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Toys

Mindstorms' Next Generation 148

davey23sol writes: "MSNBC has a 2.0 review of Lego Mindstorms here. Looks like they have put in an easier programming system for users, touch and light sensors, and some other stuff. The transmitters for the infrared transmitters are now USB instead of serial, too. The new system will be $200, and if you have Mindstorms now the upgrade will just be $20. It should all be available this month. I can't wait to get one (never got around to getting my Mindstorms kit)." This review may not go into $200 worth of depth, so I look forward to more detailed reader reviews (and more pictures) when this is widely available :)
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Mindstorms' Next Generation

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  • Oh, Sure... (Score:3, Funny)

    by Greyfox ( 87712 ) on Monday September 03, 2001 @05:14PM (#2248958) Homepage Journal
    Everyone loves legos, but make a giant death robot out of them and destroy New York and suddenly you've gone too far!
    • Somebody keep this guy away from the Dark Side developer kit [lego.com]
    • Funny, I always got the impression that most people have just been waiting for sufficiently powerful legos.
      • Precisely. Three inputs and three outputs just isn't enough. I am waiting for them to come out with networkable controllers so that I can have more inputs and outputs. Once I get a couple dozen inputs and outputs, I can build a decent robot to type and move the mouse for me so I don't have to be at work to modify my bios settings. :)
      • Yes, that is exactly why giant monsters, natural disasters, riots, military coups in movies usually take place in huge cities. Hollywood seems to play to a subconscious desire for their destruction.
    • {said with tongue firmly placed in cheek}

      Yeah, but no one would mind if you flattened France.

      $20 for the upgrade? Sheesh... Now if only another certain company [microsoft.com] could follow suit (oooh... sorry Bill... Probaly a bad choice of words) and only charge $20 for a bleedin' upgrade [slashdot.org]!
      • Re:Too far? (Score:1, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Why pay for the upgrade to a still relatively lame programming language when you could just go to legos.sourceforge.net and put together a true C/C++ GCC based programming toolkit and REALLY write code for the RCX?

        RCX, dumber than my cat
  • I must've had thousands of those things when I was a kid. I don't think they had the fancy computer-controlled blocks back then, but I had a lot of fun with them, anyway. I can remember spending entire days building intricate cities out of legos, only to destroy them in a matter of minutes. I learned a lot from legos too! Legos teach mechanical and spacial reasoning, and encourage imagination.

    The only thing that worries me, is that Legos don't seem to encourage social interaction. Out of all my fond childhood memories involving Legos, I can't seem to remember any involving other kids. Maybe that's why so many of today's generation of geeks are lacking in basic social skills. It's a shame that Lego can't come up with some sort of toy that involves group play, and encourages the development of social bonds. The benefit of this could potentially affect millions of our nation's children. Maybe I'll write a letter to Lego and share my suggestions with them. Imagine what would be different today if Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold had been taught basic social skills, instead of their imaginations being allowed to spiral down dangerous and self-destructive paths.

    • Yeah, first you learned architecture from it, then you decided to go for the, "I am death, I am the destroyer of worlds" kind of thing?

      Seems to me that most people built their legos just to destroy them.. I wonder if people got over their destructive vendetta after their lego fetish? Would the Oklahoma City bomber have not bombed Oklahoma City if he had played with legos? :-)
      • Actually, I used to build things, and my older brother used to smash them. I can't remember ever smashing anything myself. I'd only dismantle something when it was time to build something else.

        Well, there were times when one lego spaceship/car/creature attacked/ran into/attacked some other spaceship/car/creature & then there would be some damage. However, I never became Godzilla destroying the homes of lego people with badly dubbed voices.
    • I spent most of my time playing with Legos together with my brother or friends. I think I had more fun playing together than playing on my own.
    • by Digital Believer ( 222483 ) on Monday September 03, 2001 @05:55PM (#2249087)

      Give me a break. Legos are maximally social, if you have any ambition. You can't build a truly inspiring moonbase or a decent ski resort or a reasonable cityscape without all of your friends' Legos alongside your own. And the base/resort/city planning stage requires a degree of collective problem-solving and negotiation skills you won't find in any snow fort or football team. Don't generalize from your own twisted childhood.

      My next-door neighbor and I used to play Monopoly in the middle of a Lego wonderland, using Lego vehicles to move around the board, Lego stands to hold our property cards and a powered Lego conveyor belt to pass money across the wide table to each other. Top that!

