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Hardware Hacking Robotics Toys Linux Build

LEGO Announces GNU/LInux-Powered Mindstorms EV3 Platform 164

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the robotic-overlords dept.
First time accepted submitter Barryke writes "Today LEGO announces the new mohawk (NASA's turf) sporting MINDSTORMS EV3 platform (press release). And with details on its features and innards (in Dutch) which in short comes down to: 'Its intelligent brick sports an ARM9-soc running Linux on 64MB RAM and 16MB storage memory, and supports SD cards. There are also four ports, which allow four other 'Bricks' can be connected. The intelligent brick can be reached by WiFi, USB and Bluetooth, and supports control via Android and iOS devices. It comes with 3 servo's, two touch sensors and an IR sensor to track other robots at upto six meters. It also includes 17 build plans, shown in 3D using Adobe Inventor Publisher.'"
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LEGO Announces GNU/LInux-Powered Mindstorms EV3 Platform

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  • by tepples (727027) <tepples@gmaiBLUEl.com minus berry> on Monday January 07, 2013 @11:17PM (#42514221) Homepage Journal
    From the two English articles, I see a Linux kernel. I don't see any evidence that the user space on top of it is GNU. More likely is BusyBox/Linux.
  • Autodesk, not Adobe (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday January 07, 2013 @11:26PM (#42514303)

    Man, I bet Autodesk will be pissed to learn that Adobe released a product with the same name as their Inventor Publisher.

  • by docmordin (2654319) on Monday January 07, 2013 @11:41PM (#42514399)

    I would have loved this when I was growing up, considering that programmable robots at that time were limited to industry and research labs at universities.

    In any event, the asking price seems a bit too high for what LEGO are offering and with what's now available today; touching on just one facet, after a cursory glance on Mouser/DigiKey, PCB manufacturing companies, and 3D printing shops, the so-called intelligent brick, along with its circuitry innards, could easily be fabricated on a one-off basis for under $75-100 USD. For $350 USD, they should have at least thrown in a decent CMOS camera and more servos.

    • by mark-t (151149)
      That $350 also includes a bunch of LEGO technic, which isn't exactly cheap.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @12:22AM (#42514683)

      And all of the software that comes with it would take you a significant amount of money on a "one-off basis." Also, you're getting servos, sensors, instructions, and other parts. For $350, that's pretty fucking good.

      Why do people always say, "I could build it myself far cheaper?" This is fucking obvious - you can build it with cheaper parts all on your own, assuming the value of your time is (or approaches) zero for the effort of building and coding everything to work properly. together. It's PHB syndrome - I haven't really considered what I'm getting in the box, I'm just shouting about how expensive it is, because it's not as cheap as the 100-brick lego sets I used to have as a kid.

      If you can do it cheaper, then you should open a business and compete with Lego - these are popular kits, and they make good money off them. If, however, you can't... then maybe you should stop crying about the price.

      • by tibit (1762298)

        $350 is actually a pretty good price, IMHO.

        • Agreed. It's less that the video card I'm about to buy and I can pretend that the lego is 'educational' if my wife inquires.

      • by WillAdams (45638)

        ``There is hardly anything in the world that some man cannot make a little worse and sell a little cheaper, and the people who consider price only are this man's lawful prey.''
        -- John Ruskin, English Writer and Critic of art, architecture, and society, 1819-1900

        • by pbhj (607776)

          But "There is hardly anything in the world that some man cannot make a _the_same_quality_ and sell a little cheaper" causing only a slight depreciation in wealth for some very rich people who don't need all they have already.

  • 1. Do current Mindstorm devices (servos, sensors) work with it? Or am I going to have to buy all new ones?

    2. On-brick programming is cute for toys and whatnot, but I had to build an entire communicative framework to do live remote programming control with my PC being the brains, sending and receiving signals over Bluetooth, basically running a processing stub on the brick, but the AI was live running on the PC.

