"Golf bot" - a robot built with the
Mindstorms originated from the programmable sensor blocks used in
the line of educational toys. The first retail version of Lego
Mindstorms was released in 1998 and marketed commercially as the
Robotics Invention System (RIS). The next version was released in
2006 as Lego Mindstorms NXT
newest version, released in August 2009, is known as Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0
hardware and software roots of the Mindstorms Robotics Invention
System kit go back to the programmable brick created at the
This brick was programmed in Brick Logo
. The first visual
programming environment, called LEGOsheets, for this brick was
created by the University of Colorado in 1994 and was based on
The original Mindstorms Robotics Invention System kit contained two
motors, two touch sensors, and one light sensor. The NXT version
has three servo motors
and one sensor
each for touch, light, sound, and distance. Lego Mindstorms may be
used to build a model of an embedded
with computer-controlled electromechanical parts. Many
kinds of real-life embedded systems, from elevator
controllers to industrial robots, may be
modelled using Mindstorms.
kits are also sold and used as an educational tool, originally through a partnership
between Lego and the MIT Media Laboratory. The educational version of the products is
called Lego Mindstorms for Schools, and comes with the
programming software, developed at Tufts University using the National
Instruments LabVIEW as an engine.
In addition, the shipped software can be replaced with third party
firmware and/or programming languages, including some of the most
popular ones used by professionals in the embedded systems
industry, like Java
. The only difference
between the educational series, known as the "Challenge Set", and
the consumer series, known as the "Inventor Set", is that it
includes another light sensor and several more gearing
Mindstorms is named after the book Mindstorms:
Children, Computers, and Powerful Ideas
by Seymour Papert
Robotics Invention System
First-generation RCX programmable
The first generation of Lego Mindstorms was built around a brick
known as the RCX. It contains a 8-Bit collision detector Renesas H8/300
as its internal
.It also contains 32K of
RAM that stores the Firmware and User Programs. The brick is
programmed by uploading
a program (written in
one of several available programming languages
) from a Windows
computer to the brick's RAM via a special infrared (IR
) interface. After the user starts a program, an
RCX-enabled Mindstorms creation may function totally on its own,
acting on internal and external stimuli according to the programmed
instructions. Also, two or several more RCX bricks can communicate
with each other through the IR interface, enabling inter-brick
cooperation or competition. In addition to the IR port, there are
three sensor input ports and three motor output ports (also usable
for lamps, etc). There is also an LCD
display the battery level, the status of the input/output ports,
which program is selected or running, and other information.
Version 1.0 RCX bricks feature a power adapter jack to allow
continuous operation instead of the limited operation time when
using batteries. In version 2.0 (as well as later 1.0s included in
the RIS 1.5), the power adapter jack was removed. Power
adapter-equipped RCX bricks are popular for stationary robotics
projects (such as robot arms) or for controlling Lego model trains
. In the latter context, the RCX
needs to be programmed with Digital Command Control
software required for automated model train operation.
The IR interface on the RCX is able to communicate with Spybots,
Scout Bricks, Lego Train, and the NXT (using a third-party infrared
link sensor.) The RCX 1.0 IR receiver carrier frequency is 38.5
kHz, while the RCX 2.0 IR carrier frequency is 76 kHz. Both
versions can transmit on either frequency. The carrier signal is
generated by one of the RCX's internal timers. The RCX communicates
with a computer using a Serial
IR tower. The tower is
supported by Windows 98, Me, and XP (32-bit). A patch is available
for hyper-threading/multi-core CPUs. There is no formal support for
Windows Vista (32-bit), but there are reports of correct
functionality. The tower does not work at all on 64-bit OSes.