      • Brikwars (Score:2, Interesting)

        by batwingTM ( 202524 )
        I Agree, Lego is very very social, but it can be enjoyed alone too. It if far better that the action figure craze I think, and much more social that most toys on the market. I had a few friends that would come over with their tub of lego and we would build massive spacebases and the like. The problem was playing with my sisters (I have 2 younger sisters, no brothers) They would always steal the best pieces or make furniture for their barbies.

        There is also a new Lego Board game out called 'Creator' You start off with an instrucion card for a basic lego model, as does everyone else and the idea is to move around the board to collect the pieces you need to finish it, I would call that fairly social too.

        If you do want another social aspect of lego, get some friends together, build yourself an army and play BrikWars [brikwars.com]. Mass destruction on a MiniFig scale!!!

        Trav
      • My next-door neighbor and I used to play Monopoly in the middle of a Lego wonderland, using Lego vehicles to move around the board, Lego stands to hold our property cards and a powered Lego conveyor belt to pass money across the wide table to each other. Top that!

        I don't know if it tops that, but a good friend and I used to build vehicles (push-propelled, mind you) for a head on crash competetion that reminds me a lot of BattleBots...

        We spent a lot of time with the Lego sets, building and destroying - we also tended to get motors involved - the best was a ski-lift style loop set up with an old cassette deck motor - it managed to get up a flight of stairs at a good speed.

        ed2

    • On the other hand, H&K might have built really cool Lego Uzis and flamethrowers.

    • Legos encouraged social interaction for me. I have 3 brothers, and we had about 5-6 different cousins close by while growing up. Most of the best times we had were bringing out collective sets of bricks together to build large structures/cities/vehicles.

    • omg, I've never thought of it that way, but your point is VERY valid. I used to do the same, sometimes me and a friend or two would work on building cities, but it was never a very social thing. 95% of the time I would be by myself doing this stuff.

      ... Very good point
    • Well I think that with the lego mindstorms there are team competitions, which would highly encourage social interactions and working collectively in a group. Wasn't there just a story about building a robot out of mindstorms that would be used on the ISS?
    • My fondest memories of playing with massive collections of Legos (technically, they are "Lego Bricks") was constructing multiple space bases around the house with my twin brother and friends and having ships travel between our bases. (sometimes for exploration, many times for attack!)

      Now I have a 3 and 4 year old and I have a grand excuse to play again and help foster the same love in my children!

      :)
    • The earlier discussion of the demise of lego [slashdot.org] mentioned the downward spiral of corpate estimates of customer intelligence. For example, I'm not saying that Lego LOGO was a powerful programming language, but it was certainly more powerful than point 'n click / Drag 'n drop programming mechanism associated with Mindstorms. To companies really beclieve their customers to be so inept that they can't candle even the simplest of [cough] complex tasks?

      And in the spirit of Karma Whoring (in that I can't integrate it into my previous train of thought) check out Russ Nelson's excellant Lego MindStorms Website [crynwr.com]

      --CTH
    • Won't somebody please think of the children? THINK OF THE CHILDREEEEEEEEN!

      but seriously though, why did you have to mention the names of those two guys? what did it contribute to your point? using scare tactics like that (calling out the worst examples to enforce a point) just detracts from the rest of your piece.

      -Nano.
    • The only thing that worries me, is that Legos don't seem to encourage social interaction. Out of all my fond childhood memories involving Legos, I can't seem to remember any involving other kids. Maybe that's why so many of today's generation of geeks are lacking in basic social skills.

      Naah. Don't blame yourself for the lack of social skills in geeks... ;-)

      Of COURSE several people can build on the same Lego project. You just specify the general size and looks of the thing and then you build it together. Kind of like programming, but you can be more social and creative and even your old grandma will appreciate the result (or at least she'll pretend to).

      Just my 2-stud piece of plastic.

      --Bud

  • Improved Speed? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by __aaahtg7394 ( 307602 ) on Monday September 03, 2001 @05:31PM (#2249010)
    "Another advance is that the infrared transmitter now plugs into a computer?s USB port rather than a serial port ? to improve speed."

    Now, i can see switching to USB to improve compatibility, but to improve speed?! How fast can you really blast IR anyway? Is this mis-informed journalism, or bad marketing, or did i miss the memo about 12Mb IR tranceivers?

