Nov 16, 2009

Let's Find a Way: NXT 1.0 to NXT 2.0

I've received emails from many NXT 1.0 readers regarding their frustration with not being able to take advantage of some of the new books coming out. Trust me, I understand... (and I apologize for responding to many of your direct emails with a "form letter" response - it's just I got so many I had to create a standard response.)

So maybe now it's time to really start brainstorming. I'm not 100% familiar with BrickLink, having never ordered any parts from it. But I have browsed it quite a bit and realize that there is a vendor for just about every part... if you're willing to pay, right?

So, what's a solution? Well, we've had a discussion in an earlier post about possibly trying to convince a BrickLink vendor to create an "upgrade pack" - this would be a pack that would include ONLY those pieces in the 2.0 kit that are NOT found in the 1.0 kit. This would include quantity matches, so if the 1.0 kit comes with 4 of a particular part and the 2.0 kit comes with 10 of that same part, the Upgrade Pack would come with 6 of that part (4 + 6 = 10).

Someone mentioned that some of the parts are rare or hard to find in small quantities and have to be extracted from other LEGO kits. That is a problem. Given that LEGO is very unlikely to start adding Technic parts to the "Pick a Brick" bin at your local LEGO Store, I'm not sure how this could be solved. Maybe a BrickLink vendor is buying in such large quantity from LEGO that they could request special parts in larger quantities to create the Upgrade Pack. Ideas? Thoughts?

Another option is to appeal to LEGO directly. Well, many of us have done so... and the offical response seems to be no response. I don't think this means that LEGO is being unreasonable, just that they've probably got bigger production issues on their agenda than the issue of an Upgrade Pack. That said, if every 1.0 owner... and I mean EVERY 1.0 owner suddenly emailed LEGO saying "I'd buy an Upgrade Pack" than likely we'd probably get our bag. Why? I'm guessing here, but let's assume that LEGO sold over 250,000 NXT 1.0 kits (probably a very low guess, but they're not giving us actual numbers)... well, if they figured they could sell 250,000 Upgrade Packs, I imagine they'd find a way to get that bag into production. My guess only... I could be wrong.

Another option is to book writers to provide building and programming instructions for 1.0 and 2.0 kits. Speaking as a writer, this is a VERY difficult sell to a publisher. First, most books have a maximum page count... let's say 250. With a 250 page book, I (the writer) can provide building and programming instructions for, say, 10 NXT 2.0 robots. If I choose to provide 1.0 instructions, now I have to cut that to 5 robots - the building and programming instructions are double the pages now. It's totally possible to do this, but I think (and my editor who I talked to about this thinks the same thing) that sales of the book will be lower than if the book focuses on just the 1.0 kit or the 2.0 kit, but not both. And while I'm on the subject, publishers are not likely to publish two versions of a book. Why? Because they have to pay the author twice for a large portion of the same content (two books, two contracts, two advances, etc.) and they have twice the risk if both books don't sell as well.

What options are left? Telling 1.0 owners to buy the 2.0 kit is easy to say, but at $250.00 or more, it's not a realistic expectation.

This entire issue could be compared to a game console changeover or even software version updates... some will say "Hey, onward and upward - buy the latest version" - just like PlayStation, XBox, and Nintendo owners complain about the products new version every 3 or 4 years (or less). But I'm not sure that argument holds - as I understand it, most game consoles will play games for earlier consoles... 2.0 owners can't necessarily build or use the programs of earlier robots designed with 1.0, right? Some, maybe... but not the majority is my guess.

