Sep 30, 2006
"With Soren, I interviewed Ray Almgren, National Instrument's VP of Product Marketing at the NI User's Conference last month. I put together this piece to show that actively engaging Lead Users in product development ends up being a similar mindset to using viral and community marketing. More so than the Wired story on Mindstorms last February, I tried to get Soren and Ray to talk about why they did what they did, including why Soren emphasises viral marketing over mass advertising. We talk about:
- How they used Lead Users in design.
- Why Lego turns to their community for marketing.
- How Lund sold the idea of using Lead Users to upper managment.
- How to make something viral.
- How to deal with the lawyers. "
Check it out here.
You can also find it on iTunes - do a search for "friends talking podcast"
Sep 29, 2006
Here's my overview:
Running on the NXT brick:
- NXT-G (official LEGO NXT IDE, contained in the kit)
- ROBOLAB (also by LEGO)
- NBC (Assembler style)
- RobotC (C)
- NeXTTool and BrickTool
- Microsoft Robotics Studio (C#/.NET)
- ICommand (Java)
- Visual Lego (.NET)
- NXT Perl (Perl)
- ruby-nxt (Ruby)
- LibNXT (C)
- NXTender (Java)
Which one are you actually using?
Which ones do you particularly like?
What's your dream of a NXT programming environment?
As for me, I'm anxious to see
- a Java VM running on the NXT
- another Model-Driven NXT development environment with a NXT-specific domain language (as a matter of fact, NXT-G is such a one, but I'd like to see some different concepts implemented)
Sep 26, 2006
Sep 25, 2006
"NXTender is a Windows program that allows your NXT to control your PC. It allows the NXT to send keyboard keyclicks to the PC (simulating a keyboard), to open windows and display data in them, and to receive joystick input from the PC. When you use NXTender, you normally program only the NXT brick. The NXTender runs on the PC and does not require programming. Bluetooth messages from the NXTtell the PC what to do, when to send data back, where to send it, what to display on the screen, etc.
Additional functionality can be added to NXTender via relatively-simple plugins that are implemented in Java. That is, the standard version of NXTender does not allow your NXT to control your USB cup warmer, but if you know a little bit of Java and you know how to control that cup warmer from a PC program, then you can write a NXTender plugin that will give your NXT conrol of the cup warmer.
Finally, a challenge. NXTender allows you to build a Lego mouse-type device for your PC without any PC-side programming. Try to build a good one.
Check it out here.
Sep 24, 2006
Personally, I hope there's room for BOTH free and proprietary creations.
What does everybody else think?
You'll also find an introduction to Bram's "Visual Lego" - from his site: "Visual Lego is a library for .NET which allows controlling your Lego Mindstorms NXT Brick from your C# or VB.NET application using the Bluetooth link. This allows you to combine the power of .NET with the power of Mindstorms NXT! The first version is nearly finished. When it's done, I'll post it for download."
Sep 22, 2006
I have uploaded 115 images that contain the building instructions for the CouchBotato.
You can find Step1 starting here.
UPDATE: The purpose of the CouchBotato is silly - for ROBOT magazine, I wrote about a silly desire to have a bot that would roll out and get a bag of potato chips sitting about 10 feet from my couch. I programmed it to use the Sound sensor to determine Left/Right directions and to stop and close the claws around the bag.
Sep 20, 2006
Some people asked me on methods to design a robot beforehand (sort of drawing table) and then just building the real model in one run.
For truth to tell, I don't know about an efficient way to do this (let alone a way to do so that makes fun also - one could use LDraw, of course, but "Ldrawing" without a real model on your table is likely to turn out a complete drudgery):
as for me, I commonly start with a rough idea only and then build away, frequently changing the design while the robot comes gradually into being.
How about you?
What is your procedure in building NXT robots?
Sep 19, 2006
Got some more details from Jonathan on his design:
The Robotic Hand works via a scissor arm. When the scizzor arm extends fully, the hand closes. It has a really tight grip because the motors always exert pressure on it, and it has rubber "fingers" to get good traction. The hand can also rotate side to side, controlled by the arrow keys.
The Sphere Gun uses much the same mechanism that Brian Davis used in his DAZLR - a motor moves an axle in and out of the launcher, discharging the zamor spheres. A magazine above it holds twelve spheres and feeds them into the launcher as long as the arm is straight or slanted down. The magazine opens easily for quick reloading.
