LEGO Mindstorms NXT 2.0 #8547

LEGO Mindstorms NXT 2.0 - 8547Product Review by David Perdue (Author of the book, The Unofficial LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2.0 Inventor’s Guide)

I first encountered the MINDSTORMS series in 2001 when I bought the Robotics Invention System 1.5 out of curiosity. Since then, I’ve purchased and used numerous MINDSTORMS sets, written two MINDSTORMS books, developed and taught a LEGO robotics course, and given LEGO presentations. So when I heard that LEGO was releasing the NXT 2.0 set in summer/fall 2009, I was curious to discover how LEGO would improve its flagship product. After finally getting my hands on a 2.0 set, I’ve been busy building, programming, and analyzing the kit’s features. And I think this is the best MINDSTORMS set to date.

The original NXT set released in 2006 (I’ll call it the “1.0 set”) enjoyed enormous success but still had some shortcomings. The NXT 2.0 set addresses some of those flaws and really is everything the 1.0 set should have been. As a robotics kit, the NXT 2.0 set mainly involves building and programming, so I’ll take a look at how the kit performs in each of these areas.

First, the building experience is fun and challenging while offering some exciting new additions. For the electronic elements, the NXT microcomputer and servo motors remain the same in both design and quantity; however, the selection of sensors has changed. There are now two touch sensors, an ultrasonic (distance) sensor, and the color sensor. The new color sensor boasts three functionalities. It can detect colors (6 basic colors), measure light intensity, and act as a lamp (emitting a red, blue, or green light). Unlike the 1.0 set, there is no light sensor or sound sensor: the new color sensor can function as a light sensor, and LEGO apparently thought that having two touch sensors would be more useful than having one touch sensor and one sound sensor as in the 1.0 set. I agree.

The building elements are, once again, studless LEGO TECHINC pieces rather than traditional bricks. The 1.0 set included a few TECHNIC bricks, but these are gone in the 2.0 set, which focuses entirely on studless construction. Overall, there is still a good selection of beams, pegs, and axles (including a new #9 length axle) as well as the addition of two small rubber bands. Also fun is the special ball shooter equipment along with 12 small, brightly colored balls.

There are only a few gears included, though. Whereas the 1.0 set included a fairly good variety and quantity of gears, the 2.0 set includes only a handful of double bevel gears and a single 12t bevel gear. This is a bit disappointing but also understandable. People like to add lots of gears to their robots to make them look cool, but lots of gears introduce lots of friction. The 2.0 kit’s sample robot designs demonstrate how to connect pieces directly to motors rather than using gears to transmit the motion. This works fine and takes a little bit of getting used to, but I would still encourage new LEGO users to expand their collection of gears after purchasing the 2.0 set.

As for the programming, the 2.0 version of the included NXT-G software offers some welcome new features. A remote control, sound editor, image editor, new programming blocks, improved performance, and other features make programming a more enjoyable experience. Performance is noticeably better than in the 1.0 version but can still be sluggish.

The software includes a number of fun challenges spread across four robot designs: Shooterbot, Robogator, Color Sorter, and Alpha Rex. The sample robots are durable and work well, although some of the instructions for using Color Sorter were a bit confusing. The new version of Alpha-Rex is a truly fascinating robot: in addition to being a fun “advanced” model to build, new users can learn a lot from its incredibly compact and elegant design.

The NXT 2.0 set is leading the MINDSTORMS series in the right direction. I like what I see in this set, and I believe LEGO has a winner on its hands. The 2.0 set is more expensive than the 1.0 set–by $30–but I believe the improvements and added functionality justify the extra cost. In sum, the NXT 2.0 set is a great toolset for any robotics enthusiast and a must-have for MINDSTORMS fans.

Buy it at Amazon.com.

Want to check out what the Mindstorms can do…check this out:

Creator of Wall-E, Marc Andre Bazerqui
Picasaweb album of the Work In Progress http://picasaweb.goo…ti/ZwallE4uWIP#
Wall-E NXTfied blog: http://bazmarc.blogspot.com/

Transformers: LEADER CLASS IRONHIDE

Big, bad and ready to take out some Decepticons, IRONHIDE arrives to join the TRANSFORMERS: DARK OF THE MOON collection.

He relies on knowledge gained from countless skirmishes with the DECEPTICONS®* to persevere in battle. He chooses MECHTECH weapons for their adaptability and power – the DECEPTICONS don’t stand a chance!

Spring into action with this vehicle-to-robot hero! Switch your fiery IRONHIDE figure from robot mode to TOPKICK® mode – and back, where his chest-mounted cannon will make him nearly invincible! While the bot battle rages on, your figure’s weapons light up, and the blaster, conversion and missile sounds make the action more intense!

GHOST STARSCREAM and SLEEP MODE OPTIMUS by Takara

TAKARA produces some of the best renderings of the most popular and classic characters from the massive Transformers franchise. Now they’ve brought in a new pair of Masterpiece Collection figures of Starscream and Optimus Prime that is sure to please die-hard fans of the robots on disguise. Here’s a look!

GHOST STARSCREAM

Ghost Starscream measures 13” long in jet mode and 10” high in robot mode.

