Tuesday, January 8, 2013

EVolution 3

As we have seen almost everywhere in geek and many other websites, the NeXT MINDSTORMS EVolution (EV3 - 3rd Generation MINDSTOMRS) is expected to be released sometime next summer.


While this time TLG made good job controlling all the potential leakage sources (not that did not happen), all of a sudden at the carefully planned date the media and cyberspace got flooded with news regarding LEGO newest toy. Progressively different types of information started to be released along the day, to the point where we got an unprecedented level of information for a new LEGO product, in a single day.

I found the choice of EV3 name quite funny, as I can imagine the possibility to read it like EVolution3 or like EVE (from Disney Wall-E movie) if we think in terms of 1337 speaking, as LEGO also did with names of the robots to release with the EV3 Retail Kit (TRACK3R, GRIPP3ER, SPIK3R, R3PTAR and EV3RSTORM).


This will be the kind of change which only happens at the span of several years - typically every 6 to 8 years, if you remind there was 15 years since the release of the 1st generation, the RCX in 1998 and that NXT in 2006 (see LEGO MINDSTORMS timeline here). EV3 will coach the next generation of youngsters learning robotics, hence I wanted to leave here some comments on the very first moment. Now the rush has gone, let's look at it more in detail.



These are images from the EV3 LEGO Education Kit models which differ from the. Retail version.


In the first hours of the epic morning morning we got to see the models and the elements proposed with the Retail Kit. Some hours later we started to see fresh information and media provided by LEGO Education division, about the specifics from the EV3 Education version.


The Hardware

Each programmable EV3 brick comes with a 300MHz ARM9 robotic processor, 64MB of RAM and embedded 16MB of flash memory. A microSD expansion slot, Linux, Bluetooth 2.1, iOS and Android compatibility, a USB 2.0 interface allowing Wi-Fi connectivity, four input and output ports, a matrix display with a loudspeaker and a six-button interface with backlight.

So finally the new MINDSTORMS generation includes a memory slot to expand the built in memory, which was always a limitation we had on NXT.

LEGO MINDSTORMS EV3 uses the same RJ12 connector cables as its predecessor NXT, so all your existing sensors, motors and building elements will work with the new platform.
Although you should notice that the NXT rechargeable battery cannot be used together with the new EV3 P-brick.

Up to 4 P-brick elements could be easily daisy-chained, but it is not possible to daisy chain with the NXT brick.


The Software

One of the most talked features for some time is the capability to program directly on the P-brick. This is something that was already possible with NXT, although it seems there is now a tighter integration between the P-brick and the programming environment. Basic tasks can be easily programed on the P-brick as well as conducting basic data logging. All of the on-brick programs can be uploaded into the LEGO MINDSTORMS Education EV3 software for continued and advanced work.


The EV3 on brick programing, is based on object oriented Linux programming. Additionaly the EV3 software can be used on both Mac and PC platforms to program EV3 P-bricks.
As it happened with NXT, National Instruments and LEGO jointly developed the new EV3 software providing an age appropriate version of the LabVIEW user interface, designed for EV3 graphical programming. 

Besides the EV3 software, you can also use LabVIEW and RobotC programing environments. EV3 is an open-source platform and, therefore, we anticipate the MINDSTORMS community to develop additional languages such as JAVA.

Which possibilities the P-brick OO Linux programming environment or the desktop EV3 software will bring and how do they compare with former NXT-G? Don't know!
Which kind of support we could expect for other languanges formerly used with LMS NXT, like NXC or pbLua and when? Don't know!

Dammit! Duno a lot of things...
Although the new EV3 is advertised as the most hackable MINDSTORMS ever. So it looks promising!

LEGO has also introduced a new 3D virtual instructions app available on the iPad, in partnership with Autodesk, allowing users to zoom and rotate building instructions that you'll be able to view on your tablet.
The new app will let you zoom in and rotate around every step in the instructions, so you can more clearly see what you're building and it is based on Autodesk's existing Inventor Publisher software.
It will certainly become a new way of building your models!

You also can find a lot more information and details about these and other features, like debugging features, interoperability, etc... from the LEGO Eduaction EV3 FAQ here.


MINDSTORMS Kit Elements

It is already known that we are going to get a different set of sensors among the education and retail versions, thus making an overall very complete assortment since the very initial releases.

