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$350 Linux-controlled Lego robot ships Sept. 1

Aug 1, 2013  |  Eric Brown
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[Updated Aug. 5] — Lego Group announced that its $350 hackable Lego Mindstorms EV3 robot will ship Sept. 1. Lego also unveiled a dozen new downloadable fan-built designs for the educational and hobbyist robot, which runs Linux on an ARM9 processor, and supports Bluetooth remote access via Android and iOS devices.

Lego announced the Lego Mindstorms EV3 in January at the CES show, promising a late summer release. The $350 educational and hobbyist toy is right on schedule, due to arrive in retail stores Sept. 1. In fact, it “may start appearing later this month at select online retailers for pre-order,” says the company.



Lego Mindstorms EV3 and its Linux-powered “Brick”
(click image to enlarge)

 

The Mindstorms EV3 represents the first major overhaul of the programmable Lego Mindstorms robot kit since 2006. The kit features an upgraded “Intelligent Brick” computer that runs an open source Linux distribution on a 300MHz ARM9 processor, giving it far more programmability than the microcontroller-based NXT series, which was last updated in 2009.

Most of the major technical details for the Mindstorms EV3 have been previously announced, but a few new details have also emerged (see farther below for a spec list). The chief news today is the unveiling of 12 user-created “bonus model” designs developed by some of the 70 members of the Mindstorms Community Partners (MCPs) beta program.




Five hero models and 12 bonus models
(click images to enlarge)

 

On Sept. 1, 17 open source designs can be downloaded, including five previously announced “hero models” ranging in size up to 16-inches tall, including a humanoid, snake, scorpion, gripper, and tracker. The new bonus models include a bulldozer, shell game, robotic scribe, line follower, forklift truck, brick measurer, racing truck, prankster, droid, electric guitar, triceratops, and arcade game (see images above).
 

Inside the EV3

Up to four bricks can be stacked, with each offering the unnamed 300MHz ARM9 CPU, 64MB of RAM, 16MB of internal flash, and a new SD slot for loading up to 32GB of programming code. A new USB port supports the addition of WiFi dongles and other peripherals. For the first time, the robot is fully compatible with Android and iOS devices for remote control via Bluetooth 2.1.

On the robotics side, the Mindstorms EV3 has added a set of infrared sensor “eyes,” enabling the robot to detect objects up to six feet away and respond to visual events. There’s also a new gyro and an improved color sensor. Retained NXT functions include a speaker, ultrasonic sensor, two touch sensors, and multiple servo motors. A total of 594 Lego-style Technic parts are also said to be available.

You can now program many functions directly via the previously available button-controlled, 178 x 128-pixel LCD interface, in addition to downloading programs from a desktop PC design program. The desktop software, which is backward compatible to the NXT, but is limited to Windows and Mac support, has been upgraded with object-oriented programming tools and extensions to major robotics languages. Lego has also added an Autodesk-based 3D building application with step-by-step instructions for various designs.

An educational version, which offers more customizable curriculum and other tools, is already available. The curriculum is aligned with Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education Coalition guidelines.

Specifications listed for the Lego Mindstorms EV3 include:

  • Processor — 300MHz ARM9 robotic processor (reportedly a TI Sitara AM1808)
  • Memory — 64 MB RAM; 16MB flash; SD expansion slot
  • Display — 178 x 128-pixel LCD Matrix
  • Wireless — Bluetooth 2.1 (Android and iOS-compatible)
  • High-quality speakers
  • Other I/O:
    • USB 2.0 port (supports WiFi dongles)
    • GPIO ports — 4x inputs and 4x outputs (enables linking up to 4x bricks)
    • Building-compatible button interface with status indication
  • Robotics features:
    • 3x interactive servo motors (2x large, 1x medium)
    • Touch sensor
    • Gyro
    • IR seeker sensor for measuring distance, movements, objects
    • IR beacon (remote control from up to 6 feet)
    • Color sensor (detects 6 colors plus the absence of color)
    • 594x Lego Technic elements
  • Power — 6 AA batteries or 2050 mAh Li-ion EV3 rechargeable battery

The Lego Mindstorms EV3 will be available Sept. 1 at most toy and discount merchandise retailers and online stores, for $350. The educational version is available now. More information may be found at the Lego Mindstorms EV3 product page. More on the 12 new bonus models may be found here.
 

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