back to article BOOST! LEGO's computing future and its ground-breaking past

Smart Wi-Fi-enabled hairbrush? Virtual reality shoes? Some visions of the future at this week's CES trade show simply won’t materialise. But what about building a 'bot made of LEGO? Toymaker LEGO unveiled its Boost line this week at CES – a set of 840 programmable bricks for your kids to control self-made robots with. Boost …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    One of the world's great companies

    And as far as I am aware about as benign as it is possible to be (please don't tell me they did something awful in WWII).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: One of the world's great companies

      Unfortunately, their pricing is generally less than benign.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: One of the world's great companies

        cough...Compatible bricks from Wilko, fraction of the price.

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge

          Re: One of the world's great companies

          cough...Compatible bricks from Wilko, fraction of the price.

          The bricks don't fit together as well as Lego and the things you build from them aren't particularly well designed either (either the basic idea or structurally - there's always a weak point in the helicopter or spaceship or whatever it is which makes it break into two).

          I'm not one for saying my Cornflakes have to be Kellogs or my washing powder has to be Ariel, but when it comes to building bricks they have to be Lego. I just take the relatively high price as part and parcel of a western company which actually designs and manufacturers in the west too.

          1. Trigonoceps occipitalis Silver badge

            Re: One of the world's great companies

            You were lucky! When I were young all we had was Meccano.

          2. alisonken1

            Re: One of the world's great companies

            <quote>I just take the relatively high price as part and parcel of a western company which actually designs and manufacturers in the west too.</quote>

            Actually, Lego's were created and continue to be built in Denmark. The company is currently run by the 3rd generation of it's founding family.

            https://www.lego.com/en-us/aboutus/lego-group/the_lego_history

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: One of the world's great companies

              "Actually, Lego's were created and continue to be built in Denmark"

              So as Dan 55 said a Western company designing and manufacturing in the West. Or is Europe no longer part of the western world now that Brexit is underway, so you are saying we must consider them Eastern now?

              1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

                Re: One of the world's great companies

                The manufacturing part is completely roboticized, I hope you are not hoping for "jobs".

      2. ridley

        Re: One of the world's great companies

        So much so that when setting up a STEM club in my school we had the choice of buying 2-3 Mindstorms or some Raspberry Pi's and a 3D Printer.

        We took the Printer/Pi option. Since then I have had 11 year olds designing robots using software such as 123D Design, print and build them. Much better option I think.

    2. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: One of the world's great companies

      as benign as it is possible to be

      They did try to use patents to ensure that you cannot manufacture compatible ones.

      It is the well known "lego case".

      1. Professor Clifton Shallot

        Re: One of the world's great companies

        "They did try to use patents to ensure that you cannot manufacture compatible ones."

        Still sort of base level of business malignity though I suppose; everyone's pushy with IP to the extent they can get away with it.

        I think these days they too often go too close to just being toys but nonetheless they are pretty much the mainstay of the gifts-from-uncles-that-are-both-worthy-and-fun realm.

        1. LaeMing
          Boffin

          Re: One of the world's great companies

          Professor Clifton Shallot - "I think these days they too often go too close to just being toys"

          I recently discovered if, instead of the retail channels, you track down local education equipment suppliers, there is a whole world of much less kitchy-thematic Lego* that the ordinary consumer doesn't get to see!

          * Yes, official Lego. There is a whole 'hidden' catalogue of much more education-y stuff out there! Even reasonably priced kits that can be made into more than just 3 things!

    3. Brangdon

      Re: as benign as it is possible to be

      They gender their kits in a way that upsets Anita Sarkeesian.

  2. Chez

    Quite nice to see that Lego is continuing with their robotics kits. I had an excellent time with my Mindstorms set as a kid, although I inevitably got tired of only having three sensors to play with.

    I do hope that it ships stock with an option more complex than drag-and-drop programming. I found myself resorting to some hacked-together version of C back then simply so I could use and store arbitrary variables, something that the RCX was capable of but was not included in the software.

    I'd have killed for a distance sensor...

