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Old 08-06-2006, 05:58 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Lego improves its robots

Lego Improves Its Robots

Danish company releases next generation of its Mindstorms build-your-own robot kit.

August 5, 2006

A robot kit by Danish toy maker Lego could expand interest in automatons, possibly bolstering a multibillion-dollar market.

Legos next generation of its Mindstorms robotics toolset, dubbed NXT, lets people build small robots around a 32-bit microprocessor. Inventors can then download programs from their personal computers into the robot, either wirelessly through Bluetooth or through a standard cable.

The kit, which retails for $250, is aimed at robo-philes great and small, from children to university scientists making prototypes. It also stands to grab share from, or contribute to, the global personal robot industry, which will reach $7.9 billion by 2010, according to the Japan Robot Association (see Business Plans for Robots).

Strategy Analytics emerging frontiers analyst Neena Buck said Friday Legos Mindstorms kit has always appealed to schoolchildren and academic researchers. Theyve been used in the FIRST (For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology) robotics competition for kids, as well as in projects by computer science departments at Harvard and other universities.

This latest kit, she said, could help even hobbyists and startups with their initial ideas.

Outside the military and big commercial companies, hobbyists have had to [rummage around] for parts. Toolsets like this could get more and more people interested in building robots, even if its just people who are interested in high-tech toys, said Ms. Buck.

Burgeoning Robot Space
Lego hopes to maintain its significant place in the robotics space.

A byproduct of consumer-driven innovation even more Lego fans and budding roboticists can discover the potential of the kit, join the Mindstorms community, share their creations online, and draw inspiration from other users, said Soren Lund, director of Lego Mindstorms.

To be sure, Lego isnt alone. RadioShack makes a similar robotics starter kit called Vex, which retails for about $100 cheaper.

And for consumers looking for high-tech toys, there are lifelike animal robots either on the market or about to enter itsuch as dinosaurs from Hong Kong-based WowWee and Emeryville, California-based Ugobe.

But build-them-yourself robot friends can encourage youth interest in science and technologywhich could further those fields in general and robotics in particular.

The next generation of kids to go to college will be even more [knowledgeable about] robots than the current generation, said Ms. Buck.
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