So, I'll open this up for more discussion - maybe LEGO will even be listening. I have to admit it would be great as a writer to be able to offer up new books and know that both 1.0 and 2.0 owners can use my material... but I can't assume that will become a reality... therefore I have to write for the latest kit (2.0) because it's what my publishers want. But in reality, it comes down to what the community wants. I'm fairly certain the 1.0 owners outnumber the 2.0 owners (for now)... I truly wish that 1.0 owners had the ability to upgrade their kit to the 2.0 (like Windows XP and Vista upgrading to Windows 7 for a slightly lower price). Speak up, let LEGO know, and maybe something will happen. But don't count on it - instead, let's try and find a way to get the 1.0 to 2.0 upgrade on our own. This is one of the most creative, "make it happen" groups around... let's see what we can come up with...

27 comments:

Bill Shaw said...

I sell on Bricklink and, given the availability of parts, would be happy to do this. Here are the problems: The LEGO color sensor and NXT-G 2.0 Retail. Neither can be purchased separately without buying the NXT 2.0 kit.

I spent three months trying to find just the sensor and the software through other sources. The Educational software, at $80, is not quite the same.

I've gone ahead and purchased the new kit. However, I would be happy to add my voice to the request to LEGO to make an upgrade path happen.

Bill Shaw
BillsBrickland

Jim Kelly said...

Bill,

I should have addressed that in my post - I've always believed the Upgrade Pack should include just the parts and the extra Touch Sensor... not the Color Sensor. IMO, the Light Sensor can be substituted for the Color Sensor if the user is willing to go grayscale for challenges/etc...

If someone were able to provide the parts, the extra Touch Sensor, and a reasonable price, he/she would likely sell a ton of these.

Jim

Aaron said...

I'm a major programmer and like to use the NXT 1.1 software. As a normal NXT guru, I'm not going to buy the NXT 2.0 Kit until the NXT 2.1 software comes out. Even if that takes 3 years, I'm not upgrading to the new, glitchy software. It would be great if they had the Color Sensor, Software, and Firmware seperate from the Kit. I like the idea of an upgrade pack overall.

Parax said...

Jim I dont think you can compare NXt's to consoles, having two consoes is pointless, having two NXT's opens up a whole new world of possibilities!
I think that anyone who managed to save up over the past few years really could do so again.
The Real problem I see is that NXT2 sets are in the shops and NXT1 books are still on sale.
I do feel that there could now be another section in the NXT2 books. Maybe a final chapter on using 2 NXT's, both remote and cooperative robots, and even competitive robots, sumo style! I would advise that any ideas used an NXT2 set and a set of the shared parts form the NXT1&2, So the ideas are open to anyone with either NXT1 & NXT2 sets or two NXT2 Sets.

Parax said...

Aaron I own NXTG2 software, its really just another service pack for NXTG1 its not a whole new software, Its no way near as glitchy as 1 was.
You don't have to wait. (Its not like a new version of windows!)
It does bring many new possibilities with the decimals but all the integer functions are still there, so it is backwards compatible, see Steve Hassenplug's site on how to set up an integer blocks pallet.

Jetro said...

I very much doubt there will be an official upgrade pack any time soon. Doing that would cripple the sales of the new set.
However, maybe authors could make a joint effort to collaborate with a certain private seller in order to provide an 'upgrade' pack in much the same way as was done for some books that contained challenges that needed extra parts.

I believe it would also e interesting to start introducing more NXC in these books. It really isn't that much more difficult to use and would allow NXT-G 1 users to use new sensors, whether LEGO or not.

As has been pointed out, the light sensor could be used in most cases and a small extra subheading could be added explaining how to make a model even cooler using the Color Sensor, including code examples in NXC for the LEGO and HiTechnic Color Sensor

Nathan said...

I agree completely, although I was thinking of purchasing an NXT 2.0 set anyway. It would be nice to be able to get an upgrade pack. They did, after all, do that with RIS 1.0 and 1.5

Spacedude

L Giskard V0.1 said...

Jim - An upgrade pack, no matter who makes it would be great, but I can assure everyone that dealing with BrickLink is WONDERFUL. I've never had a problem with the service. It's very professional and fast. You might automatically think it's something like eBay, but it's not. It always seems to me to be run much tighter - If you see it in a store it's in stock and will be shipped ASAP. I would have to say the hardest part is setting your search filters so you only get returns for your respective country, but once that's done it's like LEGO heaven :-)

Armagon said...