    I also found it somewhat amusing that his girlfriend was faster on the pickup than he was . Take that, gender-based stereotypes (thank god my friends don't read /. that much... all the girls i know would kill me for that one)
    • Re:Improved Speed? (Score:2, Informative)

      by josquint ( 193951 )
      Not sure what protocal this uses, but at least with laptops, IR can do as much as 4Mbps, and serial is limted to 112kbps. So yeah.. improved speed.. maybe
      • I take it back.... (Score:2, Insightful)

        by josquint ( 193951 )
        According to this [crynwr.com] "The RCX uses a 38kHz carrier, which is pretty typical for TV remotes. As for the sampling rate, the RCX runs at 2400 bps, which makes each bit approx 417us."
        So maybe there isn't going to be a speed gain(except maybe from PC to the IR transmitter.. rather moot i'd think)
    • How fast can you really blast IR anyway

      299,792,458 meters per second.
    • Now, i can see switching to USB to improve compatibility, but to improve speed?! How fast can you really blast IR anyway? Is this mis-informed journalism, or bad marketing, or did i miss the memo about 12Mb IR tranceivers?

      Well I'm not familiar with the Lego Minstorm kits, but if they were using 1.1 IrDA, they could have gotten 4000Mb/s, so in that case they were being slowed down by the serial connection of 115Kb/s. So USB would help in that case.
    • Now, i can see switching to USB to improve compatibility, but to improve speed?! How fast can you really blast IR anyway? Is this mis-informed journalism, or bad marketing, or did i miss the memo about 12Mb IR tranceivers?

      FIR (Fast Infra Red) is 4Mbps and fairly common even on older laptops. Even the best PC RS232 ports are only ~220kbps and most people never drive them faster than 112kbps.

      It's quite plausible that speed was one of the reasons for moving to USB.

  • Aug. 31 ? I?m a little disappointed in the 21st century. By now, everything was supposed to come in sleek shades of silver, especially the flying cars confidently whooshing overhead. We should be speaking Esperanto, perhaps even communicating telepathically. MOST OF ALL, where are the robots? With those earnest bundles of wires doing our hard work, we could have more time to plan vacations in space and reserve spots for our bodies in cryogenics labs. So the chance to make my own robot at home with the new version 2.0 of the Lego Mindstorms Robotics Invention System sounded awfully appealing. Mindstorms, recommended for ages 12 and up, uses the familiar Lego interlocking plastic blocks that have entertained generations of children (and budding architects). But this kit has some important extras: touch and light sensors, for example, and a battery-powered computer ?brain? that can be programmed to make wheels spin and arms move. The commands are made with a few mouse clicks on a PC, thanks to software that comes on a CD and is downloaded into the Lego robot?s brain via an infrared transmitter. Lego, based in Billund, Denmark, introduced the Mindstorms line in 1998, and watched it become a huge hit not only with children but also with tech-savvy adults. Some tinkerers even hacked the Mindstorms code and made robots far more complex than those suggested in the Lego manual. Version 2.0 has the same pieces as its predecessor but promises much simpler programming. Instead of having to program motors individually, users can now simply tell their robots to move forward, zigzag or whatever. Another advance is that the infrared transmitter now plugs into a computer?s USB port rather than a serial port ? to improve speed. Due to hit stores in late September, Mindstorms 2.0 will retail for $200; people who own the original version can upgrade for $20. A programming tutorial that comes with the CD is very useful ? detailed enough for people not overly familiar with the linear logic of computer programs, yet quick enough so as to not insult your intelligence. The beauty of the system is that users can design robots themselves from scratch or build suggested models and animate them with programs that come with the CD. Though I really wanted to build something that would fetch the newspaper or drive me to work, my girlfriend was much more realistic. She quickly assembled an 8-inch-tall robot suggested in the manual. Since I have no engineering ability and limited patience, I decided to load into our new friend a program that came on the CD, though I did make some adjustments of my own. And so now our apartment is protected by a robotic security guard made out of Lego. When it detects a bright light ? an intruder?s flashlight, perhaps ? it starts beeping. If we squeeze its hand, it will stop beeping and shake from side to side, as if to express utter relief that we?re home. But if you?re a thief who fails to apply the reassuring squeeze, it will throw a little ball at you and beep some more. Take that, criminal. You?ve just stepped into a real 21st century apartment. © 2001 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
  • by pdp8 ( 71497 ) on Monday September 03, 2001 @05:34PM (#2249021) Homepage
    I was at Target yesterday and saw something
    that claimed to be 2.0, so I guess it is already
    "widely avaiable."
  • by Diclophis ( 203740 ) on Monday September 03, 2001 @05:35PM (#2249024) Homepage
    Homepage [www.noga.de]

    legOS is an open-source embedded operating system for the LEGO Mindstorms, a LEGO brick with a brain. Compared to the standard software, it offers vastly superior performance and flexibility.