Among the main elements in the retail version (31313), we shall find:
  • 1 P-brick
  • Set of RJ-12 cables
  • 2 Large servo motors
  • 1 Medium servo motor 
  • 1 or 2 Touch sensors (found contradictory info, hence I'm in doubt)
  • 1 Color sensor able to detect six colors and absence of color
  • 1 Infrared seeker sensor that can measure distance and movement, giving robots the ability to see and detect various objects
  • 1 Infrared "beacon" designed to control the robots remotely from a distance of up to 6 feet 
  • 594 additional LEGO Technic elements
The Box!...


As for the Educational Kit, it will include the main elements below:
  • 1 P-brick
  • 1 Rechargeable battery
  • Set of RJ-12 cables
  • 2 Large servo motors
  • 1 Medium servo motor 
  • 2 Touch sensors
  • 1 Color sensor able to detect six colors and absence of color
  • 1 Ultrasonic sensor 
  • 1 Gyro sensor
  • Ball Wheel


Thus we will find the Infrared seeker sensor and Infrared "beacon" only with Retail Kit, and the Ultrasonic sensor and Gyro sensors only available with the Education Kit. At least at an initial phase.

Bellow a brief explanation on the main elements and sensors which are expected on EV3 kits.


EV3 Programable brick (P-brick) or Intelligent brick:
Got an extra output port (to connect an extra motor - now up to four) and it is half stud thicker.
The display got larger and has higher resolution (178x128px) for larger and more detailed graphics (loved the eyes expressions used in the models above), but still monochromatic... Here LEGO seems not going side-to-side with the latest EVolutions and actuality.
However I would dare to say, to my eyes it shouldn't be very difficult or unlikely, this could become the subject for an upgrade in the next HW revision (typically with a new minor release in about 2/3 years).
It is powered with AA batteries or with an EV3 rechargeable DC battery.
The cables and connectors in use, are the same as in the previous generation (NXT) which sums as a positive.
  • LEGO Education listed spare price: $159,95


EV3 Rechargeable Battery:
There is a new rechargeable battery and you cannot use the old NXT batteries because of the different clips on the side (2). Although it uses the same 10v DC power adapter..
Unfortunately the battery pack is again one module higher, thus you'll need to consider this in your models if you plan to use the same robot with and without rechargeable pack...
This battery has a capacity of 2050 mAh and has a charge time of around three to four hours.
As before it can be charged without taking the model apart.
  • LEGO Education listed spare price: $59,95

EV3 Large Servo Motor:
Here we got a large servomotor similar to that with previous NXT version, which also seems to fit into a larger envelope (approximately 14x7x5 modules against 14x6x5 formerly).
Attachment points changed places somehow, when compared to the previous version too. Also they have now a O+O connection shape (hole-pin-hole).

Hope the larger size brings some advantages though...
Some say the connection points at the back align with the center of the rotating output hub, which should make building easier. I'm not convinced of the cost/benefit will be that positive.

The motor shape is also too much faceted to my taste... Don't like it and can't really understand the direction taken here.
  • 160-170 RPM
  • Running torque of 20 N/cm
  • Stall torque of 40 N/cm
  • Encoders with 1 degree resolution
  • Auto-ID built into the EV3 Software
  • LEGO Education listed spare price: $21,95

 EV3 Medium Servo Motor:

Finally we got the so desired MINDSTORMS medium motor, based on the same sized PF M-motor but appended with the space required to accommodate an encoder and the MINDSTORMS electrical connector. Of course it is a servo as it won't make any sense otherwise, into robotics kit...
It goes with a 3x4x9 modules envelope. Or 3x3x7 if we strip the MINDSTORMS electrical connector and bottom connector beams, which comes closer to the 7L PF L-motor and to the 6L PF M-motor.
It uses the same type of connectivity possibilities as in the new PF L-motor, although just in the front side.
Like its bigger brother, it also exhibits the new O+O (hole-pin-hole) connectors doubled at the bottom side.
The EV3 Medium Servo Motor is great for lower-load, higher-speed applications and when faster response times and a smaller profile are needed in the robot’s design.
  • 240-250 RPM
  • Running torque of 8 N/cm
  • Stall torque of 12 N/cm
  • Encoders with 1 degree resolution
  • Auto-ID built into the EV3 Software
  • LEGO Education listed spare price: $19.95


EV3 Touch Sensor:
Very similar to the previous NXT version, there is not much to say about this, one.
Precisely detects when its front button is pressed or released and is able to count single and multiple presses.
Like several of the other EV3 sensors, I'm not sure whether this is a bit wider then the traditional 3L, because of the side "panel". Although I don't know what is it for or which is its function.
  • Pressed / Not Pressed
  • Cross axle hole on button
  • Auto-ID built into the EV3 Software
  • LEGO Education listed spare price: $19.95

EV3 Color Sensor:
It distinguishes between seven different colors and can also detect the absence of color. It also serves as a light sensor by detecting light intensities.