I can understand breaking backwards compatability between major updates (such as from the RCX to the NXT), but minor updates (RCX 1.0 -> 1.5 -> 2.0) really shouldn't do so.

I had started looking into what it would take to provide an upgrade kit. Certainly there would be no way to provide the NXT 2.0 mat, the software is an issue (as Bill Shaw mentioned), and, even if you get the hitechnic colour sensor (which, in many ways, is a better color sensor), it doesn't let you turn on LEDs of different colours, which is a fun and neat effect.

I think all the parts can be obtained beyond that, but not in the same colours as in the NXT 2 kit. Particularly problematic in this regard are the Zamor Spheres. In the NXT 2 kit, they are bright and colourful and easily recognized by the colour sensor. In the Zamor Sphere's set (the only other way to obtain them), they are not vibrant colours and I doubt they would be easily distinguised by the colour sensor (rendering devices like the colour sorter useless).

All that said, I'd love to buy a kit with all the pieces (even in different colours) that the 2.0 set has that the 1.0 set does not have (but not the mat, software, or colour sensor). (If someone provides one, even over brick link, please put up a link!) It would be nice to have the option to buy the hitechnic colour sensor, and just maybe the educational software (but $80 is hard to swallow!) separately. I don't see that anything can be done about the mat (without violating copyright), but it isn't a big deal.

Next, though, there is an equal need for a retrograde kit, so that all new NXT owners can make use of all of the instructions out there for the 1.0 kit.

As for writing books, I think the best bet is to go for a lowest common denominator -- use the pieces that all the sets you are interested in have in common. I don't have a nice chart of what is in common, and I don't know if that is too stifling (especially with the NXT 2 set being short on gears), but it seems like the best bet to me. Perhaps you could occasionally have one step done in two different ways, depending upon the kit -- but the whole model need not be duplicated in the book.

How did Lego come to provide an add-on set for the Educational NXT set so that users could build the Mayan Adventure models?

Jetro said...

The tricky thing with BL is finding all the parts you need in as few places as possible, so an (un)official pack would make things a lot easier.

Jim Kelly said...

Armagon,

Not sure if it's still the case, but LEGO Ed created the Mayan Parts Pack by pulling the missing pieces from either extra Resource Sets or other LEGO kits... true story. Someone would physically remove the pieces from a Resource Set or other kit and they'd collect them in a small bag for sale.

As for the color issue of parts - beggars can't be choosers, right? If a 1.0 owner wants to build 2.0 models, they'll likely have to deal with multi-color robots, not the consistent NXT colors we've come to know.

And yes, there should be a 2.0 to 1.0 "Downgrade Pack" - not downgrade as in a loss of quality, okay?

Believe me, trying to develop a robot that can be built with just the overlapping parts of a 1.0 and 2.0 kit is difficult - I've tried. You're extremely limited... think about it, if the 1.0 kit has 10 of a part and the 2.0 kit as 4 of them, you can only use 4... and vice-versa... You're limited on two different sides.

Jim

Armagon said...

Jim,

Wow. I can't believe that's how Lego Education made the Mayan kits. Good heavens.

True, beggars can not be choosers. I have no problem with different colours for my building elements. I just worry about kids being disappointed that they can't use the colour sensor with their balls.

It is a shame that the overlap is so bad. It would seem that LEGO did not see much value in retaining backwards compatibility, and, for so many of us, the original NXT was a big purchase, making it really difficult to justify a second kit.

Lastly, "downgrade" sounds like a bad thing, which is why I propose calling it a "retrograde" kit.

Armagon

tr6scott said...

Did not see a link to let Lego know, where should I do that?

Owner of 3 Lego 1.1 kits. 1 education and 2 retail, and would be in for 3 upgrade sets.