All versions of the RCX have a unique number printed on it,
necessary for technical support and used as the ID number of the
RCX for your Lego Mindstorms account on the now-defunct Lego
Mindstorms RCX website. The first RCX produced is marked "000001"
and was on display at the Mindstorms 10th
- RCX Code (included in the Mindstorms consumer version sold at
- ROBOLAB (based on LabVIEW and developed at Tufts University)
Popular third-party languages:
The Lego camera on its own is technically not a robotic toy;
rather, it is a normal webcam
(a Logitech Quickcam Web
) packaged into a
Lego shell. Being a normal webcam, the Lego Camera is, unlike most
Mindstorms products, not programmable and is only usable connected
to a PC or some other device that supports USB
The Lego camera is meant to be used with the included Vision
Command software which can also interface with an RCX and thus
enables creating robots with "vision". The software is capable of
detecting different lightings, motion, and colors. It can also be
used with any other software that uses a webcam. The webcam is
capable of recording up to 30 frames per second. It also contains a
microphone to record sound for videos.
Cybermaster was mainly sold in Europe and
Australia/New Zealand, but was available for a short time in America via
the Lego Club magazines.
It was aimed at a younger audience
as an early attempt of merging computer gaming with robotics and
Lego.The Pbrick shares many, especially software, features with the
RCX but differs in appearance and technical specifications: 1
output (plus 2 built-in) and 3 sensors.
- It uses RF (27 MHz R/C
band) instead of IR for communication.
- It has two built-in motors with integrated tachometers and speedometers.
- It is limited to passive sensors (a simple A/D with internal pull-up
- The sensors shipped with it are color coded and have internal
resistors in their open state (allowing the Pbrick to sense which
sensor is attached to which port).
- It has a fixed firmware (so it cannot be upgraded or
- It has limited RAM for programs and only one program slot.
Despite its obvious limitation it has a number of advantages over
its 'big brother', the RCX.
- The RF link has greater range and is omnidirectional.
- The built-in tachometer and speedometer sensors on the internal
motors provides the same function as the external rotation sensor
to the RCX, but without using up sensor ports.
This makes it very useful for various mobile platforms and
performing basic motion/positioning tasks.
It talks the same protocol as the RCX but cannot communicate
directly to it (due to IR vs RF) but with a repeater (a computer
with 2 serial ports and a simple program) they can be
Sold as part of the Barcode Truck kit.This unit was the first
programmable brick (or Pbrick).It features a single motor, a single
touch sensor and a light sensor.It is programmed by setting it to
'learn' and using the light sensor to feed barcoded commands. The
command set is very limited.Since barcode is just a series of
variances in light, this form of command entry was dubbed VLL
(Visual Light Link) and has been used in several later Lego
Lego also released a blue computer called the Scout
has 2 sensor ports, 2 motor ports, and a built in light sensor, but
no PC interface. It comes with the Robotics Discovery Set. The
Scout can be programmed from a collection of built-in program
combinations. In order to program the Scout, a user must enable
"power mode" on it. The Scout can store one program.
There was a plan for Lego to create a booster set that allows you
to program the Scout from a computer with a software such as RCX
code. However, due to the complexity of this project, it was
The RCX can control the Scout brick using the "Send IR Message"
program block. The RCX does all of the controlling, and therefore
can be programmed with the PC, while the Scout accepts commands.
The Scout brick must have all of its options set to "off".
The Scout is also capable of using VLL to control a Micro
The Micro Scout was added as an entry level to Lego robotics.It is
a very limited Pbrick with a single built-in light sensor and a
single built-in motor.It has seven built-in programs and can be
controlled by a Scout, Spybotics or RCX unit using VLL.
The unit was sold as part of the Droid Developer Kit (featuring
R2D2) and later the Darkside Developer Kit (featuring an AT-AT Imperial Walker
was more of an attempt to expand on the
Cybermaster line. The kits were sold together with a computer game
where part was played on the computer and part was played by
controlling the Spybot to solve a number of fixed missions. The
Pbrick itself shares many features with the Cybermaster, but it has
no tachometers or speedometers and a single integrated touch
It also features a light sensor which doubles as computer
interface. This interface can also be used to connect to the Scout,
Micro Scout and possibly the Codepilot using VLL. It has an
expanded IR functionality allowing it to communicate with other
Spybots or RCX units. The IR unit also has limited direction and
range function, allowing it to track and locate other Spybots, IR
Remote Controls/beacons or RCX units.