  • Measures reflected red light and ambient light from darkness to very bright sunlight
  • Capable of detecting seven colors plus the absence of color. It can tell the difference between color or black-and-white or among blue, green, yellow, red, white, and brown
  • Sample rate of 1 kHz
  • Auto-ID is built into the EV3 Software
  • LEGO Education listed spare price: $34.95

EV3 Gyro Sensor:
Available with the Educational EV3 Kit, this digital sensor measures the robot’s rotational motion and changes in its orientation.
  • In angle mode, measures angles with an accuracy of +/- 3 degrees per 90 degrees turned.
  • In gyro mode, it measures a maximum of 440 degrees per second.
  • Sample rate of 1 kHz
  • Auto-ID is built into the EV3 Software
  • LEGO Education listed spare price: $29.95

EV3 Ultrasonic Sensor:
The digital EV3 Ultrasonic Sensor generates sound waves and reads their echoes to detect and measure distance from objects. It can also send single sound waves to work as sonar or listen for a sound wave that triggers the start of a program.
  • Measures distances between 1 and 250cm
  • Distances are return in 0,1cm resolution but accuracy is about +/- 1cm
  • Front illumination is constant while emitting and blinks while listening.
  • Returns True if other ultrasonic sound sensor is recognized (listen mode)
  • Auto-ID is built into the EV3 Software
  • LEGO Education listed spare price: $31.95

EV3 IR Seeker Sensor:
The digital EV3 IR Seeker Sensor detects/measures proximity to the robot and reads signals emitted by the EV3 IR Beacon..
  • Proximity measurement of approximately 50-70cm
  • Can be used as a receiver for the IR Beacon
    Can also receive IR remote commands
  • Can measure the direction to the IR Beacon 
  • Working distance from the beacon of up to two meters
  • Supports four signal channels
  • Auto-ID is built into the EV3 Software
  • LEGO Education listed spare price: $29.95

EV3 IR Beacon:
This has been designed for use with the EV3 IR Seeker Sensor. The beacon emits an infrared signal, which the sensor can track. The beacon can also be used as a remote control for the EV3 Brick through signals sent to the infrared sensor.
  • Requires two AAA batteries
  • Four individual channels
  • Includes a beacon button and toggle switch to activate/deactivate
  • Green LED indicates if the beacon is active
  • Auto power-down if the unit is not in action for one hour
  • Working distance of up to two meters
  • Can act like a beacon for homing routing
  • Can be used to to control your robot with buttons - a little like the PF IR remote control.
    Wonder how the red/blue buttons and the four channel switch, operate together with the robot(s) and respective output ports
  • LEGO Education listed spare price: $29.95


Still on the new elements...

You may have read above, that the Eduction Kit comes with a Ball Wheel or (Caster Ball). Guess it might be the 92911 Technic Steering Ball Joint Large Receptacle with a stainless steel sphere inside as seen in the image below.



Or you may have seen some images of the new models with a new 11x3 curved panel (in black) and the red tread attachments as depicted below - I'm loving it (the panel)!...


Apparently only included in the tray of the Education Kit EV3 Expansion Set (from LEGO Education)!?
But we will about the models still ahead...


Color Schema

BIG FAIL?

With its 3rd generation robotics platform, LEGO decided to replace the VLBG (off-white) with Orange details color schema, by a White / LBG with Red / Black details schema.
Despite I really liked the previous color schema a lot, I admit that I'm also getting used to the new color schema quite fast...
Although I cannot see it in another way than a big money saver for TLG, which this way discards one color from the palette and the need to produce a certain number of different elements in a specific and MINSTORMS dedicated color only. IMHO this comes also with a severe drawback - LEGO Robots are made to be heavily played by children, the LEGO White gets yellowed, scratched and ugly too easily (while the VLBG did not).
Probably one of the worse decisions by the MINDSTORMS enginnering team on the EV3 release I would dare to say, but I know this can be quite controversial...
If I could have suggested something, I'd had advised to replace the whole pure White color from the LEGO color palette and replace it with VLBG... This would solve several issues, and yeah... would again become like WWII among AFOLs and the company...


