In this second installment of our three part CES report on the Mindstorms NXT we’ll take a brief look at the new Mindstorms programming software.
The original LEGO Mindstorms product shipped with one of two different programming environments, depending on how it was purchased. The original retail product shipped with RCX code, a visual programming environment that was easy to use but perhaps lacked programming features for more advanced users. Educational versions of Mindstorms shipped with RoboLAB, a more robust programming environment based on National Instruments’ LabVIEW application. Participants in FIRST LEGO League also received both software versions as part of their registration, while a number of unofficial third-party programming alternatives — such as NQC and leJOS — offered even more advanced programming capability for accomplished Mindstorms gurus.
The Mindstorms NXT will be the first retail Mindstorms product to offer both Macintosh and Windows support right out of the box, thanks to an all-new programming environment based on National Instruments’ latest version of their LabVIEW software. During a quick demonstration of the new software by Soren Lund (the Mindstorms NXT Marketing Director), it was obvious that the new software is a noticeable upgrade over both the old RoboLAB and RCX code programming environments, and fully embraces standard Windows interface conventions. Segments of code can be dragged and dropped into the programming workspace very easily, while a new quick start programming option will let novices get up to speed quickly with 18 new robot building challenges designed around the new features and capabilities of the NXT. I’ll hopefully share some additional details on the new software over the next few months.
In our upcoming (and final) installment of our 2006 CES Mindstorms NXT coverage I’ll share some photos and observations of a few of the sample NXT models that were on display, as well as a few very early pics of the new product packaging.