  3. frank ly

    Correction

    "... although there is not as yet any such thing as a bidirectional filament lamp. You can however get bidirectional LEDs."

    All filament lamps are bidirectional. All LEDs are unidirectional. Some LED luminaires have reversible polarity because they contain two LEDs connected with opposite polarity. I need to get a life.

    1. David 132 Silver badge

      Re: Correction

      Are you sure Mike Cook meant "bidirectional" in the sense of reversible polarity? I interpreted it as "can deal with light in both directions" (i.e., both an emitter and receiver/detector). But I could well be wrong.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Correction

        "I interpreted it as "can deal with light in both directions" (i.e., both an emitter and receiver/detector)"

        A filament lamp can be used as a light detector, it is just not very sensitive.

        You can demonstrate this by putting an ohmmeter across the light bulb in a torch with a reflector and pointing it at the sun.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

          Re: Correction

          Is that light or heat it's detecting?

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Link

    You forgot this, I think:

    https://www.lego.com/en-us/boost

  5. Matthew Smith

    DDOS away!

    You could build your very own IoT DDOS node, and the target server will also be bricked.

  6. Old Used Programmer Silver badge

    More than one way to exapand

    There is a Lego compatible Raspberry Pi case, which could lead to much "smarter" Lego robots....

  7. Daniel von Asmuth
    Boffin

    LEGO is not a toy

    See http://www.dcs.ed.ac.uk/home/lego/

  8. psychonaut

    the devil is in the lightly skipped over detail

    apart from this being one of the coolest things i can use my 3 year old as an excuse to buy,

    "and an automated production line capable of building miniature Lego models."

    so...it can make copies of itself?

    this needs to be stamped out surely. a self replicating self replicator. hedgmonising swarm anyone?

    assuming the robot overlords have just inserted "miniturised" into the marketing blurb as a way of distracting our attention, so we might think, hey, it can only build smaller models of itself, which could build a smaller model etc so ...hey lets not worry, but what if **gasp** this is fud, and it can actually build itself?

    fancy being ruled by either ever increasingly smaller danish robots, or just danish robots?

    has noone seen south park recently? Denmark has a lot to answer for

    is it any coincidence that lego is actually EGO with an L on the front? i think not!

    mines the one with the pointy silver lego hat

    1. Trigonoceps occipitalis Silver badge

      Re: the devil is in the lightly skipped over detail

      It's a von Neumann probe from Denmark, soon we will all speak Kradse.

  9. batfastad

    No article about LEGO is complete without... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zX09WnGU6ZY

  10. fruitoftheloon
    Happy

    Wicked!

    Well, my little lad [8yo] will love, it. I suspect that I will rather enjoy helping him with it too!

  11. ratfox
    Terminator

    Too late for me

    We just bought a dash robot. You cannot build your own, but it's impressive how many features it has!

  12. ecofeco Silver badge

    Mindstorm and Technic

    I've always to get a set of both. One day. One day.

    Mindstorm has to be the most brilliant toy ever created.

  13. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
    Joke

    Boost?

    Boost, a "library" of "function" to be assembled in various ways by the user. Might there be a trademark dispute over this? Unlike the Apple Records/Computer dispute, they are in more similar areas.

    Icon, because I just know someone will take the above as a real concern.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: Boost?

      For many of us Lego is so expensive that even the use of a singleton would be overkill.

  14. Steve Mills
    Happy

    No photo of the Dacta interface box...

    Oh the joys of lego dacta. Programming light sensors (that could tell the colour of bricks), motors, conveyor belts, and pneumatic systems - although the latter I seem to remember was manual, not programable)

    I'm surprised there is no mention of the old LEGO Technics Dacta interface box:

    http://www.computinghistory.org.uk/userdata/images/large/PRODPIC-6998.jpg

    You plugged all the sensors and motors in to this and connected it your computer. Many a times I remember hitting the big red stop button as my creations went haywire or were about to commit some act of self destruction.

    Worthy of a photo in the article me thinks - although that might just me being nostalgic: I'm pretty sure this box of tricks and my teachers enthusiasm is what sent me on a career of application development and delivery.

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