The Models

In addition to the models proposed with the Retail Kit, the five we have seen earlier (TRACK3R, GRIPP3ER, SPIK3R, R3PTAR and EV3RSTORM),


 

Of the box the Education Kit seems to include instructions to build a few other  models (Segway, Color Sorter, Manipulation Robotic Arm with Grabber, Funny Robotic Dog). Guess none of these to be among the additional building instructions for 12 models, include in the Retail Kit, because of the specific parts they seem to use and which do not seem to be included with the Retail Kit.

But lets see some media about the Education Core Kit wonders and you take your own conclusion about them...


Color Sorter

It looks like each elements color manually registered in the sensor, before feeding them into the sorter colums. Would expect the color sensor to be somehow integrated into the sorter tray, for a more automated ans seamlessly processing.



Gyro Boy

A Segway style robot, using the gyroscopic sensor for auto-balancing purposes.



Puppy (Funny Dog)



Robotic Arm

Arrrggh... LEGO parts backlash and abrupt motor control, causes too much balance...




It think this one also belongs to the Core Kit!?





Then the Education Kit Expansion Set, will allow you to build some more different models, making use of more and new parts.




An Elephant



A Tankbot model (Crawler)



Znapp model

Funny scaring creature-
Likely it doesn't relate at all with the former Znap theme...



Stair Climber model

I'm wondering how effectively this will gonna work...



Spinning Line model

I seem to see two P-bricks here, so one kit and expansion pack might be not enough



Remote Control model

It looks cool and useful to use together with other robots.



Spinner model

Where is the P-brick, here




Hope you have enjoyed the reading and still find something new for you. Not everyone I know!

Likely I'll be doing small updates to this post in the next few days, as long as I manage to collect some extra details about this new MINDSTORMS release. Keep reading it and reading... and reading...

25 comments:

Algirdas Lašas said...

Very nice these new EV3 :) I think I needed to wait before buying my current mindstorms (bought just few months ago...) :) But there is one problem with article - when I try to press any link to open larger image, or just to see Minstorms timeline - I get 404 error - page not found

Algirdas Lašas said...

Btw, I think here we see new part - it's rubber attachments for tracks, which I think will be very usefull for various models for keeping grip with slippery floors.

Parax said...

That is a LOT of content! now all we need is a release date... I see the Education site says pre orders from 10th Jan. So does this mean available spring 2013 for summer season?

Fernando Correia said...


@Algirdas

I've indeed two pdf files missing in the folder serving this post, at TBs server. Thus the two broken links.
Will only be able to fix these, later tonight. :(

Click to display larger images works fine for me as usual.
There a lot of images, although not very large.
If you have a slower connection, maybe you need to give them time, to upload all.

I'm not sure whether the attachments are made from rubber or plastic, but think they are plastic. More about that later on...


@Parax

No! At US LEGO Education site I read "Preorder now! Available fall semester 2013."

So it will come in the 2nd half, together with the retail version as expected.

Unknown said...

I really hope there will be NXT<->PF cable to use with the output, without the need to use NXT-9V-PF.

Hunter Chiou said...

I noticed there is a Ferris wheel in the film of http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GO-ntgGtzbU
at 00:31

AVCampos said...

Regarding the colours issue, I have to disagree with you, Fernando: given that VLBG is a so rare colour, it's hard to include it in MOC's of any significant size that require more parts. In that respect, white is better, even though grey or black would be even better.

That said, indeed VLBG is a much better colour than white, from the engineering viewpoint you shared with us. Maybe it would be beneficial if TLG discontinued white in favour of VLBG, but I remember the controversy during the transition from old greys to bluish greys, and, like you said, a new change of this scale would bring the apocalypse among the LEGO community...

Algirdas Lašas said...

@Fernando Correia
Images in page are displayed correctly in page (e.g. Color sorter image is using image "http://storage.technicbricks.com/Media/2013/TBs_20130108_1/TBs_20130108_1_17.jpg") but when I click on link to view full size image, it tries to open image from
"http://storage.technicbricks.com/Media/2013/TBs_20110821_1/TBs_20130108_1_17.jpg", which isn't found. It seems this same problem for all images below this color sorter. I think the link should be same as image (as you don't use thumbnails)

Btw, I have quite fast connection it's ~10Mbs so image size doesn't matter for me :)

Algirdas Lašas said...