    As of version 0.2.0, legOS features include:

    * Dynamic loading of programs and modules
    * Full IR packet networking
    * Preemprive multitasking
    * Dynamic memory management
    * Drivers for all RCX subsystems
    * 16 MHz native mode speed
    * Access to 32k RAM

    Not sure about you, but the crappy IDE click and drag blocks all over the place doesnt quite the cake for building a robot. I wish i had a block to try this OS out. Legos ruuulllll333!!
    • LegOS is now at 0.2.5. You can get all the latest info (along with CVS access, etc) at SourceForge [sourceforge.net].
    • by mtDNA ( 123855 )
      LejOS (http://lejos.sourceforge.net [sourceforge.net]) is an open source Java API for RCX.

      LejOS is great, although it does have the usual Java problems: large memory footprint, slow (virtual machine), etc...

      I like to use both legOS and lejOS, depending on the project.

      Also, I've been working on RCXComm [popbeads.org], which is fun if you grok RCX bytecodes.

    • The open source movement may not yet be providing tools for the "common man", but it is providing probably the most amazing hobbyist tools yet seen through history.
    • 1) noga.de is no longer maintained; legos.sourceforge.net is the canonical site now.
      2) For a complete reference of all available free alternatives for Mindstorms on Linux, check the Lego Mini-HOWTO at the LDP [linuxdoc.org]. For more details on legOS and Forth (two of the most mature alternatives) check out Extreme Mindstorms. [amazon.com] [shameless plugs, both]
      3) There is, of yet, no way to run legOS or most of the other alternative environments on Mindstorms 2.0 from Linux because there are, ATM, no tools to control the USB towers that are standard with 2.0.
      Thanks...
      Luis Villa (legOS maintainer)
  • I'd be a lot more impressed if I could control 20 or 30 motors at variable speeds from Mindstorms. There should be some kind of 'Adult Lego Mindstorms' with metal parts as opposed to plastic, gas engines, 802.11 control, etc. Places like design firms and engineering schools would certainly buy it. I sure as hell would, if it was up to the quality Lego's were seven years ago. Maybe someday...

    Maskirovka.
    • Adult Lego Mindstorms' with metal parts

      I guess that should have been worded differently, as it might conjure images some kind of pain inflicting bondage toys.
      As much as Lego is shooting itself in the foot now, that's nothing like it would be if it were manufacturing sex toys.

    • Wait a second... last time I looked Lego was a toy manufacturer.

      I think you might have a good idea, but it might be way outside of Lego's core business. They make plastic toys that look cool in your office or home. Perhaps a good spin-off could make the learning/industrial devices that you point out...
    • This company claims to make the "Industrial Erector Set". Life sized, industrial-strength modular pieces...

      [8020.net] http://www.8020.net [8020.net]
    • I don't have any links off the top of my head, but there have plenty of hacks and inventions using the Mindstorms. If you want more motors to control, just get another RCX brick and add the motors to it. I've seen an insect creation controled via 3 RCX bricks, 2 of which were running the 6 or so motors needed (the other brick was controlling enviroment sensing features). And I've seen plenty of other creations that incorporate metal parts, etc. There aren't any restrictions saying you must use only all lego parts in building. In fact a lot of the good Mindstorms robots rely on non-lego parts for their functionality.

      Just because it's plastic hasn't stopped any Adults (especially those at MIT) from using this great kit. Hell, it probably would not be that hard to hack up an interface via 802.11, ya just gotta go do it.

      - A non-productive mind is with absolutely zero balance.

      - AC
  • Robo-gf! (Score:3, Funny)

    by SirSlud ( 67381 ) on Monday September 03, 2001 @05:40PM (#2249042) Homepage
    Finally, engineers can build their girlfriends! (Although they wouldn't know what to say to her.)

  • by davey23sol ( 462701 ) on Monday September 03, 2001 @05:41PM (#2249048) Journal
    AP website:
    [ap.org]
    http://wire.ap.org/APnews/main.html?PACKAGEID=TE CH test

    daily herald:
    [dailyherald.com]
    http://www.dailyherald.com/main_story.asp?intid= 37 13737

  • Yippie!