    I need to do that for real AI work, kthxbie.

    • by Belial6 (794905)

      1. Do current Mindstorm devices (servos, sensors) work with it? Or am I going to have to buy all new ones?

      That's what I want to know. I had the original Mindstorm, and when the v2 came out, it was incompatible to the first one. The other issue is will they start keeping their software up to date? The software for even v2 only runs on XP. This is way to expensive of a toy to have it go obsolete because of an OS upgrade.

      • by mark-t (151149)
        It looks like it's still a NXT brick, so the same electronics can connect to it.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by clonmult (586283)
        Not true; bought my son the NXT2.0 kit for christmas - the software works fine on Windows 7 (but not Win7 SE). As far as I understood it, the sensors are completely compatible between versions.
        • There may be some confusion here - version 2 of RCX is XP only. NXT and NXT 2.0 came out later. I think (could be wrong of course) that op is talking about v1 and v2 of RCX - which are xp only and it took some hacks to get the usb ir tower to work on xp. If you have a 64 bit machine with 7 it's a no go. Found that out last year when I dug up my v2 RCX kit to mess around. I didn't have time to dig further - I'm guessing to get it to work I'd need to build out a VM maybe that would let me run the old software

      • by richlv (778496)

        do they sell the software ? i wouldn't expect them to, i guess the business is in selling the kits, instructions, brand etc :)
        if so, opensourcing that software should bring in lots of interest from more advanced crowd and make mindstorms approach the longevity of standard lego set. sure, usually longevity is fought against, but lego owes part of it's existence people having real old sets, seeing how they still fit in with new ones and getting more for their kids (well, or themselves =) )

    • Re:Two questions (Score:5, Informative)

      by azipsun (180681) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @12:23AM (#42514703)

      There's a longer article on CNET [cnet.com] about this that says that the new system will be backwards compatible with existing NXT robots.

    • What was your second question?
    • by afidel (530433)

      LOL, back not too many years ago when I was in college those were workstation class specs. In fact I knew a group that did realtime American Sign Language interpretation in only twice as much ram and about 50% more storage on an Indigo2 workstation. If you can't make a robot without realtime video processing work in those specs you're doing something wrong.

      • If you can't make a robot without realtime video processing work in those specs you're doing something wrong.

        I am a computer vision scientist and my day job involves writing computer vision algorithms, often realtime ones. Back when I started I was working on an SGI O2, which at the time was a decent machine because while it was slower than a PC in raw FLOPS, it had zero copy video I/O and more memory bandwidth than Jesus.

        I love your dismissiveness of "you're doing something wrong".

        It's possible to get a re

        • by afidel (530433)

          Reread what I said:
          If you can't make a robot without realtime video processing

          I was commenting on the fact that these robots are working without vision systems, since it's possible to do some form of realtime video processing in the given specs it should be trivial to make a system that's only working on a handful of non-video inputs work in the resources provided.

    • by samkass (174571)

      Since most of the NXT sensors are just packaged up I2C sensors they should be electrically compatible even if they change the wires. For that matter, they'd be electrically compatible with a $35 Raspberry Pi's I2C bus if they could handle 3.3V or had a 3V3-5V circuit between them.

      • most of the NXT sensors are just packaged up I2C sensors

        Actually that is not really true at least for the lego sensors (third party sensors are another matter).

        The touch sensor is a simple switch
        I think the temperature sensor (not included in any kits but available for purchase seperately) is a simple thermister but i'm not positive on that.
        The light and sound sensors are analog sensors with some internal electronics.
        The ultrasound sensor is I2C.
        I think the color sensor included in the newer NXT kits is also an analog sensor with some electronics but i'm not pos

  • Demonstrated last year [blogspot.com] as a matter of fact, so I guess this wasn't too far off.
  • ...coming in 3...2...1...