@Unknown

As far as I understand, this EV3 IR Seeker Sensor could be used with PF IR (Speed) Remote and IR Receiver components, but not sure yet. Someone should test that, and if that's true, that's great too :)

Fernando Correia said...

@Algirdas

Got it! :)
There was indeed a error that I made somehow, and got propagated from that point forward through Copy&Paste.
Just fixed. It should be ok now!
Many thanks!! :)

However please realise the images behind these links, are not full resolution (although very reasonable) on purpose.
For the original full resolution images, you may want to look at the media kit available from LEGO Education website here (http://educationnews.legoeducation.us/Press-Kits/132/LEGO-MINDSTORMS-Education-EV3-Press-Kit).


The two .pdf files missed behind two links, will get fixed tonight.


BTW, it will be great if we get a good compatibility level with PR IR Protocol.

parsodark said...

"Some say the connection points at the back align with the center of the rotating output hub, which should make building easier. I'm not convinced of the cost/benefit will be that positive."

Being in a Lego robotic club, I've seen so many illegal builds because of the offset between the output axle and the connection points at the back. Most of the beginners are not able to attach the nxt motors correctly. So this is a VERY good point.

Petr Mlčoch said...

I just by dozens of orange part to fit in NXT color scheme :-(
I am little disapointed that reatil version do not have distance measuring sensor (ultrasonic). Or can the IR sensor be used for this?
I like Puppy and R3PTAR.
And of course M motor and Caster ball.

santi said...

Looking at the specifications of the M motor, I'm actually a bit scared this is going to be a very weak motor... it has about the same torque as the PF medium motor, but with half the rpm... I'm excited about it anyway though ;)

Fernando Correia said...

I've fixed the two links for the PDF documents, with the LMS Timeline and FAQ.


@parsodark
Then I'm relieved! :)

@Petr Mlčoch
Unfortunately it is understandable they cannot include all the sensors assortment, into both kits simultaneously, for the sake of an affordable price tag.

kABUSE said...

Fernando what do you mean by this sentence regarding the new M Servo?

"Or 3x3x7 if we strip the MINDSTORMS electrical connector and bottom connector beams, which comes closer to the 7L PF L-motor and to the 6L PF M-motor."

Is it possible to detach the grey part from the white part of the motor?

Fernando Correia said...

@kABUSE

No, it should not.
I was just trying to make a comparison between the core part of the severel motors, suggesting that eventually the electrical motor inside is the same of one of the others.

CSCalciano said...

I think the two p-bricks you saw were one p-brick and one battery pack.

Jetro said...

@Unknown NXT (EV3)> PF cable is highly unlikely to come out.

@CSCalciano I see 2 PBricks too. A battery back can not be used separately from the PBrick and you can see the shape of the side of a PBrick in the 2nd one

kABUSE said...

Fernando it really looks like you can detach all the light grey parts from any motor and sensor except the big servo and the eyes.

What else is this riffled side thing of the small motor supposed to mean?

And all this side plates of any sensor.

Maybe its even true? What do you think?

Simon Burfield said...

Fantastic article mate!

triplemelon said...

actualy I think that the new lego mindstorms ev3 are going backwords for the design !! mindstorms NXT are more smooth than the ev3 .But I found that the new P brick is better ( more outputs, more memory ).
I like very much the new medium servo motor .

Howard Campos said...

The Lego education support line told me that the software with the retail kit will not support the education specific sensors. Hopefully this is incorrect. It would be nice if they sold a kit that included all the retail pieces that you don't get with the education kit and vice version.

Jetro said...

@Howard Campos: the Education specific blocks (basically sensors) are indeed not immediately accessible (read: visible") in the Retail software, but they can be quite easily made available with some tweaking of the corresponding configuration file.

Fernando Correia said...

@Howard Campos

The latest official information states that the Education programming blocks are planned to be included in the download section of the new retail website (live, or at least very soon afterwards).

evan said...

For everyone concerned about not being able to access bricks for all the sensors in the education verson, using the retail software:
Please see my video on how to fix this. The thruth is theya re included in the program just disablde. My video can teach you to enble them.
Here it is.

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