Lego shows off its vision of the future of play at CES 2013

January 7, 2013
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One of the builds from Lego’s new Mindstorms set. (Courtesy of Lego.)

What’s the future of play? That’s the question Lego is trying to answer with its latest announcement at the CES consumer tech show. 

With its latest product — an upgrade to the Lego robotic Mindstorms line — the company is painting a picture of an interactive, collaborative and customizable playroom. 

The Mindstorms line was first introduced 15 years ago, but Lego has since made the toys more powerful and personal. The latest set comes with a programming brick that runs Linux, opening up the possibility for all kinds of programs — from the simple to the complex.

The new Mindstorms set, which costs $349.99 and will be available for purchase in the second half of the year, gives kids of all ages the opportunity to build several figures from the same set of Legos and program certain behaviors.

A team from Lego came to The Post late last year to demonstrate the set and what it can do. It does quite a bit, which may help parents trying to justify the admittedly steep price tag. But while the box only comes with one set of Legos, that set allows users to build a number of things. For example, there are plans to build slithering snake that will strike when it detects motion. With the same pieces, you can also create a humanoid robot with a rockin’ mohawk or a rover with a killer rotor that will knock down obstacles. Enthusiasts will be able to access a user database of plans for the set too, making it possible to share build and programming ideas with like-minded players from around the world. On tablets, Lego employees demonstrated the 3D build plans available for the set, so that kids will be able to see exactly how a certain part fits into the larger robot from any angle.

The toys also are designed to interact with users’ iOS and Android devices, meaning kids (and, let’s face it, plenty of adults) will be able to control the Lego creations’ movements and actions through the app. There are also other fun features, such as an additional receiver that kids can hide and make their creations skitter after on a hunt. The set also comes with a map that will let players use the robots to sense the location of certain colored dots or run through the map in different ways.

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Another build from the new Mindstorms set. (Courtesy of Lego.)

 

Lego sees Mindstorms and toys like it as a further expression of the maker movement that’s allowed anyone — especially young people — to share their original ideas with a global audience, whether it’s posting a video to YouTube or uploading a plan for a new robot to Lego’s forums.

As Lego Mindstorms project lead Camilla Bottke said in a release: “We are equipping today’s tech‐literate generation of children with a more accessible, yet sophisticated robotics kit that meets their tech play expectations and abilities to truly unleash their potential so that they may surprise, impress and excite the world with their creativity.”

 

Hayley Tsukayama covers consumer technology for The Washington Post.
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Hayley Tsukayama · January 7, 2013