Lego Mindstorms NXT
Logo of Lego NXT.
Lego Mindstorms NXT is a programmable robotics
kit released by Lego
in July 2006, replacing the first-generation LEGO Mindstorms
kit.The kit consists of 519 Technic pieces, 3 servo motors, 4
, and light
), 7 connection cables, a USB
interface cable, and the NXT Intelligent Brick. The
Intelligent Brick is the "brain" of a Mindstorms machine. It lets
the robot autonomously perform different operations. The kit also
includes NXT-G, a graphical programming environment that enables
the creation and downloading of programs to the NXT.Lego are
currently developing a new robotics kit, called WeDo. It is
designed for students from 7 to 11 years old, and works with both
Mac OS and Microsoft Windows.
||Custom flowchart-like language
|Ada Interface to MindStorms
||Control Lego Mindstorm in C/C++ interactively without
|FLL NXT Navigation
||Uses NXT-G and .txt files
||http://fllnxtnavigation.codeplex.com/ FLL NXT Navigation
||C/C++, Objective C, Fortran, Java, Ada
|GNU Toolchain for h8300
||Python modules providing low-level interfaces for controlling a
Lego NXT brick via Bluetooth. Also includes code for controlling
motors with an Xbox 360 controller using pyglet.
||National Instruments LabVIEW Visual programming language (G
||Core language used to develop Mindstorms NXT software. Can use
available add-on kit to create and download programs to NXT, create
original NXT blocks or control robot directly via USB or Bluetooth using NXT
||Anything that can compile to .NET, works best with C#
||Does not come with a compiler, converts bytecode to machine
||Set of Perl modules providing real-time low-level control of a
Lego NXT brick over Bluetooth.
||Cocoa framework for low and high level manipulation of a Lego
NXT brick using Bluetooth. This also includes a sample remote
control application using the framework.
||A java based system for advanced programmers can handle most
sensors and things like GPS, speech recognition and mapping
technology. Can be interfaced with the Eclipse IDE or run from the command
makefiles, Eclipse, etc.
||The first GCC toolchain for programming the Lego Mindstorms NXT
||A library for GCC
||Visual Basic, Visual C++
||Can be combined with an RCX control library such as spirit.ocx
from the MindStorms SDK to make use of the Lego Cam
|MicroWorlds EX Robotics Edition
||This is a program in the MicroWorlds
series that allows students to control the NXT.
||NQC, a C-like language
||This is the most widely used unofficial language
||Allows you to control the NXT directly from any C++ program, in
Visual Studio, Windows.
||NXT_Python is a package for controlling a LEGO NXT robot using
the Python programming language. It can communicate using either
USB or Bluetooth.
||NXT-Python is a newer version of NXT_Python, and has some extra
capabilities. The svn repository is at Google code. Anyone can
contribute, just ask.
||Allows you to control the NXT directly from any C++ program in
||Module to control LEGO NXT robots using OCaml through the
|Official Mindstorms SDK
||Visual Basic, Visual C++, MindScript, LASM
||You do not need VB to use the VB features as MS Office comes
with a cut down version of VB for making macros
||A custom language which can be programmed directly on the
||PBrickDev, a flowchart based language.
||Has more functionality than the RIS language, such as datalogs
||A kind of Visual Basic/spirit.ocx-based language
||Designed for robots which are in contact with the workstation
at all times
||A library for use with GCC and comes with GCC for Windows.
||RCX Code, a custom flowchart-based language
||Included in the Mindstorms consumer version sold at
||A flowchart language based on LabVIEW
||This is the programming environment offered to schools who use
MindStorms, supports the Lego Cam
||A multi-platform language that works with IRobot Roomba, NXT,
RCX, VEX, and many other popular robotic sets. This language is
also capable for video processing using a webcam, this gives your
robot excellent vision since it can filter out certain colors,
lock-on to a certain area of color, display variables from the
robot or computer, and much more. The software works with keyboard,
joystick, and mouse. This software is freeware.
