The LEGO Group has announced the unveiling of Lego Mindstorms EV3, a “radically redesigned upgrade” to its popular robotics platform that’s designed to introduce a new generation of tech-savvy kids to the world of robot building and programming. LEGO announced the new platform this week at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, timed to the 15th anniversary of the original Mindstorms debut.
The result of three years of product development by an international team of designers, user-enthusiasts, and technology experts, EV3 boasts what Lego calls a “more accessible yet more ‘hackable’ platform,” including first-ever native language editions for Russia, China, Korea, Japan, Spain, and Denmark, which complement the English, French, German, and Dutch language versions already available.
The redesign was undertaken specifically to engage today’s modern kids, who have grown up with technology and many of whom may be more proficient in commanding and controlling mobile devices than their older siblings and parents, LEGO says. To that end, EV3 simplifies the experience for younger uses while at the same time offering more flexible and powerful options for hobbyists.
When LEGO Mindstorms first launched in 1998, it was regarded as the first real “smart toy,” Lego says.
Building on that foundation, the new EV3 platform is powered by what LEGO calls the “EV3 Intelligent Brick.” A stronger and faster processor with more memory, the Intelligent Brick un-tethers robots from the computer by allowing builders to program the brick itself, and to integrate programming more tightly with existing smart devices. The system also will include a new infrared sensor, Linux-based firmware, a USB port, an SD expansion slot, and full iOS and Android compatibility out of the box, giving builders nearly unlimited programming and expansion capabilities, Lego says.
At launch, the platform will ship with building instructions for 17 different robots in a series of “modular builds” meant to help kids begin programming and playing within minutes. The series include such characters as “Everstorm” a Mohawk-sporting humanoid that shoots mini-spheres as it walks; “Spiker” a scorpion-like robot that searches for an IR beacon “bug;” and “Reptar,” a robotic snake that slithers, shakes and strikes, LEGO says. In addition, a “mission pad” will add an element of game play, inviting kids to compete in obstacle courses for the robots they build and program.
For more experienced hobbyists, a variety of LEGO Technic® pieces, motors, or sensors can be added later to change the functionality of the robot.
Another new feature of EV3—the first in the company’s history of playsets—is the incorporation of 3D building instructions, made possible through collaboration with Autodesk, Lego says. The company notes that the instructions will allow builders to zoom in and rotate each step in the building process, intended to make it easier than ever to assemble even the most sophisticated robots.
“Fifteen years ago, we were among the first companies to help children use the power of technology to add life-like behaviors to their LEGO creations with the Mindstorms platform,” says Camilla Bottke, LEGO Mindstorms project lead, in the company’s announcement. “Now, we are equipping today’s tech-literate generation of children with a more accessible, yet sophisticated robotics kit that meets their tech play expectations and abilities to truly unleash their potential so that they may surprise, impress and excite the world with their creativity.”
LEGO Mindstorms EV3 will be available at retailers and online in the second half of 2013 and will have a suggested retail price of $349.99. For educators interested in bringing robotics into STEM-related curriculum in middle school and high school classrooms, a version optimized for school and institutional use, LEGO Mindstorms Education EV3, will also be released this year. It includes customizable curriculum; hands-on models, and an easy-to-use programming platform.