Lego robots are putting traditional automatons to shame. NXT Programs has created a design for a robot Segway using only those pieces included with the Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0 kit. What's really cool is that, unlike a traditional Segway, the NXT Segway doesn't use any gyros to hold itself upright. Instead, the machine keeps its balance using a light sensor (included in the kit) to measure its relative distance from the ground. If you want to build a NXT Segway of your very own you can find all the necessary instructions on the NXT Programs site for free. With a second NXT brick (not included in the kit) you can remotely control the tilt of the robot rider using Bluetooth and get the Segway to move back and forth. Check out the NXT Segway as it's put through its paces in the video below and don't miss the RC demonstration (3:00).
I'm officially upgrading Lego Mindstorms from amateur to semi-professional status. The complexity of robots that you can make from this system are simply too astounding: Rubik's cube solvers, Flexpickers, even ATMs. I'm also very pleased with NXT Programs (run by Dave Parker) for creating a library of kickass designs that you can build with just the NXT 2.0 kit. Along with the community forums on the Mindstorms site, NXT Programs is helping create a network of shared ideas that further interest in amateur semi-professional robotics. That's a really good thing. Lego Mindstorm designs reside somewhere on the same continuum as open source robotics from world-class developers like Willow Garage. Intense interest generated at one end of that continuum may help build the momentum to further research on the other end. In other words, I think sharing Lego robot designs is helping (in some small way) to get "real" robots the attention and research they deserve. That, and Lego robots just look awesome. I can't wait until someone uses Legos to make a full fledged personal humanoid automaton...hehe, more on that later. *wink*
[image and video credits: NXTPrograms and Dave Parker]