Lego Mindstorms NXT Robotics Announced

(via Lemonodor)

This looks cool.

I am not sure about the details of how these bricks are to be programmed, but from the Slashdot dicussion is seems that there is some kind of dataflow language. Even more interesting is the claim that the VM is going to be documented, so third party language developers can target this low end robotics platform.

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Not new...

The heart of the new system is the NXT brick, an autonomous 32-bit LEGO microprocessor that can be programmed using a PC, or for the first time in the retail offering, a Mac. After building their robots, users create a program within easy-to-use yet feature-rich software, powered by LabVIEW from National Instruments.

I haven't read the Slashdot thread, but I do know that this has been around for quite some time. The educational version of Mindstorms, branded as Robolab, comes with LabVIEW as its programming interface. I've never had much time to play with it, but it feels completely different from the Robotics Invention System version (and much more powerful, too).

Programmed in Occam

I think I read the article. IIRC, it was about some guys at the University of Kent who had made an impressively compact Occam environment (somewhat extended) on the Lego platform. This was in connection with a course on distributed programming.

NXT, occam

"Impressively compact." I like that. :)

The NXT runs an interpreter for the output of the LabView programming environment. Hopefully, it will be a fun/useful target for other languages. We still don't know how much RAM is inside the thing.

The Transterpreter[1], as a runtime for compiled occam bytecode, currently runs on the Mindstorms, and we've applied to the NXT developer program; we'd like to be able to port natively to the new platform, or (if the interpreter will support us) we'll port to the NXT's built-in code interpreter.

Given that LEGO did consult with a number of members of the larger community before building the device, my hope is that it will be a much more open target for (language/OS) experimentation than the previous version. Mercy. Developing for a closed box (the Mindstorms RCX) is a serious pain, and I didn't even carry the brunt of that exploration.


Transterpreter source available

The source to the portable Occam runtime, Transterpreter, is now available: