15th anniversary Lego Mindstorms EV3 cozies up to hackers

Credit: Bill Edwards/DVICE

For the 15th anniversary of the Lego Mindstorms robotics line, the company showed off its massively upgraded core system at the annual Toy Fair in New York City.  The new Mindstorms EV3 kit will be available in the second half of 2013 for $350, and includes motors, sensors (that can detect seven colors), a programmable brick, a remote control and 550 Lego Technic elements. Out of the box, builders can make five robot creatures: EV3rStorm, Track3r, R3ptar, Gripp3r and Spik3r.

Willem Horst, a Designer and User Experience Software Producer at Lego, demoed the five core robots for us while having them strike, bite and chase us using their robotic sensors. The Gripp3r robot even lifted a full soda can. It was so impressive, we got a little nervous. Like, you know, Cyberdyne nervous.

Horst just laughs and agrees that "EV3 is a major improvement internally. There is a lot faster processor and a SD card slot. If you are a hacker, this is running Linux. You can put a 32gig SD card in there and have your own operating system. It has an ARM9 processor with 300 MHz which is a lot more powerful than the ARM7 processor we had before. Right now we have a USB host so you can plug in a Wi-Fi dongle that we support, but since it’s running Linux the community is going to be able to hack that in any way it wants."

The system is now integrated to work through tablet apps that will be available at launch. Horst says, "We operate with Android and iOS so we have a lot more integration with apps. We also have 3D building instructions for tablets in collaboration with AutoDesk so you can rotate and zoom."

With all of the upgraded functionality, Horst says builders can start basic, learn the tools and then grow their aptitude exponentially. "We recommend starting with the EV3rStorm Track3r, which takes about 20 minutes to build the base, and then you can use different tools on top of that."

From there, the Lego Mindstorms builder and education communities will help grow the system too. "We are working very closely with the community so there is a Lego Minds expert panel developing 12 additional bonus models from the single set. There will be 70 models total that you can build from this set on the day we launch. But the community has been fantastic with the current Mindstorms sets with over 17,000 models they’ve shared online. We’re really excited to see what the community is going to do."

Photography for DVICE by Bill Edwards.

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