    Time for Battle Lego-Bots version two!
  • well you're already aware of how fun the previous version of mindstorms was. what you're reading is $20 worth of depth.

  • by shd99004 ( 317968 ) on Monday September 03, 2001 @06:08PM (#2249119) Homepage
    I just started my Realtime systems course at my university, and in that course, for the lab assignments, we will use LEGO Mindstorms to build cars or robots and control them with a realtime operating system. I can't wait.
  • A major problem with AI research, I think, is that it's hard to push a lot of computing power outside the lab. It might speed things along to give the computers a richer environment than the laboratory can provide. A mobile Lego setup with some simple sensors, a digital camcorder, and a wireless connection back to the mainframe would be just the ticket. It would be as if you or I had a floating eyeball that we could send anywhere. Except there, you pervert.


    The entire mobile platform would simply be a sensor array that beamed back information. If it became conscious, it would have no idea where its consciousness really resided. But the important thing is that the researchers could expose the computer to rich sensory input, without risking much expensive equipment to that environment.


    In regard to a previous story about neuron/silicon connections, it would be interesting -- if unethical -- to try giving dolphins hands. Just simple mechanical actuators that floated around, and took their directions from the dolphin's neurons. Maybe there would even be a simple feedback mechanism so that they could "feel" when their remote limb was holding something. I would imagine that young dolphins would have a much easier time adjusting to their new limbs. I also imagine that the dolphins wouldn't be so friendly and playful if they had the ability to smack each other upside the head.


    Okay, I have a confession to make. I'm really Stephen Hawking in disguise. I'm just having trouble waiting for the day when I can control my deadly super-robot using only the power of my mind. Be warned, my Nobel-laureate colleagues, for your fate is sealed.

    • This sort of telepresence idea would be good for a project like HAL [newscientist.com] -- a "child" computer program being raised using speech by Ai in Israel. Speech itself is not much of a sensory input to experience the world through compared with touch and vision, and yes, moving the whole system around would be a pain.
  • Does anyone know when this will be avaliable in Europe? and will we be able to cheaply upgrade as well?
  • No big deal (Score:3, Informative)

    by nica ( 176100 ) on Monday September 03, 2001 @06:21PM (#2249143)
    I purchased the 1.0 version. Since then there has been a firmware upgrade which was signifigant, but that's about all. You can download the firmware for free for those of you with an older RCX brick -- http://mindstorms.lego.com/sdk2/. Serial to USB for the IR tower...all that means is that now I can't use a really old computer on the new Mindstorms. It seems they dumbed down the programming system. Most of the people really into this stuff use things like NQC (not quite c) or legOS, not the LEGO programming system.

    What they really need is more I/O and a better array of sensors. You can break the 3 output/ 3 input barrier, but it's awkward. And how about sonar!

    BTW, there is a big community for the LEGO fanatic, including Mindstorm lover. lugnet.com is the place to go for those of you wanting a social LEGO lifestyle.
    • Re:No big deal (Score:2, Interesting)

      by RoscoHead ( 162604 )
      What they really need is more I/O and a better array of sensors. You can break the 3 output/ 3 input barrier, but it's awkward. And how about sonar!


      Check out John Barnes' web-site HiTechnic [hitechnicstuff.com] for a nice selection of extra sensors, including proximity sensors, and compass sensors.
  • by Utopia ( 149375 ) on Monday September 03, 2001 @06:24PM (#2249148)
    I got the Mindstrom 2.0 a couple of weeks back.
    New in Mindstrom 2 are big blocks. Which are nothing but collection of small set of operations (know as small blocks).
    Programmers will recognize these as subroutines.
    The only other major change as compared to Mindstrom 1.5 is the support for USB instead of COM port.
    Those of who think that just because programming is a lot easier with Mindstrom 2 you can build robots more easily are wrong.
    Programming was never the difficult part. The difficult part to think of a design, finding the parts (you will always end up needing more parts than available in the set) and fitting the parts to form a strong structure.
    Programming is a lot easier compared to desiging a good robot.


