As some of you have noticed, Jim, Chris, myself (and a whole lot of other people) attended NI Week '07, the showcase event for National Instruments... and, a year after the NXT launch, still one of the places to see the MINDSTORMS NXT in action and going well beyond the limits. As Jim said, we're all still trying to catch up on our sleep (and in my case mow the over-long grass... how can I get the NXT to do that...), but it was a wild and wonderful three days.
For those who haven't heard, NI developed NXT-G... and has continued to do so, opening up a lot more power over time (and those times are not over I think). True to form the NI wizards had some amazing technology demonstrations of their own, including two-on-two human-vs-robot robo-soccer based on the NXT and a computer-driven vision system, a robot you could control by playing pan pipes or even singing at it (very cool... I'll have to ask what happens if you sing the five notes from Close Encounters, I didn't try it at the time). Being a high-tech expo, we learned about a lot of nifty stuff from NI and related folks (some LEGO related, some not... but all useful). Want a 3 Tb (no that's not a misprint) drive that can stream data at ridiculous speeds? Watch the NI wizards turn it into the Godzilla version of TiVo :-).
Outside of NI, a group from Ohio State (I think?) brought the challenge table, an amazing display in itself, which we used for our challenge and they demoed on throughout the event (and since they had to truck it personally to the event, my "long-range driving hat" is off to them). We learned about things up-and-coming from NI (LEGO and non-LEGO related), HiTechnic, and of course LEGO. We even got to sit down to lunch with Chris Anderson, and talk about what's up next on the "personal UAV" horizon (he's done some amazing things, and the horizons just keep expanding for this project). Some of the other keynote speakers did things like build autonomous humanoid robots that play soccer (again, amazingly impressive).
On the LEGO front, we talked a lot with Steven Canvin and others from LEGO about the past, present, and future of the product, and gave him lots of suggestions and question (some from this blog), mostly over very long, late meetings, that I wish could have gone longer (after sleeping, anyway). And Steve from HiTechnic also showed us a lot of fun things and toys.
The three of us will post more over time on this - there's a lot to get out, so give us time. And if any of our readers have heard (or attended!) NI Week, we'd love to hear about it - it was a fantastic event for everyone (LEGO or other high-tech). And it's nice to see Alpha Rex on a PPT slide right next to the CERN Supercollider, both being run by essentially the same software (LabVIEW... I don't think CERN uses NXT-G yet ;-). I'll just leave you with a final picture that shows most (not all - I've got photos of Jim too) of the happy group (how many do you know?):
Brian "sleep deprived but happy" Davis