ports. The NXT communicates with the Multiplexor over this connection, transferring packets of sensor data and motor control data.

Built into the Multiplexor is a routing device which permits digital lines to be temporally switched directly through to one of the four sensor ports allowing the NXT to communicate directly with the attached sensor.

Fun with Bluetooth and Mindstorms NXT

I don't use any Bluetooth items currently, BUT... I do have an iPAQ 1945 that I 'retired' a few years ago, but still keep around for some of the applications (ok, games). It has built-in Bluetooth support, so I dug out the manual and was reading through it. I have to say, this is going to be fun! I'm sure there will be some 'remote control' apps written for the Pocket PC OS and NXT - but just the ability to send basic controls from this little hand-held device is going to be great. There is a LOT to know about BT - my manual has about 15-20 pages dedicated to setting it up, configuring, and using it.

On another subject - I haven't heard anything yet about the MUP. It's driving me crazy waiting.

Legacy Sensors links

Legacy Sensors compatibility appear to be a possibility for Mindstorms NXT with the availability of the HiTechnic multiplexor (see earlier post). Here are some links for companies and/or sites that offer legacy sensors for sale.



Homebrew sensors (scroll down to the "Homebrew" section)


Feb 16, 2006

Multiplexor for NXT

While I was looking around the HiTechnic website, I noticed a preview link - looks like a solution to the sensors limitation. According to this, the Multiplexor will provide an additional 4 sensors ports and 4 output ports! Click on the link above and then click the 'Development Lab' link.

Also, (great news) legacy sensors and motors (for the RCX) are ALSO supported by the Multiplexor. No price or release date has been set.

Image is copyright of HiTechnic Products.

Technical article on the ultrasonic sensor

You can read how the ultrasonic sensors works here. Some parts are a bit technical, but it was still informative and is based on the sensor offered by HiTechnic.

Feb 15, 2006

Question 3 (of 3) for Soren Lund

Here is my third question to Soren Lund, Director of LEGO Group’s MINDSTORMS division. (See my earlier posts for questions 1 and 2.)

Q: Has the NXT system been 'tested' by a younger group (ages 10-15)? IF so, what were their reactions?

SL: We are always testing new products with kids. For MINDSTORMS NXT the focus has been the 10-14 year target group. The NXT generation will not only utilize sophisticated technologies, it will also be easier to use for the new user 10 and up. We have designed and tested a Quick Start process so any child 10 and up can build, program and test a robot within 30 minutes. Our tests show that the kids really appreciate this and they love the new cool looking robots. They also find the new programming environment very intuitive and easy to use.


My interest in the NXT system lies with the younger designers. A recent article in TIME magazine asked the question "Is America Flunking Science?" I'm hoping with all the current interest in robots (not just NXT) that kids will find areas such as engineering, programming, physics, etc. to be interesting and challenging. When I was a kid, I had my 150 Electronics Projects Kit (from Radio Shack) that I enjoyed - I also had my Erector Set and I loved programming in BASIC. The NXT would have been a dream for me at age 10.

Information about Mindstorms Education images

I've posted some images from the LEGO Mindstorms Education NXT website recently (see posts on Feb 3 and Feb 1). I was contacted today by Mindstorms Education NXT - they wanted me to be aware that the images were built from the Education NXT kit, and that these robots might not necessarily be robots that could be assembled from the retail kit.

A quote from the email: "...instructions to build them are not provided in the sets you will be able to buy in stores."

I don't see anything in those images that hasn't already been mentioned for the retail version (4 sensors and 3 motors), but there might be something internal or out-of-view that isn't available in the retail kit. But again, it was stated that these are not robots that have instructions provided in the retail set.

I just wanted to pass along that little warning... (plus a heads-up was given in the email: "... the light sensor is up next ...")

Question 2 (of 3) for Soren Lund

Here is my second question to Soren Lund, Director of LEGO Group’s MINDSTORMS division. (See my earlier post for the first of three questions.)

Q: Has there been any discussion yet about expansion kits (like the Vision Command System)?

SL: We are always looking into how we can expand the consumer offer. It has to be components or products that truly benefit the consumers. One example is a rechargeable battery pack. This is one of the most asked for components for MINDSTORMS Generation 1 (The RCX Generation). When we launch MINDSTORMS NXT later this year we will also offer a rechargeable battery pack.