The Sonic Eye is the US sensor. When it detects an object closer than 5 inches, it says, "Watch out!", to warn you that an obstacle is near.The Infralight is the light sensor. It turns on it's light when you select the light icon - in a dark room it lights up a pretty big area in front ofyou. I was going to make the light sensor decipher a code I designed (that's the picture of the color squares in my brickshelf folder), but I had to ditch that because of bugs and time restraint.
The Theater displays a short animation about a snail getting past amountain. First, the snail is shown walking slowly up to the mountain (forward movement combined with up and down movement to look realistic).When it reaches the mountain, it stops and says, "Oh no! A mountain!". After the right arrow key is pressed, he says, "How will I get past it?". When the right arrow key is pressed again, he says, "How about, a cave!", and then walks into a "cave" in the mountain.
The game instructions are for a game almost exactly like marbles, except that you use zamor spheres for the marbles and instead of pinging them at the spheres in the circle, you shoot them with the Sphere Gun. The actual words in the instructions say: To play the game draw a medium circle. Place a bunch of zamor spheres in the circle. Players take turns firing spheres at the spheres in the circle until all the spheres in the circle are out. The player with the most spheres wins!Since the display can't show all this at one time, it shows pages of them. You move through them with the right arrow key.
I'd like to point out one sentence in the announcement: "HiTechnic's sensors also will integrate seamlessly within the NXT software programming environment..."
What this means is that you can expect NXT-G blocks that will drop-in just like a regular programming block and the configuration panel can be used to modify settings.
The first sensor from HiTechnic, the Compass Sensor, is scheduled for availability at the end of September 2006.
Peter's already written some information below about his involvement with LEGO and working with kids... please welcome him and, as always, if you have any questions or comments for him or anyone else on The NXT Step team, let us know.
Sep 18, 2006
April 2007 may seem like a long way off, but it will be here sooner than you think. I've talked to some coaches and teachers and I've heard everything from panic to confusion to excitement, but typically a mixture of all 3.
I think we all recognize that the best part of FLL isn't winning... it's the entire process the teams must go through to get from A to Z. I heard so many teams last year telling me that they really didn't care if they won... many told me they had so much fun that they forgot about the competition.
I'm fortunate that I currently live in Atlanta, GA where the final International competition is held... I can't wait for April 2007. Good luck to ALL the teams and maybe I'll get to meet some of you next April!
The Education User Guide is also there for those who might be interested in looking for differences between the two versions.
Jonathan sent me an email about his entry for the official NXT contest. Makes me think of Boba Fett or others with wrist-mounted devices.
Jonathan's comments: Meet my new assistant – the A27 Bionic Glove. Designed to give special capabilities, the Bionic Glove straps comfortably on the lower arm, armed with a sphere gun, extending hand with voice command, radar, and light.
The display has a menu on it with icons, which can be selected using the arrow and enter keys. When the right arrow key is pressed, the next icon is underlined. When the desired icon is underlined, the enter key can be pressed to bring up a submenu.
When the X2 Robotic Hand icon is selected, the display tells the user to input sound. When a sound command is given, the hand extends and grabs at a speed directly related to the volume of the sound command given. When a sound command is given again, the hand opens and retracts. The hand can also be moved left or right using the respective arrow keys. The enter key can be pressed to return to the main menu.
Using the light bulb icon, the I7 InfraLight can be turned on or off. Another feature is the T1 Theater. When this icon (the PC) is selected, a short animation about a snail getting past a mountain is shown.
At night, when visibility is low, the U5 Sonic Eye comes in handy. Selected by the “eye” icon, the Sonic Eye tells you to “watch out!” when you get to close too an object.
Finally, the last icon brings up instructions for the GX “Get Zamors” special game, which you can play using the Sphere Gun.
Whenever the special button (touch sensor) on the control panel is pressed, the Sphere Gun activates, rapidly shooting 12 spheres contained in a magazine. The magazine can easily be opened for quick reloading.
Very cool, Jonathan! Thanks for sending!
View it here.
If YOU have a creation you'd like to share, please email me all the details and I'll get it posted.
Read it here.
For those of you who have been watching Danny's progress on the NXT version of Johnny 5, the JohnNXT5, you'll be happy to hear that Danny has posted a parts list!
View it here - and post comments for Danny if you like what you're seeing.
Sep 17, 2006
Sep 16, 2006
I don't let my students look at the instruction booklets until they have spent time building on their own. It's not that I'm opposed to instructions -- I just think they should follow some initial exploration.
I'll confess that I never warmed up to the first generation of Mindstorms. My own kids were too young for it, and where I work, other teachers led the robotics classes.
