Lego shows off new Mindstorms robot kit, touts summer tour

In case it isn’t clear, that picture above is an electric guitar made out of Legos. An actual, playable guitar powered by Lego’s newest Mindstorms robotic system.

The folks from Lego Mindstorms stopped by this week to show off that new system, called the EV3, and some of the cool things users will be able to build with it. Lego unveiled this week three new robot “bonus” models for which it will provide building instructions when it releases the EV3 later this year. In addition to the electric guitar, the new models include a whack-a-mole-type game and a walking triceratops.

Those models and the original five Lego unveiled when it announced the EV3 in January will be on display at the company’s booth at Maker Faire this weekend.

The new Mindstorms system offers some fun new features not found on its predecessor, the Mindstorms NXT 2.0. Lego will be offering a smartphone app, for example, which owners can use to remotely control their robots. The app will tap into the motion sensors in smartphones, allowing users to turn their robots by simply tilting their phones.

Lego will also be offering a tablet app that will provide users with three-dimensional building instructions. Users will be able to zoom in and out of those instructions by just pinching the screen.

And the new Mindstorms “brick” is much more capable than before. It will run on Linux — instead of Lego’s proprietary software — and have a more powerful processor and more storage. And users will be able to link up to four of the bricks together to create super-bots that can use up to 16 motors and 16 sensors.

At Maker Faire, the Lego people will be sharing a booth with with SparkTruck, a Stanford design school offshoot whose mission is to introduce kids to equipment to the ideas and tools of the maker movement. Last summer, SparkTruck representatives drove around the country to some 70 locations demonstrating things like 3D printers and laser cutters. On this summer’s tour, which will start in July, the SparkTruck folks will be taking with them some EV3 kits for students to experiment with.

Here are some of the things users will be able to do with the new kit.

Here’s the guitar:

The triceratops:

The whack-a-mole game:

And, my favorite, the smartphone-controlled snake:

Troy Wolverton Troy Wolverton (229 Posts)

Troy writes the Tech Files column as the Personal Technology Columnist at the San Jose Mercury News. He also covers the digital media, mobile and video game industries and writes occasionally about Apple, chips, social networking and other aspects of technology. Previously, Troy covered Apple and the consumer electronics industry. Prior to joining the Mercury News, Troy reported on technology, business and financial issues for TheStreet.com and CNET News.com.