4 Basic Robots – Lego NXT Mindstorms

The first thing I did with my Lego NXT Mindstorms robot kit was to bite off more than I could chew and build a telepresence robot of course, and then I then took it a step further by adding mind control, as you do. All of this before actually building and programming some basic robots to begin with.

So after those early ambitious projects were complete I finally sat down to build and program four basic robots – the proper and original ShooterBot (which I’d modified as my telepresence bot), a humanoid, an animal, and a sorting machine. The goal was to learn and understand how these things are put together, and also how the programming interface works for the Lego NXT control brick. The next stage would be to build my own basic novel robot and create my own basic program for it, i.e. to implement what I had supposedly learned.

During this process I learned a number of things:

* The pricelessness of modularity in technology, of having standard parts in a collection that can be changed independently of the whole. As mentioned in the recent Neil Gershenfeld future of digital fabrication article, these Lego bricks might well have been a child-like toy originally, but they are a form of primordial digital matter that lends itself to robust designs, repurposing, and quite advanced applications (when a little bit of intelligence is applied).

* Lego engineers are freaking geniuses. Putting some of these bots together (the physical blocks and also the programs) I was really impressed with how damn clever these people were to create and design this stuff, even if it was from purely a mechanistic standpoint.

* The digital matter concept was really impressed upon me like never before. The real utility of having standard components that have power and communications wires embedded / printed inside of them, partnered with other standard components that have power storage, processing, wireless communications, memory, lighting, sound, movement, and a range of sensor technologies really brought home to me how powerful and useful digital matter might become. Things like claytronics give an idea of an intermediate embodiment of where this technology is headed, while foglets would be a very advanced embodiment indeed.

* The tools I was working with really were primitive. But despite that they were able to inspire many new ideas and give a sense for where things might evolve in the future.


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