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Lego Mindstorms NXT

January 7th, 2006 · No Comments

Wired writes about the next version due out in August:

Four years after its release, version 2.0 still sells 40,000 units a year at $199 a pop — with no advertising — and has become Lego’s all-time best-selling product. The market is almost evenly split between parents buying the kit for their budding engineers and grown-up geeks who build Mindstorms robots that can scale walls, solve Rubik’s Cubes, or pick blue M&Ms out of a pile.

The kit, due in stores in August, looks nothing like 2.0 and isn’t backward compatible. Users still program the bots from their PCs, but everything else about the experience has been changed. The centerpiece of a Mindstorms kit is the RCX brick, which acts as the robot’s brain. It receives input from sensors and sends instructions to motors, breathing life into plastic-block creatures. The new brain has a 32-bit processor — a huge upgrade over the old 8-bit processor — allowing NXT bots to perform more-complex tasks than their predecessors, like ambling with a near-human gait or reacting to voice commands. The chunky yellow brick in the old kit — which looked like SpongeBob SquarePants — is gone, replaced by a gray rectangle that could be the love child of an iPod and a first-gen Gameboy. The programming language has been revamped, as have the sensors, motors, and I/O ports. As a result, Mindstorms NXT robots look and act far more realistic than their predecessors.

But the boldest part of the Mindstorms overhaul is Lego’s decision to outsource its innovation to a panel of citizen developers. Relying on the MUP is a gamble that Lego hopes will lead not only to a better product but also to a tighter, more trusting bond between corporation and customer.

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