I have a "Robot Club" out of our home, and love all of the resources provided here.

Jim Kelly said...

tr6scott,

You can post your request here - I'll be sending a link to this discussion and its comments to my LEGO contacts...

Another option might be to call Tech Support and ask them to pass the word up the chain...

Anyone else have any ideas?

Bill Shaw said...

I've done some additional research. Based on my comparison, there are 47 unique items for a total part count of 171 pieces needed to bring the NXT 1.0 kit up to the parts needed to build NXT 2.0 models. Looking at my inventory, I have all but 11 items and these could be readily obtained.

Two caveats - I ignored the NXT-G software and color sensor. I also didn't have exact colors for every item. The best I could promise would be a grab bag of colors but all elements would be otherwise correct.

The Bricklink price (excluding shipping) is around $60 for these parts. If I created a custom set for $75, do you think this price would be feasible? It's obviously quite a bit less than a new kit, but the price/part is high (granted, many of the parts are over $1 each and the touch sensor is between $10 and $15).

If I see a favorable response, I would be willing to setup preorders in my store at www.inanimatereason.com and then put them online at Bricklink once I had all parts in hand. Shipping weight would be around a pound (say $6 or so within the US). Preordered sets would ship in 2-3 weeks to be received well in time for the holidays.

Adam Eyring said...

I know Jim Kelly said that publishers wouldn't be as happy if part of a book was devoted to instructions for NXT 1.0 versions of 2.0 robots, so how about a list of suggestions on accomplishing the same with the 1.0 robot set? Say you write something about using the 2.0 robot to complete a task not readily amenable to the 1.0 robot and you include a list of suggestions on making it work, such as using more of a particular kind of piece (readily available in the 1.0 kit) to construct something similar, simplify the task to be amenable to the 1.0 sensors, etc. Just a few suggestions can get us learning how to us the 1.0 set in new ways. It's inevitable 1.0 users will have to figure some things out, but it would increase the challenge of working with Lego robots.

iMarc said...

Hi Jim, yes I'd add one last suggestion: forget the upgrade/downgrade/retrograde whatever we call it kit and look at it as an NXT Add-on. The idea is for LEGO to come up with a cool boxed add-on containing pieces that anyone would want. i.e. NXT Edu, NXT 1 technic lovers or even those with an NXT2 looking for more cool part -- and would allow anyone not owning the latest NXT2 package to build stuff proposed in all those cool new book coming our way.

Something like the Education Resource kit but retail version and instead of instruction there could be a glossy flyer showing off all the NXT(n) books. This would allow them to reach all NXT user without limiting to only NXT1 users looking for upgrade and would include new part not even found in NXT 2.0 kits opening the door to write even more books! all that for under 100$ :) thats what we need a kit we all want to add to cart NOW

Marc-A (bazmarc on youtube)

Aaron said...

@Parax: OK, I'll upgrade soon, because of the Image and Sound Editor, otherwise I don't care. :)
Here's what I would do for this as a normal NXT dude, I'd just wait for the Color Sensor, NXT-G 2.0, and the 1.28 Firmware to become sold seperately, and wait for the Retail Software to go on sale for like $15 like Retail 1.1 in the past. Then that takes care of the most-wanted upgrade electronics (for me), then I already have the awesome T-Pieces from BrickLink. I also would get the white decoration pieces if possible, but I don't really care because I design all of my own robots and don't usually build from any instructions.
So, that's my plan if anyone relates to that.
-Aaron :)

tim said...

I too have had very good luck with BrickLink, so that part of the situation I am comfortable with.

I think this could be broken into two parts:

1: those (like me) who have purchased 2.0 kits and don't have the parts to support the huge range of books and websites that were developed with the 1.0 kits.

2: Those that have 1.0 kits and want the additional parts that come with the 2.0 sets.