  • Although that's a good thing for people who already have stuff, because it means its compatible with NXT sensors and motors, at the same time I'm a bit disappointed because the NXT only has 7 I/O ports, and to control more devices you need another NXT brick.

    What would be nice is if you control more than just the 7 devices that you can plug into the brick without having to add another programmable brick to the system... say, by separating things like device power supply from device control, and using a s

    • by sdsucks (1161899) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @01:54AM (#42515219)

      What would be nice is if you control more than just the 7 devices that you can plug into the brick without having to add another programmable brick to the system... say, by separating things like device power supply from device control, and using a separate battery box (or boxes) to supply power to as many devices as you want, and the cpu simply addresses them in a not entirely dissimilar way to how many USB devices are addressed on a single bus.

      The functionality you want is already available on existing NXT bricks.

      The sensor ports on NXT bricks use I2C for communication, allowing "sensors" to be daisy chained and referred to by address. Since the communication across the bus can be bi-directional (though half duplex), you can easily add I2C controlled motor controllers with external power supplies. There is also the RS485 port, for higher speed bi-directional communication.

      Want more sensors? Simply daisy chain them on an I2C port. (I usually custom make cables for specific purposes, but there are also multiplexers available which could potentially allow for over 128 i2c addressed devices on a single port). An example of a commercially available daisy chain splitter - http://www.mindsensors.com/index.php?module=pagemaster&PAGE_user_op=view_page&PAGE_id=79 [mindsensors.com]. Multiplexer? http://www.hitechnic.com/cgi-bin/commerce.cgi?preadd=action&key=NSX2020 [hitechnic.com].

      Want to control more motors? Simply add a I2C controlled motor controller - a simple circuit to make yourself, or buy one of the commercially available options. In most cases you would use these with an external power supply (i.e. battery box).

      Separating "things like device power supply from device control" is as simple as making your own cables... or use some of the commercially available motor controllers. For example this motor controller (a simple i2c based DC motor controller, with lego RCX plugs in the PCB) requires an external 9v power supply - http://www.mindsensors.com/index.php?module=pagemaster&PAGE_user_op=view_page&PAGE_id=58 [mindsensors.com].

      Using USB for these purposes rather than I2C would be far more complex. I2C is very simple to use, and is fast enough for most motor and sensor IO.

      • by mark-t (151149)

        Separating "things like device power supply from device control" is as simple as making your own cables... or use some of the commercially available motor controllers. For example this motor controller (a simple i2c based DC motor controller, with lego RCX plugs in the PCB) requires an external 9v power supply

        Cool, but an exposed pcb is not as convenient as something built to LEGO specs, both in terms of dimensions and connectivity.

        I know I might just sound like I only want to bitch and complain about st

      • The sensor ports on NXT bricks use I2C for communication, allowing "sensors" to be daisy chained and referred to by address.

        Third party sensors generally yes, lego sensors no. Most of the lego sensors don't use I2C and the only one i'm aware of that does (the ultrasound sensor) is not readdressable.

        That is why you need a device like the hitechnic sensor mux (which you admittedly did link) that can deal with all the different types of lego sensor and then present the results as an I2C device. Not cheap though.

        Want to control more motors? Simply add a I2C controlled motor controller - a simple circuit to make yourself, or buy one of the commercially available options. In most cases you would use these with an external power supply (i.e. battery box).

        Indeed you have to use an external battery box.

        Separating "things like device power supply from device control" is as simple as making your own cables...

        Not really, the NXT has no external power connection* so you can't really r

        • by sdsucks (1161899)

          That is why you need a device like the hitechnic sensor mux (which you admittedly did link) that can deal with all the different types of lego sensor and then present the results as an I2C device. Not cheap though.

          You can however very easily use a pcf8591 to create your own i2c interface for analog sensors... Simple circuit, good for learning & experimenting, and the necessary parts are easily and very cheaply available.

    • by jcdr (178250)

      For there intended audience, the I2C bus is still a very good choice, since there only have to deal with a very limited quantity of low speed sensors and actuators.