I'm looking forward to working with Mindstorms NXT, but my primary interest right now is the step before NXT. I want to give students the experience of working with studless beams and other Technic elements before they get to robotics and programming.
For instance, students need to get a hands-on feel for gear ratios by building their own gear box. Rather than following directions to build a basic chassis, students should first learn through trial and error as they try to build their own car. That way, they'll understand some of the reasons for overlapping and keeping the sides parallel.
LEGO Education just released a set that meets my "pre-NXT" objectives, the 9632 Science & Technology Set. Here's the blurb in the LEGO Education online newsletter.
I'll post a review as soon as I get my hands on it.
Sep 15, 2006
I'll be out of town tonight through Sunday night... probably extremely limited email and blog access. Be sure to bug Brian, Matthias, Tony, and the rest of the crew by posting comments on here about what you'd like to see covered... give 'em something to do :)
(kidding, you guys)
Everyone have a great weekend...
Sep 14, 2006
Reader Anibal P. emailed me, asking about details on the truck on the back of the NXT box. I am surprised to say that I never even noticed it! We already got plans and programs for the Cuckoo clock and the Sound Machine - both of these were displayed on the box... so maybe this one will be released soon. Anyone have any information on the truck?
Sep 13, 2006
Well we kicked off the fall club yesterday afternoon. It lasted 2.5 hours. We had 30 kids show up. I’d say the hardest part was setting up the tables and chairs and spreading out the laptops and LME NXT kits. We had 10 LME kits built earlier from our two summer sessions. I added two additional LME boxes out of our remaining stock and spread the 12 sets across 6 tables. It took time ( about 40 minutes) because I was only expecting 24, not 30 kids.
Once all the kids were assigned kits (mostly the same ones that they used in the summer) they were told to proceed where they left off with the Robot Educator. I actually thought I could run the club with more structure but there were just too many students (even with five other parents there to help me set up).
Still, it was amazing how easy it was for the kids to just follow the tutorials at their own pace.
A sixth grade girl even reached step 20 where a robot identifies a red ball and subsequently whacks it with a golf swing. We had an interesting group of sixth grade boys who decided to deviate from the Robot Educator and build a fairly elaborate robot with a long crane attachment. The good news is that we were able to keep the sets apart, and pack up relatively fast. The bad news… no time for pictures.
More bad news: My website provider sent me an email the night before the meeting saying:
“We disabled your website because of a disallowed java framework. – Have a nice day.”
So now I’m looking for a good Java Servlet hosting company that can monitor my memory use (which was not out of the ordinary) rather then merely censoring my use of third party frameworks. (This framework is called Hibernate and it’s used as an O/R mapping tool to generate SQL and is not known to be memory intensive).
Long story short: RestonRobotics.org is temporarily offline until I can find it a new home.-david
Sep 12, 2006
This is my attempt at compiling a Quick Install Guide for the essential LEGO CAD tools. It is the first document in a series that I am working on. I am not completely satisfied with it yet. But, please review it and provide some feedback. I have a few worries but will take on any harshness that may follow. Sadly, (well sort of sadly) it is only for the Windows based installations of the programs I feel are the best. MAC folks will have to fend for themselves. I blame my Father for my unfortunate Windows addiction (a habit I wish to crack someday).
For the "LEGO CAD Quick Install Guide"..Click HERE to download a PDF version. If you need a different file type email me directly or offer a clue in the comments area.
Sep 11, 2006
To whom it may concern: I've created building instructions for my most complex robot so far, the Dicke Bertha Typ II (already mentioned in a previous post).
Just to give anyone who is on the wing to starting "Ldrawing" a hint about the efforts one has to face with it: though MLCAD is a fantastic tool, whilst creating the LDRAW file for Dicke Bertha Typ II, I listened to
- the international football (am.: soccer) match San Marino - Germany (0-13 ! highest out win ever ;-) )
- a Bollywood movie where some Indian hero (almost) single-handedly stormed a Kashmir hill occupied by disguised Pakistani soldiers (and the heart of an Indian beauty)
- the radio live transmission of the first round of the German football (am.: soccer) cup.
Hence be prepared for creating LDraw files not being the most thrilling experience of your life...
Matthias Paul (storming the LDraw hill - where are the beauties?)
Set number 8528:
Also a set of NXT cables. Though the details are confused. The picture shows the 7 cables, of three different lengths, from the NXT kit. The description says the set is 6 cables of 19.5" (50cm) length. Available to order in both the US ($9.99) and UK (£6.99).
Set number 8529:
How were the batteries supplied?