    The System is only usable with Windows 98 and ME.
    No Windows NT/2000 or other OS support.
    • win2k (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      Yeah, the CD does say win98 only, but it works fine with 2000. At least, it does on both my laptop and desktop...
  • How come we all love legos but we ignore the fact that their site doesnt allow access unless you let it set a permanent, uniqely identifying cookie on your machine?
  • by cr0sh ( 43134 ) on Monday September 03, 2001 @06:27PM (#2249154) Homepage
    They will expand the number of sensors and motors you can connect at one time.

    I am aware of a number of "hacks" to allow you to attach more sensors and motors (my favorite involves a system whereby a circuit senses when a sensor is toggled between two certain modes, in that there is a current drop or something involved in the switch, and can activate a multiplexing system to select a different set of three outputs), but these systems all are custom, and require a bit of hardware skill and modeling skill to build - plus, no one else can replicate your machine unless they build that same system.

    I would like to see the "Ultimate Accessory" pack added as a standard part to the system - to let you get a rotation sensor, and a remote, as well as other good parts.

    It would also be nice to get some more "funkier" sensors or devices - like a laser pointer, one or two of the mini-motors, a wireless camera (something like the lego cam, but wireless), maybe an outboard battery pack, maybe high-power motors, a usb or network interface on-board the RCX (adding the extra sensors and motors onto the box will make it big enough to add this), so you can communicate directly, or network multiple RCXs together (Beowu... ah, nevermind).

    How about solenoid valves for the pneumatics - by the way, why can't we get the pneumatic systems anymore, huh? Walking machines would get sooo much easier, to an extent. Pitsco sells the parts, for most of it, so it is available still, but only if you know about them - still, it is nearly impossible to get the blue air tank to power your pneumatic system - check Ebay and pay through the nose, IF you are lucky.

    One other part I would like to see added as standard - a ball and socket joint. Lego introduced a part nearly like this with those cheesy Robot fling kits, but the arm that had the ball was made out of this flexible plastic - you can cut the ball off, which leaves you with a ball and a small cross peg, to attach to, but it is still hard to work with, and the ball is too tight in the socket - it needs loosening up (maybe some sandpaper and oil applied would help) to be useful, for things like very flexible arms and legs on experimental bots.

    I would also like to see the return of the huge tires that came with the old Expert Builder car kit, these things are near impossible to find (once again, Ebay it). Plus, make it easy to get the old jointed track (Pitsco sells this) for treads. Plus the geared large turntables - must have parts for robotic arm devices!

    With five motors and five sensor inputs, a real industrial-style robot arm built from lego (along the lines of a Rhino arm, or a Micromover arm) could easily be built, and teach a lot of principles of design, programming and control. Right now, to build such a thing, you need two RCX units, and a few motors, and it is still a pain to build (most work is in getting the two RCXs talking to each other properly).

    Add more memory to the RCXs, as well - for much, much larger programs - heck, drop 128K in - more than enough!

    For such an upgrade, I would be willing to pay $100.00 to trade in my old RCX for the new one, or something along those lines...
    • I am aware of a number of "hacks" to allow you to attach more sensors and motors (my favorite involves a system whereby a circuit senses when a sensor is toggled between two certain modes, in that there is a current drop or something involved in the switch, and can activate a multiplexing system to select a different set of three outputs), but these systems all are custom, and require a bit of hardware skill and modeling skill to build - plus, no one else can replicate your machine unless they build that same system.

      Yeah, it wouldn't have made things that much more costly if they had designed a daisy chain system for the sensors, and then they could make more money off selling a bunch of extras.

      Having an arbitrary number of motors would be much harder, so all I can realistically hope for is "more". So I do. However I would really like support for motors like the Lego Cybermaster has with built in tach sensors. That makes it trivial to do things like "drive straight", or "turn left" even with different traction on the different sides of the robot.

    • If you want to use pneumatics, you *don't* need an air tank. You can build a compressor using a medium-sized pulley wheel, compressor cylinder, motor, and support beam (square rod with holes in it). The compressor cylinder is the one with only one place to attach a hose.

