National Instruments and Lego have announced their collaborative development of the software component to the next generation of Lego Mindstorms robotics.
Lego Mindstorms NXT includes an all-new programming environment, which is based on the NI Labview graphical development software, and is PC- and Mac-compatible.
The new product, announced at the Consumer Electronics Tradeshow in Las Vegas, will be available in August 2006.
Furthering the global success of the original Lego Mindstorms robotics invention system, introduced in 1998, Lego is taking advantage of new technologies such as a 32-bit processor, new motors and sensors, Bluetooth wireless communication and enhanced software development tools.
The new software, powered by Labview, provides an intuitive yet feature-rich programming environment allowing for click-and-drag icon-based programming.
Younger users will find it much easier to create their own programs, while older users will appreciate the ability to create sophisticated programs for their robots.
The new software will be used in both the retail and educational versions of Lego Mindstorms NXT.
"We are thrilled to collaborate with National Instruments on development of the NXT software environment," says Soren Lund, director of Lego Mindstorms.
"To broaden the base of Mindstorms users among younger children and more advanced robotics designers, it is important to get the product design right, but also to provide unlimited potential through the software tool.
"Using the sophisticated NI Labview engine allows us to maintain everything users appreciate about the current Mindstorms experience, but then go the extra mile to provide a tool that is easy enough for a ten-year-old to master on a surface level and technical enough for an adult user to be challenged and inspired to create.
"NI shares our commitment to inspiring creativity and innovation in children, and, working together, we are making the next-generation product experience smarter, stronger and more intuitive than ever".
Lego and National Instruments have a long-standing relationship that began in 1998 with the development of RoboLab, the programming software used in the Lego Mindstorms for schools product.
RoboLab software, which is also based on Labview, is available in 17 languages and has helped make Lego Mindstorms for schools the leading robotics learning and invention system for educators worldwide.
"Developing a version of Labview for Lego Mindstorms presents a unique opportunity for National Instruments to run Labview on a high-volume embedded platform and create a development environment that works equally well for young children, scientists and engineers," said Ray Almgren, vice president of product marketing and academic relations at NI.
"Our initial collaboration with Lego to develop RoboLab resulted in a very successful product for Lego Education and also drove enhancements to Labview that our customers benefit from today.
"This new collaboration will make a version of the Labview graphical environment available to hundreds of thousands of children worldwide on the most popular robotics invention system.
"We are fortunate to work with a company whose products are inspiring children to be innovative and creative and possibly pursue careers in science and engineering." Lego is a privately held, family-owned company, based in Billund, Denmark.
It was founded in 1932 and today the group is one of the world's leading manufacturers of play materials for children, employing approximately 5600 people globally.
Lego is committed to the development of children's creative and imaginative abilities.
Lego products can be purchased in more than 130 countries.