The rechargeable batteries I ordered turned up a while ago, but the batteries I was expecting with the NXT kit have not shown up.
Just trying to see if anybody else is affected ...
- Thanks, Tony
Sep 10, 2006
Extreme thanks to James Isom, who used my series of assembly photos to develop an instruction set that looks like it's ready for publication. I also have to thank some unnamed students who tried building JennToo, only to find my caster assembly impossible with the parts in the educational kit... so they invented their own.
Sep 9, 2006
FLL teams next week will be getting the "written" details for the challenges in this year's contest - most teams already have the pieces and have built the challenges, but some of them are vague. I'd like to hear from those of you involved in FLL - tell me about your teams, about the challenges, and after next week, tell me about these strange contraptions that the teams will have to deal with...
I hate to say it (and I'm sure LEGO doesn't want to hear it), but I'm ready for some expansion kits! We've already got some 3rd party sensors available, but I'd like to see some new sensors that we haven't seen before... any ideas? maybe some different size/shape motors (and not all necessarily servos).
My wife's uncle just bought a Roomba. I'm very impressed with the newest version. I'd like to start seeing some "real world" uses for the NXT. Steve H has his SwifferBot out there, but are there more? Filip posted over at bnxt.com some things he'd like to see in the future - I'd like to add one small item: the ability for the NXT Brick to come out of sleep mode or possibly turn itself on. With this feature, you can almost see the alarm clocks, programmable coffee makers, and other automated items that require a timer or the ability for the Brick to "stay awake." (I haven't tested this, but I guess with the AC adapter and turning off the default sleep timer on the Brick, you could keep it alive... can someone verify this? I don't have my Brick handy to see if I can completely disable the sleep timer.)
We need more content. I know of 3 or 4 books that are coming out, but I'm not seeing any more on Amazon at this time. Next week, the RIF starts providing missions to its "agents" but are there other groups or companies offering stuff like this that I'm not aware of? If so, let me know...
There are a handful or robot builders that post their stuff... we all know the links and websites. But are we missing some of you? Are some of you documenting your robots but don't have a place to share it? Would you like to share your designs? We're always interested in pictures and videos, so don't hold back!
Anyone have a guess as to how many NXT units have possibly been sold? Over a million RCX/RIS units were sold... it would be nice to see the NXT sell even more. If LEGO sees the NXT as successful, it will put more money into expansions and, most likely, a new version in 5 or more years (8 between RIS and NXT... will it be the same or a shorter wait between NXT and the next version?)
If you have comments, questions, videos, pictures, problems, and/or answers, please let us know. Have a great weekend, everybody.
Sep 8, 2006
The trapdoor also opened and when you click on it, it takes you to an agent roster page. My guess is that agents will have their information kept here since there are so many blank slots.
How has the NXT changed (or how might it change) your team’s approach to working through the challenges? Are some tasks easier? More difficult? Tell us what you think.
They're asking for feedback, so please take a look here and let them know what you think...
Sep 7, 2006
Sep 5, 2006
Remember Big Bertha, the Blue Ball Gun?
Well, I've tampered with it these last days, and created a Dicke Bertha Typ II that now features a (detachable) magazine for four balls and a target-seeking rotating ultrasonic sensor.
Sad to say, the firing range hasn't improved noteworthy, so I certainly will not win the Throw It! challenge on NXTasy.org with it...
Nevertheless, have a look!
This person should try the DogChaser:
Not sure what I'm looking at and the video repeats a lot, but the bot is cool to look at:
Sep 2, 2006
Sep 1, 2006
After playing around with the compass some more, I realized I wanted a little more detail on how the motors interact (conflict) with the new Compass Sensor. So I did some quick tests:
1. I built a small frame to hold the sensor away from the Brick and one motor.
2. I got the Compass Sensor to return a fixed value of 0 (North).
3. I then slowly moved the motor towards the sensor and watched the value.
In this figure, the compass still returns a value of 0. The Brick shows 358, but it would change a few times and settle to 0.
In this figure, the motor is slightly closer and the value stayed consistently at 2. Not bad. But at other times, the reading would jump to near 280 and then back to 2. An accurate reading, then an inaccurate one. Maybe some pulses from the motor or compass or both?
In this final image, I held the motor next to the sensor. The value fluctuated between 190 and 220 - a 140 degree difference!! So the lesson is this: Keep that Compass Sensor AWAY from your motors.
I imagine that plugging in more motors and sensors may cause even more trouble. I'll play with the sensor some more and let you know what I find.