An intricate mixture of plastic and die cast, the almost completely translucent Ghost Starscream features a Gen 1-inspired color scheme. Extensively articulated, the figure is equipped with arm-mounted removable guns, and should be accompanied by decals, missile accessories, and a missile-rack display base configured to support both robot and jet modes; presumably this version will include the same switch-between facial expression feature found in Starscream’s non-spectral Masterpiece counterparts.

In Transformers: The Movie, Starscream seizes an opportunity to eliminate the badly-wounded Megatron, and is later, on Cybertron, amid pompous trumpet fanfare provided by the nonplussed Constructicons, crowned the leader of the Decepticons. Immediately afterwards, Galvatron, the reconstituted version of Megatron, arrives and matter-of-factly destroys the puzzled, crown-adorned Starscream with a single cannon blast. In the cartoon episode “Starscream’s Ghost”, the mendacious Air Commander, discovered by the fugitive Triple Changer Octane in a moldering Decepticon Crypt, returns as a semi-translucent specter. Starscream’s new insubstantial form enables him to take possession of Galvatron’s highest-ranking warriors, providing him with a unique path to vengeance.

SLEEP MODE OPTIMUS PRIME

Measuring approximately 12” tall, the MP-04S Masterpiece Convoy Sleep Mode & Trailer Complete Version is a mixture of plastic and die-cast, accompanied by Ion Blaster, gun Megatron with scope, stock and silencer, Energon Axe, the Matrix of Leadership, and Trailer/Combat Deck.

The flat-nosed truck mode is outfitted with rubber wheels and working suspension; the robot mode’s aesthetically-integrated articulation provides intricacies such as working finger joints and adjustable mouthplate. Convoy’s opening chest housing grants access to the Matrix of Leadership accessory.

This version of Prime is rendered in the lifeless shades of grey and black assumed by Prime’s chassis in the aftermath of the Decepticons’ assault of Autobot City. Arriving at a crucial moment, Prime plowed through multiple Decepticon warriors in the process of working his way to Megatron. In the ensuing hand-to-hand duel, Megatron, despite his initial boastful vow to destroy Prime with his bare hands, implements every oddly discarded weapon and piece of detritus he can find. When Optimus finally gains the upper hand, retrieving his gun, Hot Rod launches his own blundering attack against Megatron, enabling the Decepticon leader to use Hot Rod as a shield while he blasts Prime repeatedly with a discarded pistol. Prime finally delivers the decisive blow, crushing Megatron’s chest, although he succumbs to his own wounds immediately afterwards. As Perceptor delivers his sorrowful prognosis to the small handful of Autobots surrounding the ebbing Autobot leader, Optimus produces the Matrix of Leadership, bestowing the fabled artifact to the reluctant Ultra Magnus.

Sideshow and Hot Toys’ The Matrix Sentinel

Standing at a whopping 15 inches, the latest from statue and figure giants Hot Toys and Sideshow is an unlikely choice: A sentinel from The Matrix. You might remember the squid-like robots from the 1999-2003 film trilogy (or the Animatrix, a collection of animated shorts taking place in the Matrix’s strange universe), where they were the manifestation of everything that would destroy humanity. I was definitely surprised to hear that this was coming out now, so long after the trilogy has ended, but I suppose it’s one of those franchises that can still boast a huge number of die-hard fans.

From Sideshow: The Sentinel features 15 poseable tentacles, each with 2 points of articulation, and 10 poseable limbs beneath the main squid body, each with 3 points of articulation.

For this entry, I checked both Google News and the Matrix wiki for any information on whether there was more coming and while Google provided little, the wiki does claim that something’s coming out this year, so I guess we’ll have to spend at least some of 2010 staying tuned for word! Until then, Matrix action figure memories

12-inch Megatron Figure + Hugo Weaving on Transformers

We’ve put up a pre-order for the newest Transformers figure over at CmdStore.com. Based on the second Transformers movie, this 12-inch figure is Shadow Command Megatron, which I am told is his new look as he returns from the “dead” to retake his place as Decepticon leader. Maybe. See, I didn’t actually watch the second movie. I heard it was awful, but it made a ridiculous amount of money in 2009 and there must be some reason for that (Megan Fox? Explosions? Something…). Normally I might feel bad now being up on this, but it seems that I’m not the only one. The voice of Megatron, Hugo Weaving (V for Vendetta, The Wolfman, The Lord of the Rings, The Matrix) doesn’t appear to have caught it either.

Here’s a snippet of an interview from SuperheroHype

Hugo Weaving (“The Lord of the Rings” and “Matrix” trilogies), who has voiced Megatron in both Transformers and Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, revealed to The Age that he doesn’t know much about the movies:

As the voice of Megatron, one imagines how into the series Weaving is, but just how deeply immersed he is becomes clear when discussing the next installment.

“Oh no,” he barks with a laugh. “They’re not making Transformers III, are they?” Given that Transformers II made $800 million, they’re probably going to have to.

“[Director] Michael Bay talks to me on the phone. I’ve never met him. We were doing the voice for the second one and I still hadn’t seen the first one. I still didn’t really know who the characters were and I didn’t know what anything was. It’s a voice job, for sure, and people assume I’ve spent my life working on it, but I really know so little about it.”

Hey, at least he was honest! Transformers 3 is scheduled for a July 1, 2011 release.