||A multi-platform C programming language designed for the
programmer in need of powerful debugging tools for the NXT, RCX,
VEX, and soon-to-be FIRST Controller (for FRC).
||ROBOTC gives the ability to use a text-based language based on
the C programming language. It includes built-in debugger tools, as
well as (but not limited to) code templates, Math/Trig operations
(sin, cos,tan, asin,acos... etc), user-friendly auto-complete
function built into the interface, built-in sample programs
||Provides low-level access to the NXT via Bluetooth as well as
some preliminary high-level functionality.
|RWTH - Mindstorms NXT Toolbox
||Interface to control the NXT from MATLAB via Bluetooth or USB
||An implementation of the Soar artificial intelligence
architecture that runs on the RCX brick. Soar incorporates acting,
planning, and learning in a rule-based framework.
||A predecessor to the lejos language. An open source Java based replacement firmware
for the Lego Mindstorms RCX microcontroller.
|Gostai URBI for Lego Mindstorms NXT
||URBI, C++, Java, Matlab
||Easy to use parallel and event-driven script language with a
component architecture and opensource interfaces to many
programming languages. It also offers voice/speech
recognition/synthesis, face recognition/detection, Simultaneous localization
and mapping, etc.
||The official programming language for use with the Lego Cam,
that allows you to control your robot with color, motion, and
flashes of light.
||Uses an NQC program to interpret commands send from the PC
running the Prolog code
|Microsoft Visual Programming Language (VPL)
||Graphical flowchart, based on .NET
||With the Microsoft
Robotics Studio, it uses a native NXT program msrs to
send and receive messages to and from a controlling program on a
computer via Bluetooth
||Graphical Flowchart for voice controlled robots
||DialogOS combines speech recognition and speech synthesis with
robotics, enabling you to build talking robots that react to your
||Java (Simplified / programmed C-style)
an open source programming language and environment for people who
want to program images, animation, and interactions. It is used by
students, artists, designers, researchers, and hobbyists for
learning, prototyping, and production. To control the NXT with
Processing you can use the NXTComm Processing library developed by Jorge Cardoso.
||Language developed for the Botball robotics competition
||API for the Lua
programming language for the Mindstorms NXT, text-based
||pBLua: ... is written in portable C, with minimal runtime
requirements; can be compiled on the fly on NXT; is a small, easy
to read, and easy to write language; has extensive documentation
available online and in dead-tree format, and a very friendly
There is a strong community of professionals and hobbyists of all
ages involved in the sharing of designs, programming techniques,
and other ideas associated with Lego Mindstorms. The Lego
Mindstorms system/website is organized much like a wiki
, harnessing the creative potential and
collaborative efforts of participants. Lego
also encourages sharing
software code available for downloading and by holding various
contests and events.
- Bagnall, Brian. Maximum LEGO® NXT: Building Robots with
Java Brains Variant Press. 2007. ISBN 0-9738649-1-5
- Bagnall, Brian. Core LEGO® Mindstorms Prentice-Hall
PTR. 2002. ISBN 0-13-009364-5
- Baum, Dave. Definitive Guide to LEGO® MINDSTORMS, 2nd
ed. Apress. 2002. ISBN 1-59059-063-5.
- Erwin, Benjamin. Creative Projects with LEGO®
Mindstorms (book and CD-ROM). Addison-Wesley. 2001. ISBN
- Ferrari et al. Building Robots With LEGO® Mindstorms: The
Ultimate Tool for Mindstorms Maniacs. Syngress. 2001. ISBN
- Gindling, J., A. Ioannidou, J. Loh, O. Lokkebo, and A.
Repenning., " LEGOsheets: A Rule-Based Programming, Simulation
and Manipulation Environment for the LEGO Programmable Brick,"
Proceeding of Visual Languages, Darmstadt, Germany, IEEE Computer
Society Press, 1995, pp. 172–179.