The LEGO Mindstorms robotics systems have a reputation for both simplicity to use and flexibility. The current version offered by LEGO is the Mindstorms NXT system [Wikipedia] [PC Magazine review]. The NXT robotics system is based upon the NXT “brick”, an embedded 32-bit ARM7 controller that has an LCD display plus sensor and control ports. The NXT LEGO structure is composed of a different set of building blocks, the LEGO Technic system, rather than the traditional LEGO toys. The older LEGO Robotic Invention System utilized the traditional LEGO blocks.
The NXT system is actually a collaboration of LEGO and National Instruments, a major data acquisition hardware and software manufacturer. The LEGO-supplied programming interface, NXT-G, includes part of the functionality of the National Instruments LabView software package. LabView uses a graphical user interface to connect functional units together to construct control programs. LabView complements the NXT platform since its visual approach to programming is a good match for the target market of school-age children and their teachers.
NXT Kit Contents
Set includes: NXT programmable LEGO brick, ultrasonic sensor, sound sensor, light sensor, touch sensor, 3 interactive servo motors, USB cable, 7 6-wire cables, building instructions, user guide, Quickstart guide, easy to use software and test panel. 6 AA batteries not included.
LEGO released the NXT firmware source code, written in C, as an Open Source contribution. Thus, it is possible to alter or enhance functionality of the base firmware used in the NXT brick.
NXTMote Project and NXTMote project description
Mindstorms NXT Blog (3rd party)
HiTechnic sensors (3rd party) offering acceleration/tilt, compass, and color sensors for the NXT system.
NBC/NXC: Next Byte Codes and Not eXactly C (3rd party) currently (2007/05/19) in beta release, provides a more traditional programming interface for the NXT brick.
Buying Mindstorms NXT Stuff
NXT Kit at CompUSA: $199.99. Caveat: CompUSA gets a miserable 1.72 out of 10 rating. Saving $50 off the list price might be more expensive than you think.
HiTechnic Accelerometer, Compass, or Color sensors, $46.99 each, extended NXT cable set $6.49, and NXT prototype sensor/motor board (no price available)