After what seems like a lifetime of anticipation, Lego has finally launched its Mindstorms NXT robot kit. We can barely type thanks to fingers worn raw from fiddling with the tiny pieces, but we can report that, once again, Lego has hit the mark.The core of the system is the 'intelligent brick', basically a small computer with inputs for the touch, sound, light and ultrasonic sensors, and outputs for the three servo motors. The Mindstorms software, compatible with both PC and Mac, has 18 building and programming challenges, ranging in difficulty from a simple three-wheeled driving robot up to a full bipedal robot (Alpha Rex, pictured above). Lego's claim that you'll have your first robot in action after 30 minutes is entirely accurate, even though all that robot will do is drive, turn around and return to its starting position – to hoots of derision from the demanding geeks in the Stuff office. They were soon silenced once we got to grips with the drag-and-drop programming software. From seemingly simplistic beginnings – Move, Wait, Make Sound – there are incredibly precise modifiers and adjustments to make. The motors, for example, are accurate to one degree of rotation. Programs are downloaded to the brain by USB or BluetoothRather than balletic manoeuvres, we satisfied ourselves by making a robot that found its ball, grabbed it, laughed maniacally (from a bank of available sound clips and speech) and scuttled off with it. For a true Stuff twist, you can also program your robot to receive instructions by Bluetooth from your PC or mobile phone. Genius – and easily enough to keep a man entertained for weeks on end. And that's before you get into the online community of programmers making custom robots and programs.If you're bored of your Pocket PC and weary of your Xbox 360, Lego Mindstorms might well be what your weekends are crying out for. Heartily recommended.Five stars.
REVIEWED Lego Mindstorms NXT
After what seems like a lifetime of anticipation, Lego has finally launched its Mindstorms NXT robot kit. We can barely type thanks to fingers worn ra