The second is easier because all someone has to to do buy 2.0 kits and part them out. The downside is the seller runs the risk of ending up with a bunch of 2.0 NXT bricks that might be hard to sell.

To make the fist set, which I think at this point is more valuable, parts would need to be cobbled from various production kits and other inventories to find the necessary pieces. Some part/color combinations were not available in kits other than the original NXT sets (the large colored balls, for example). This is where a decision would have to be made as to how valuable the exact color/part combination would be, or if a substitute would be acceptable.

Personally, I'd opt for the parts first, and colors second. But a bag of all perfectly matched parts would be a premium.

L Giskard V0.1 said...

Jim - I took some time this afternoon and made an excel SS of what it takes to go from 1.0 to 2.0. It's a little confusing because the inventory of each was broken down into colors but basically your looking at about 50ish add'l parts and to buy them in from BL would cost between $50-$60 before shipping (this doesn't include the color sensor, mat or CD). To then resell them as a "upgrade" kit the person would probably be looking for $75-$85 plus shipping, maybe more. Because of the relative scarceness of some of the items the prices for some of the bits was surprisingly high. Remember too that some parts would also be used.
So, anyone interested in a copy of the SS can PM me at donroos@tds.net.

Jim Kelly said...

L Giskard,

Thank you! And thanks to everyone for their comments, suggestions, work, research, and support.

Jim

Adam Eyring said...

Since Jim Kelly said publishers would likely balk at supporting books that have significant instructions for 1.0 kits, how about just publishing instructions for 2.0 kits and include a list of suggestions (less than a page long) for accomplishing something similar with the 1.0 kit? For example, if there's a vehicle using the 2.0 kit, the suggestions can include ways to do a similar vehicle with the 1.0 kit, including substituting parts, recommending a sensor from HiTechnic, etc. Because they are suggestions, those with 1.0 kits will probably enjoy the challenge of duplicating the 2.0 kit with 1.0 kit parts plus a few extras.

Bill Shaw said...

For what it's worth, I've made a kit available inspired by your blog post. This being my first custom kit of any kind, I'll be curious to see how well received it is. If it does well, I intent to follow up with the retrograde kit to allow NXT 2.0 owners to build projects from books written for NXT 1.x.

Here's the kit:
http://inanimatereason.com/shop/viewitem.php?item=NXT12KIT

Enrique said...

I am definitely a potential customer for Bill Shaw's kit. I would even purchase an "enriched" kit version, with a bundled color sensor (HT's or not, which the 1.x set lacks), if total price would be lower than purchasing them separate.

The post I liked the best, especially for the creativity is iMarc's. I think this approach could be very convincing to LEGO. This cool "add-on set" could have great sales potential not only as an "upgrade kit", but it would also enhance the set of *any* NXT owner. In this way LEGO would not "cripple" the sales of 2.0 kits. (This add-on would not include the NXT-G 2.0, but would include one touch and the new RGB sensor). The key would be the price differencial with the 2.0 retail kit. Its price should be around $120 tops.

If Lego does not buy the idea of offering some kind of upgrade/downgrade path, someone else will. Proof to that: we have already Bill Shaw's solution available.

LEGOmom said...

LEGO,

I would love to purchase an add on kit so that I could build NXT2.0 projects. Color doesn't matter to me. I like iMarc's idea of a retail version of the Education Resource set with goodies in it to attract both markets ... NXt1.0 and NXT2.0.

LEGOmom

GrizzledGeezer said...

The most-logical thing for LEGO to do would be to supply a package of "lots and lots" of Technic parts of all kinds, making sure there were at least enough of the particular pieces needed to go from nxt 1.0 to 2.0. "Everyone" would want to buy such a package, if it were reasonably priced. And it could remain an SKU.

The specialized components -- such as the color sensor -- could be purchased as each user saw fit.

Stebbie said...

Problem solver
http://inanimatereason.com/shop/viewitem.php?item=NXT21KIT

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