Well, there you have it - they plan on making the rechargeable battery pack available as an add-on/expansion. That's good news for all - especially those of us who dislike purchasing batteries for many reasons - economic, environmental, etc.

Feb 14, 2006

Good closeup images

Some nice closeup images have been posted on bricksonthebrains.com - click here to view the NXT images. Filip pointed out to me that there appear to be GEARS in one of the images... take a look at the box image and... yes, those are gears.

You'll also get to see a closeup of the digital screen on the Intelligent Brick. There are also some images of a cable, the back of a sensor, and a connected sensor. Finally, some good closeups of the scorpion and Alpha.

News item - interview with Lego at Toy Fair 2006

Michael T. McNally, senior brand relations manager for Lego Systems Inc. is quoted in this article about Mindstorms NXT. Not a whole lot of new information, but he does comment on the high-hopes for Bluetooth.

Feb 13, 2006

Question 1 (of 3) for Soren Lund

I had the chance to ask Mr. Soren Lund, Director of LEGO Group’s MINDSTORMS division (pictured), a few questions about Mindstorms NXT. Here is the first question and his response:

Q: What surprised you most about the new NXT components? By this, I mean are you pleased with the changeover to Technic components and do you feel it will be a more useful and easier to build with than the RCX/Bricks version?

SL: From the beginning of the project, we defined the strategy for the next generation of MINDSTORMS. We wanted to take advantage of the new technologies in the market to make it easier to build and program robots but also to allow for more sophisticated use of our toolset. The Interactive Servo Motor is a good example of this. Because of the feedback loop from the motors to the NXT it is now very easy to make a robot go straight. If one motor is a bit ahead of the other motor then the NXT will tell that motor to wait for the other motor. For the first time user this will happen automatically. For the advanced user you now have a motor that you can control very precisely - down to one degree. The feedback we got from the MUP (MINDSTORMS User Panel) when we showed them the motor was: "Do you know what kind of sophisticated robots we can build when we get that motor?"
It was also very important for us to make it easier to build stable, moving robots. The LEGO TECHNIC building system helps us do that. By staying 100% with the TECHNIC elements it is easier for kids 10 years and up to create their own robots. You will be amazed when you see how easy it is to build the Quick Start model.

(Soren Lund, center, Popular Mechanics magazine Editor’s Choice Award)


Many thanks to Mr. Lund for his response. Questions 2 and 3 will be posted soon... so please check back.


ASMzine.com has posted some images from the 2006 Toy Fair... view them all here.

CNN.com article on robots - brief mention of NXT

CNN.com has an interesting article on robots and kids... focusing on the large number of companies entering into the marketplace. With the International Toy Fair going on this week, I'm hoping we'll see and hear more about NXT.

MINDSTORMS Developer Program Update

A short response from LEGO regarding the User Panel has been posted here.

LEGO Education covers new Touch Sensor - some thoughts

Click here to read LEGO Education NXT's little blurb about the Touch Sensor. It mentions that a hole for an axle has been provided (see picture). I'd also like to add something that wasn't mentioned... the old RCX touch sensor had the toggle running along one axis ONLY (for example, left to right or West to East). This new sensor has two axis to monitor - up/down and left/right. I think this will greatly increase the sensitivity of the sensor. Combine this with the axle hole and the touch sensor will be able to more quickly react to obstacles and touch input.

Feb 11, 2006

Wikipedia entry for Mindstorms NXT

I'm sure once NXT is released in August that the Wikipedia will be a top source of information. For now, the info is extremely limited. It's a nice summary (with hyperlinks) of the programming languages available for the old RCX.

Feb 9, 2006

LEGO Mindstorms NXT User Panel - no news

One of the MP3 files I posted about earlier mentioned that over 800 applications had been received for the MUP. I have a feeling that number is probably much higher. I've tried to find any information on the date the announcement will be made about those selected... but no luck. Anyone heard anything? I understand that LEGO wants to have the kits out by end of February, so my guess is that the announcement should be happening soon. Good luck to those of you who applied.

18 Mindstorms NXT Challenges in 4 categories

This image is a closer view of the LabView software. It shows (what I think are) the 4 categories of pre-programmed robots that come with the NXT. These are probably tied to the 18 Challenges that are mentioned as coming with the system.