      Personally, I like the compressor better, since you've got air on demand and don't have to worry about keeping the air tank filled. Of course, if you were to hook up the compressor to an air tank and use a rotation sensor to detect when the compressor has stopped rotating (maximum pressure reached) you could have it automagically fill the air tank.
      • Well, using a tank along with a compressor is basically what I was driving at, but I didn't express it right, so I apologize. Using the tank in this way (along with a sensor) forms a more regulated system, from what I understand...
        • Well, yeah, but then you need a valve. Joe Average Lego User probably dosen't have all sorts of obscure Lego gear around, much less a Mindstorms-controllable valve. If you were talking about a hand-controlled valves, I've got a few, email me if you want a deal (two for an electronic one?) :-D
    • How about solenoid valves for the pneumatics - by the way, why can't we get the pneumatic systems anymore, huh? Walking machines would get sooo much easier, to an extent. Pitsco sells the parts, for most of it, so it is available still, but only if you know about them - still, it is nearly impossible to get the blue air tank to power your pneumatic system - check Ebay and pay through the nose, IF you are lucky.

      You can buy complete pnematic accessory packs (including the blue tank) via the lego website. Comes with a big and small piston, two valves, a tank, big and small pumps etc. Buy three, I did :)

      -- Bob

    • Some [gift giving] relatives don't understand why you might want two identical kits, so Lego should market "The RIS 2.0 IO Expansion kit" which would be a normal RIS 2.0, but with a sticker on it that says "IO Expansion kit".

      It isn't hard to network RCX's so you have more than 3 inputs and outputs. Or rather, it isn't hard with LegOS or NQC.

      If Lego provided an example client server applications, it wouldn't be so intimidating. Lot's more people would buy two sets.

    • ...heck, drop 128K in - more than enough!

      "No LegoLander will ever need more than 128K!"
      Bill Legates

    • What I would really like (although I don't know if licensing would permit it from either company) is a Rockenbok (sp?) interface to LEGO Mindstorm/LEGO Technics. Rockenbok makes the neat multichannel R/C construction vehicles and their building materials are already LEGO compatible. A set of motors and controls tied to a Rockenbok receiver would mean you could could build some pretty cool R/C robots and vehicles. I'm thinking of hacking my own.
  • Reproductive Legos (Score:4, Interesting)

    by hound3000 ( 238628 ) on Monday September 03, 2001 @07:35PM (#2249271) Journal
    When will their sensors be intelligent enough to see and determine size and shape of lego pieces? That way, you can build a complex Lego robot to go out, and assemble more of itself.

    Program what you want, go away, come back and 20 robots are now working on it for you...

    • Actually, one of the projects in Dave Baum's excellent book [enteract.com] is a block sorter. It uses the light sensor and can separate the blocks according to color; here is a link to the the source [enteract.com], which is in NQC. It doesn't separate by size but still is impressive.

  • not new in 2.0 (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    the "light and touch sensors" are not new in 2.0
    I have them in my kit.. I think the AP author was just explaining them to people not familiar with the Mindstorms systems.
  • Now I can build myself a refridgerator that can automatically open a new can of coke when I'm thirsty!
  • technics? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by dollargonzo ( 519030 )
    I remember the day when Legos made technics, sets that included gears and sprockets, springs, pneumatic pumps, and other such mechanical wonders. I used to always play with those. What i didnt quite understand is why they stopped making those? They seemed to encourage more imaginative thinking, becuase yuo could build more than just a city or a star wars ship or something of the stationary and inanimate. The technics sets allowed kids to use concepts such as gear ratios, pressure (pneumatic pumps) and other concepts which introduced phyical concepts of motion and dynamics. especially when the sets started adding motors, so that all those fancy cars with steering could actually move by themselves. I remember that there was a set for building a car (with most of the parts) NOW THAT'S LEARNING!!! god, any mechanic could have used that as a child. Then Legos stopped making the sets. damn was i pissed! Once an english teacher told me that kids are being dumbed down...he said a test that he gave 10 years ago, today's kids would all flunk. Reflecting back on lego sets...i see his point. now they programmable (yay! go digital gadgets), i have nothing against that...but what happened to the good old stuff. I guess i am just nostalgic :-( .
    • You mean like... (Score:5, Informative)

      by phillymjs ( 234426 ) <slashdot AT stango DOT org> on Monday September 03, 2001 @09:43PM (#2249509) Homepage Journal
      ...these sets [lego.com]?

      Was this [lego.com] the car you were talking about?

      Technic appears to be alive and well. Though I must agree with you about the dumbing-down and relentless merchandising of everything these days. Growing up, I thought LEGO was a lot of fun without having to attach the Star Wars franchise or any other marketing crap to the products. LEGO were (and still are) just plastic blocks that stick together, and they managed to compete quite successfully with video games when I was a young'un-- there was many an afternoon that my ColecoVision sat idle while I was furiously building space shuttles and F-15s.

