Lego Goes Open Source

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If you think the toys you built with ordinary Legos were cool, robotics enthusiasts are about to make a quantum leap forward. The Lego Group announced today that it plans to release the firmware of its Lego Mindstorms microprocessor (the new NXT brick) as open source in August 2006. In addition, the company will release Software, Hardware, and Bluetooth software development kits (SDKs).

These tools should enable robotics enthusiasts and third parties to develop new sensors and controllers, and create Bluetooth applications which can remotely control their robotic creations. Although the Mindstorms NXT is exciting geeks everywhere, it really is intended for anyone from the age of ten and up: when it ships in August, the NXT will ship with 571 pieces, the NXT “brain” brick, three servo motors, a variety of sensors (which respond to touch, light, ultrasonics, and sound), USB 2.0 and Bluetooth connectivity, and a LabVIEW powered programming environment which runs on PCs and Macs. MindStorms NXT will carry a suggested retail price of $249.99.

Lego has been involving its fan community in the development of MindStorm NXT to integrate the features and capabilities enthusiasts want. “Most often, innovation comes from the core community of users,” said Soren Lund, director of Lego MindStorms. “When we launched the legacy MindStorms platform in 1998, the community found ways to do these things on their own, and we were faced with the question of whether to allow it, which we decided to embrace and encourage. Now, given the strong user base and versatility and power of the NXT platform, the right to hack is a ‘no brainer.’ We’re excited to see how our open approach will push new boundaries of robotic development and are eager for all enthusiasts to share their creations with the community.”

Personally, I’d love to design a stair-climbing robot specifically to drive the cats insane.

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