Another MP3 from Bricks in my Pocket (covers NXT)

Some really nice surprises in this MP3. They interviewed Jake with LEGO - it's a 42 minute long podcast and is safe for kids. They discuss the WIRED magazine article (Feb 2006) and he talks about some of the details in that article... AND, it was hinted that BimP is trying to arrange an interview for a future podcast with Soren Lund of LEGO. (By the way, the Mindstorms User Panel has a nickname among LEGO - muppets)

MP3 (1 hour) discussing WIRED article and NXT

Bricks in My Pocket has released a 1 hour MP3 file. I've listened to it - completely safe for kids to listen in. Nice sound quality and the hosts are funny! I'm adding BimP to my LINKS because it's a nice site to check out regarding LEGO in general. This is podcast #21 - I've got to find podcast #20 because they talked with Jake of LEGO who talked about NXT... more to come.

Unidentified NXT Robot - closeup image

Here's a zoom-in of that image on the back of the NXT box. The original photo's resolution wasn't high enough to keep the detail, but I'm fairly certain that this is a robot that hasn't been seen yet (other than on the box). Anyone have any ideas?

How to Build an Extender

If you've seen a video or picture of the NXT scorpion robot (called 'Spike'), you've seen that the tail uses an interesting method for extending.

Constructopedia.media.mit.edu has a great little tutorial on how this is done using the Technic pieces (and some gears). Very little is known about the inclusion of gears with the NXT system, but the tutorial still shows you how the majority of the movement is accomplished.

(Click here to see the scorpion tail movement.)

Back of NXT Box - What is THAT??

Take a close look at this image of the back of the NXT box from CES 2006. Has anyone seen this robot before? (see circled item)

Feb 7, 2006

Lego Mindstorms NXT - BLOGS

Some thanks are long overdue... there are multiple NXT blogs that have popped up and I would like to point them out:

1. nxtbot.com - thanks to Jeff for many of the images you see - I can't take credit for a lot of these images as I wasn't at CES 2006. Jeff took some good photos of software and hardware.

2. bnxt.com - Filip has a great site, too... plus he has the aggregate news feed that pulls from numerous sources.

3. nxtclub.com - Steve and Lisa have another blog site dedicated to NXT that I check quite often.

NXT open box reveals some things...

I realize that the final product may not match what is seen in this picture, but a closer look reveals a few things:

1. I don't see any gears... do you?
2. 4 rubber (?) tires
3. The Challenges (18) are pre-programmed and appear along right side of software (in the left-most image of the software at top of box lid)
4. 2 books - one is probably the "Quick Start Guide" mentioned in the middle-right box with image of robot.

New third-party sensor for NXT announced

HiTechnic has announced on its website that a new sensor has been developed for the LEGO Mindstorms NXT. It's a compass sensor, capable of providing a digital heading (rounded to nearest 1 degree) to the NXT Intelligent Brick. Very cool. I can think of many uses for this, but the best one would be that the feedback would allow a robot to move in a very straight path and stay on a set course.

Click on the "News and Announcements" section to read about it. Oh, and some (or all) of the User Panel members will get a version of it to test out. If you are selected as a member, contact HiTechnic to find out more details.

LEGO at American International Toy Fair Feb 12-15

The Toy Industry Association, Inc. will host the 2006 International Toy Fair in New York, NY (USA) February 12-15. Unfortunately, it appears that the only people who can attend are those in the industry - buyers, distributors, etc. It says 'Not open to the public', but maybe someone is in the industry and will attend. If so, please let me know.

MP3 mentions NXT - sound sensor comment

The Dr. Dobb's website has a 3-minute MP3 that mentions NXT. The coverage starts at the 1:50 mark. It doesn't really mention anything new, but for the first time I caught the statement about the sound sensor responding to 'tones'.

Voice controlled devices have many drawbacks. Not everyone's voice has the same pitch/tone. Volume is an issue, as some people speak louder, some softer. Many voice-controlled or activated devices have to be programmed for a particular person. If someone else's voice doesn't match up... no luck in operating the device.

While voice control might be tricky, if the sound sensor can be programmed to distinguish tones from the high to low spectrum, it opens up the possibility of controlling a robot through many different household item that can project easily identifiable (AND DISTINCT) tones: piano keys, touch-tone phone, guitar strings, etc.

This should be a LOT of fun to play around with...

