Mac-compatible Lego Mindstorms goes open source

The Lego Group on Monday announced that it is releasing as open source the firmware for its newest Lego Mindstorms microprocessor. What’s more, the company plans to release software, hardware and bluetooth developer kits when it debuts its Mac-compatible Lego Mindstorms NXT kit in August, 2006.

Developed around the Lego Group’s legendary building block toys, Mindstorms is Lego’s robotics technology. You can build robots, then program them using a computer interface to do what you want. Features of the new Mindstorms NXT kit, which includes 571 pieces, include ultrasonic, sound, light and touch sensors, three interactive servo motors, Bluetooth and USB connectivity.

Mac and PC compatibility is being provided by bundled LabVIEW software developed by National Instruments. It features 18 different robotics building exercises and programming challenges.

The software developer kit will include the specification on the NXT driver interface and will include tools for creating third-party programming environments, according to The Lego Group. The hardware developer kit will provide the schematics for the NXT’s 6-wire digital connector system. And the Bluetooth developer kit will detail the NXT microprocessor’s embedded Bluetooth protocol.

Look for Lego Mindstorms NXT to hit retailers in August for $249.99. A special academic version is anticipated for release this year. System requirements call for a G3, G4 or G5/600MHz or faster, Mac OS X v10.3.9 or later, 256MB RAM, 300MB hard disk space, 1024 x 768 resolution, available USB port, CD-ROM drive, and optional Bluetooth adapter.

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