      I loved the Technic stuff, I had a huge box of miscellaneous gears, axles, etc, a couple of the motors, and also the pneumatic stuff. I also have a huge town setup from sets from the 80's, the very first model of their battery-powered train sets, and enough track to circle the whole town... all carefully stored away until I have enough space to set them up again someday. Hell, I'm 28 and I still pull out the things once in a while when I'm in a creative mood. Once a LEGO kid, always a LEGO kid, I guess.

      ~Philly
    • As a kid, I never had Legos - instead I used Fischertechnik [fischertechnik.co.uk]
      .
      To my mind they are a lot more impressive than legos - I think using them you can build much more stable structures, and though I am not sure they seem like the grandfather of the current Lego "Technic" sets. The link given shows a number of interesting kits such as phnumatic robotas and the like - they also have many motor sets (that I used as a kid) that have varying gears and such you could hook up to them. I think the Fischertechnik sets are more expensive than Legos, but to my mind seem to have a wider range of possible function.

      I'm not at all sure what they are like to program though. It would be nice if someone had a comparitive review somewhere.

  • ...is it a little more accessible to Mac users? I realize the software is Win only, but now that I can plug the IR unit directly into my Mac without the need for an adaptor, can I run the software from VirtualPC and send commands to the model? If so, I'm there! I'm trying to convince my wife that I need a set so that I can hone up on my Lego skills for when my son is ready for them. Since he's only six days old, I'm not sure she's buying it...
  • BUY THIS BOOK FIRST! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by wirzcat ( 221710 ) on Monday September 03, 2001 @10:34PM (#2249649)
    Buy Fred Martin's book "Robotic Exporations" first before you buy Mindstorms.

    He and MIT helped invent the Mindstorms.
    http://www.handyboard.com/
  • by quintessent ( 197518 ) <my usr name on toofgiB [tod] moc> on Monday September 03, 2001 @10:39PM (#2249663) Journal
    I'm going to put together one of these robots and program it to sit at my keyboard and click Slashdot links. Every couple of minutes, it will take random lines from people's old posts and assemble a new comment. It's amazing what machines can do in place of humans.
  • by Michael Woodhams ( 112247 ) on Monday September 03, 2001 @11:43PM (#2249951) Journal
    From the article: Though I really wanted to build something that would fetch the newspaper or drive me to work, my girlfriend was much more realistic.

    I wish I'd thought of making a realistic Lego girlfriend. Somebody should tell the guys at Columbia [userfriendly.org] Internet [userfriendly.org].
  • Technically, USB still is a serial interface. The change is from RS-232 to USB, both of which are serial interfaces.
  • I don't know how widely used this "toy" is, but my 11 year-old sister got a LOT of use out of her mindstorms kit. It combined simple robotics with an introduction to simple computer programming, and it wasn't long before i found myself on the lookout for motion-activated catapults whenever I had to go near her room. I found the experience rather stressful and unnerving, but she definitely learned a lot, and gained an interest in computer science as well.
  • I've been looking for a rotating brush attachment for the past few months. I'd love to build a robot that would wonder aroung my appartment sweeping while I was at work.

    It'd be great, Sweepy would just wander aroung until he ran out of power. Much better than a maid.
    I'm tire of these lazy robots. They need to start making my life better NOW.
  • I can't see any new feature here that is worth upgrading, except maybe the USB IR transmitter if you have USB ports to spare.

    As for the new "IDE" software, that's great for kids, in that case get it. On the other hand, the mindstorm kit is for me so I can do with the multiple langauges (my favorite "not quite C") for the RCX.

  • For anyone who picked up Loki's port of Mindrover [cognitoy.com], they have something very cool on thier site.

    This [cognitoy.com] is a set of objects for Mindrover that simulate the functioning of Lego RCX components. They also have pre-built objects that represent two real-world lego cars, and all the appropriate 'wiring' to connect them.

    The 'programs' that you create in Mindrover can then be downloaded to the Mindstorms, and you can then watch your Mindrover in the real world.

    I think Loki might be getting around to porting it (they mentioned on thier newsgroups that they would be porting some more stuff for it - no link right now, though).
  • This review may not go into $200 worth of depth, so I look forward to more detailed reader reviews


    Hey, timothy! Try reading the damn article before posting! Stupid Slashtot -- why aren't your parents supervising your use of the computer, timmy?

He keeps differentiating, flying off on a tangent.

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