      But I agree with you, there is probably a business opportunity to setup a standard based on USB for less toys oriented robotic. Something that make straightforward to add a new feature in a robot:
      - Can be compatible across many manufactures (including your own hacking).
      - Driver code contributed into a common open source project.
      - Auto detection o

  • 64MB RAM and 16MB storage ???

    That can't be right...

    Seriously... it makes no sense. When is storage capacity *smaller* than ram?

    The article either has it backwards, or else they meant 16gb of storage.

    • Re:Wait... what? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by aedil (68993) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @12:40AM (#42514823)

      It would actually make quite a lot of sense for a custom system where the control software (essentially the OS) is provided in the srtorage component (16MB), and things like actual programs are loaded into RAM. Since typically (as far as I recall) mindstorm programs are loaded into the brick at runtime, it makes perfect sense that no storage is used for this, other than perhaps a ramdisk.

      • Since typically (as far as I recall) mindstorm programs are loaded into the brick at runtime

        You are kind of out of date. The RCX kept almost everything in ram (which was a PITA, take the batteries out and you had to redownload the firmware before you could program it again) but the NXT uses flash for user programs and updatable firmware.

      • by mark-t (151149)
        If you are wanting to reuse the same program over and over agin, I can imagine that having to reupload several megabytes each time you turn it on would get pretty annoying. Of course you could also store it on an sd card, so that might nt be an issue
    • by Bill Currie (487)

      With support for sd cards, who needs storage other than for the OS itself?

    • by afidel (530433)

      Look at every SOHO router released in the last 10 years, small flash for OS+base programs and some ram to run code. Boot from a bzip2 image to ram drive and execute from there.

    • by gl4ss (559668)

      why?
      try programming anything?

      (besides it's moot since your code would be sitting on the sd card.. but it's not unfeasible to think of plenty of things where you'd se 64mbytes and more of memory but which would take much less than 16mbytes of space in executable form).

  • by adolf (21054)

    Does this mean that I can finally retire my venerable WRT54G?

  • More info on the EV3 (Score:4, Informative)

    by pbr (122134) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @01:02AM (#42514977) Homepage Journal

    https://www.quora.com/lego_tidbits/Lego-Mindstorms-EV3-More-Info

  • I have a feeling that Legos are going to beat most of the private companies into space. They'll probably outdo them on satellite launches too.
  • by Fleetie (603229) on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @03:47AM (#42515727) Homepage

    For goodness sake, I wish whoever wrote that would learn written English. Also, it's "videos", "photos", and so on.

  • by MoreDruid (584251) <moredruid.gmail@com> on Tuesday January 08, 2013 @04:30AM (#42515917) Homepage Journal
    I hope they truly address battery life. I understand that making motors turn and sensory input costs energy but boy the NXT 2.0 eats through a pack of batteries like a pothead with munchies. In the RC world there are lots of energy efficient battery types, and for the price I think Lego should have included a decent rechargeable battery pack (NiMh, if not LiPo).
    • by drinkypoo (153816)

      It would be better if the brick would simply accept these new 3.7v Lithium batteries in the AA format. It's better to be able to swap batteries, to be able to buy the batteries at your supermarket, etc.

  • 1. post critical article [slashdot.org] about $product (make sure the article also contains rebuttals);
    2. followup 2 weeks later with new $product announcement that proves previous criticism wrong;
    3. profit!

    Not necessarily carried out consciously by news aggregation sites such as this one, but possibly still orchestrated by $product's marketing dept.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      It's hard to link a product announcement from Lego with an unrelated article from NY Times two weeks earlier. The idea that Lego stores up product announcements and then releases them two weeks after some guy somewhere writes an article about them is pretty much ridiculous.

  • With WiFi and BlueTooth it's just a matter of time until our Lego SkyNet overlord is replicating itself to take over.

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