Feb 6, 2006

LEGO Mindstorms NXT User Panel

Well, now that the User Panel deadline has passed, I guess it's just wait-and-see. I'm very curious to know how many applications were submitted for the 100 positions (and according to the previous post's article, that info will be released at some point). I hope to get picked (as most of you probably do, too), but if not, I hope that little bits and pieces of information will be made available to the general public as the beta period progresses. August seems a long way away. I'm sure the non-disclosure agreement(s) will define what can and cannot be released to the rest of the world.

For me, I volunteered in the on-line application to participate with writing. As a freelance technical writer, I'm hoping (if picked) to help with documentation and maybe some articles and/or a book or 2. What did you register to help out with?

Feb 4, 2006

Good article/interview - details on the User Panel

Nextbrick.com has a great interview/article with Karen Lynch of Flashpoint, PR. Some really good information here on the Mindstorms User Panel (MUP) that is being assembled.

More Mindstorms NXT Images - Variations

The LEGO Mindstorms Education NXT website has loaded some new images (they appear randomly when you refresh the screen) - these appear to be variations of the earlier collection of images (see my February 1st post) OR simply a view from a different angle. You can see some of the sensors in the back of a few of the robots that weren't visible in earlier images. (Click on the image below to see a larger view)

LEGO Mindstorms EDUCATION update on rotation sensor

The LEGO Mindstorms Education NXT website posted a short note about the lack of a rotation sensor in the new system. You can read it here. It basically states that the servo motors replace the rotation sensor (since they have built-in feedback on angular rotation), BUT the Education NXT version will have the converter cables to use the old RIS sensors (including the rotation sensor).

Software speculation Part 3...

I sure would like to see some more screenshots of the software. If anyone knows of any, please let me know.

Feb 3, 2006

LEGO Mindstorms EDUCATION NXT at Austin, Texas Conference

The 26th Annual Texas Computer Education Association (TCEA) Convention & Exposition will be held February 6-10, 2006, in Austin, Texas. Currently, LEGO Education is listed as an exhibitor. It doesn't state if they will be demonstrating Mindstorms NXT. If anyone is planning on attending, please let me know. Click here for more details.

LEGO Mindstorms NXT User Panel deadline

Just a reminder that the deadline for the LEGO Mindstorms NXT user panel is February 5, 2006. Click here for the details and link to sign up.

Excerpt: "A unique opportunity for 100 LEGO MINDSTORMS pioneers who are 18 years old or older.
The LEGO MINDSTORMS Team would like to invite 100 individuals to purchase the MINDSTORMS NXT product (at a discount) before its public launch and take part in the LEGO MINDSTORMS Developer Program. We’re looking for developer-minded people who are ready to spend a good amount of time tinkering with LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT––the next generation of LEGO MINDSTORMS––providing us with constructive feedback and other assistance as we finalize the product."

CAD-drawing of NXT robot

Take a good look at this image; it's not a real photo. It appears to be a CAD-drawing of one of the NXT robots. (See the earlier post, "Some new NXT robot variations" to see an actual photo of this robot.)

I have a few questions:

(1) Was CAD software used to create this image?
(2) If CAD software wasn't used, was a photo simply manipulated to create it?
(2) If it is a CAD design, will the software be made available to NXT users?

Feb 2, 2006

Software speculation Part 2...

I didn't have a larger image of this screen-capture to work with, but I think you'll be able to make sense of the commented items. (Click on the image to get a larger view)

Feb 1, 2006

Some new NXT robot variations

If you have any thoughts as to the function of any of these, please share.
Click on the image at right for a larger view with comments.

So many of these images look like variations of the same base - I'm going to take a guess and say that these may be images of some of the robot challenges mentioned in the NXT press release (18 of them). It looks like after the base is designed, the sensors are attached in various configurations to change the function of the robot.

This may be the NXT equivalent to the RIS Roverbot.

Anyone know what this thing is?

I've seen this picture quite a few times, but I can't quite figure out what it is... any thoughts?

UPDATE: Based on some comments I've received, it appears that this is a CLOCK. See the hour and minute hands on the lower-front? Not sure if the definition of a robot includes the standard clock, but I'm quite surprised and impressed to see this little design.

CNN has pay-per-view video

I don't like to pay for video-news on the Internet, but CNN has a video that covers NXT here. I guess I could sign up for the free 14-day trial, watch the video, and then cancel the trial, but it seems like a lot of trouble. If someone already subscribes to CNN's Pipeline video news and likes the video, please add a comment and tell us about it.
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