The Lego Group have announced the new Mindstorms EV3 programmable brick at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas today. It’s an exciting development in the world of amateur robotics, as the new kit is  eagerly anticipated by Lego fans around the world.

CONSUMER ELECTRONICS SHOW, LAS VEGAS (January 7, 2013) – Today The LEGO Group announced LEGO® MINDSTORMS EV3, a new platform for consumer robotics designed to introduce a younger generation to the excitement of building and programming robots while adding new flexibility for its devoted following of robotics enthusiasts. Unveiled for the first time at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, Nevada, LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 is the result of three years of product development by an international team of LEGO designers, MINDSTORMS user-enthusiasts and leading technology experts.  LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3, available in summer 2013, will be previewed to members of the global media at Digital Experience! on January 7 and will be demonstrated to CES attendees during the Kids@Play Summit, January 8-11, 2013, in the Venetian Hotel.

Let’s take a peek under the covers and see what the new brick has inside…

EV3 Intelligent Brick

  • Stronger and faster ARM9 robotic processor
  • Embedded 16MB FLASH memory
  • 64 MB RAM plus SD expansion slot
  • LINUX operating system, released under open source
  • USB 2.0 interface allows for WiFi connectivity
  • 4 input ports / 4 output ports allow up to four intelligent bricks to be connected together
  • Matrix display with loudspeaker
  • Building-compatible button interface with status indication
  • Enhanced on-brick programming
  • Bluetooth ® v2.1
  • iOS and Android compatible

For starters the new brick packs some impressive processing power; a faster ARM9 processor and more RAM and FLASH RAM will expand the capabilities of the EV3 to handle more complex programs and larger data sets. But what’s this? It runs Linux (let the Slashdot crowd rejoice!) That’s right, the new Lego “toy” you will be able to purchase later this year runs the same OS used in servers, Android phones and high-end computers around the world. Think of the possibilities with that and an army of open-source hackers coding away…One big improvement is the addition of an additional motor port (something Lego Mindstorms users have cried out for) and the support for both iOS and Android natively talking to the device. Your robot partnering with your phone is going to be a huge area for experimentation in the coming years, and I expect to see some significant developments here.

Hardware

  • 3 Interactive Servo Motors: 2 large and 1 medium
  • 1 Touch Sensor
  • New IR Seeker Sensor measures distance, movements and detects objects
  • New IR Beacon remotely controls robot from up to 6 feet away
  • Improved Color Sensor detects 6 colors plus the absence of color
  • Backwards-compatible with LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT
  • Assortment of 594 LEGO TECHNIC® elements for easy, more stable building with improved functionality and movement capabilities

The Lego motors return, but in a new form-factor for the EV3. And a new medium motor is introduced that we have not seen before, which will make it easier to mount into smaller models. The IR Beacon is a useful addition as it allows robots to perform search-and-rescue (or seek-and-destroy if you prefer) missions. And a welcome relief for anyone who owns an existing Mindstorms kit; everything is backwards compatible.

What about the models you can build with the new kit? No disappointment there; at launch, LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 will include building instructions for 17 different robots  such as “Everstorm” a Mohawk-sporting humanoid that shoots mini-spheres as it walks (see the picture below), “Spiker” a scorpion-like robot that searches for an IR beacon “bug” or “Reptar”, a robotic snake that slithers, shakes and strikes, all designed to excite and inspire children with the endless possibilities of consumer robotics. To jump-start the fun, The LEGO Group has created a series of “modular builds” designed to help children begin programming and playing within minutes.

 

Lego themselves have invested a lot of time and energy into making this impressive new product:

LEGO Group assembled a multinational team of product designers, technologists and enthusiasts to evolve the MINDSTORMS platform. Over a period of three years, the platform’s hardware and software were re-imagined while a core team of 12 user-enthusiasts tested the platform limits and co-developed models, applications and an expanded hacking environment.

I was privileged to be part of the team of community “experts” which was assembled by Lego to help in the development of EV3. I’m humbled to have played a small part in the work!

You can read more about the new product on Xander’s blog and also at Lauren’s blog.

For more official news see Lego’s official announcement page.