The new kit includes directions for up to 17 different robots, most of which look like scary-style animals such as snakes and scorpions.
The third full generation of Lego's programmable robotics platform, EV3 is aimed at both enthusiasts - young and older - and educators, and blows past the previous generation with a long list of new features that add speed and power, intelligent programmability, and more ways to communicate with the robots.
Lego expects to begin selling the product, which includes 594 Technic pieces that can be used to make five different robots, this summer at a retail cost of $350. It will also release instructions for 12 additional robots at launch.
Mindstorms has been around for almost 14 years now, but MINDSTORMS EV3 marks the first time that users can program directly onto the brand new EV3 Intelligent Brick. In past iterations, users were only allowed to program their robots from the computer, and then run the application through the robot. The Intelligent Brick allows users to add or change commands and actions directly from the brick.
This not only appeals to younger MINDSTORMS users but programming and robotics enthusiasts. Kids have a super simple block-by-block interface to learn the basics of programming, while hobbyists can debug programs without going all the way back to the computer.
LEGO believes that almost anyone can get a MINDSTORMS EV3 robot up and running within 20 minutes of opening the box, and can even start programming their robots without turning on their computer.
Each programmable EV3 brick comes with an ARM9 robotic processor, an SD expansion slot and embedded 16MB flash memory, 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.
MINDSTORMS EV3 features three interactive servo motors (two Large similar to NXT ones and one Medium); one touch sensor; one color sensor able to detect six colors and absence of color; one infrared seeker sensor that can measure distance, movement, giving robots the ability to see and detect various objects; and one infrared "beacon" designed to control the robots remotely from a distance of up to 6 feet. Up to four bricks can be daisy-chained, and the USB port and Wi-Fi connectivity allow for a wide range of expansion. MINDSTORMS EV3 is also backwards compatible with all MINDSTORMS NXT robots, allowing users to utilize everything they bought during the NXT generation with EV3.
The programming environment
Perhaps the most important element of the MINDSTORMS EV3 platform is its programming environment. The system runs on Linux-based firmware. While the primary way users can program their MINDSTORMS robots is to do so in the development interface on their computers, and then download the instructions to the robots, the intelligent bricks also have an interface that allows for simple programming. At the same time, LEGO will soon release mobile apps that can be used to design programs for the robots.
Lego knows that the enthusiasts who play with MINDSTORMS EV3 want to get started right away, so the new version of the platform features motors and sensors that know what and where they are so that the second they are powered on, they appear in the programming interface, ready to be controlled. Similarly, any new motors or sensors that are plugged in will also automatically appear.
On the software side, Lego has also introduced a new 3D virtual instructions guide 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.
In a demo of the product last month, Lego executives showed off some of the impressive capabilities of the MINDSTORMS EV3 platform.
For example, a spiderlike robot called SPIK3R was able to automatically identify the location of the remote-control beacon and fire little red balls directly at it, hitting it more often than not. Then it charged at the beacon... (see in the video above)
Now, it's time for another big wait. At least 6 months as it seems...