Lego’s Mindstorms kits have stood out as some of the best robotics and programming education tools for years. They’ve also been some of the slowest to evolve, with the most recent kit, Lego Mindstorms EV3, coming out in 2013. Now, after seven years, Lego has finally unveiled a new Mindstorms kit: Lego Mindstorms Robot Inventor.
The Robot Inventor kit lets kids (or adults) build five different robot models out of 949 pieces, ranging from a four-legged walker to a bipedal wheeled robot that can give high-fives. All of these robots can be programmed to perform different tricks, like grabbing items, firing plastic projectiles, avoiding obstacles, and playing various sports with a ball.
The kit includes four low-profile, medium-angular motors; a color and light sensor; and a distance sensor, which work together with the Intelligent Hub block to power these robots and execute commands. Of course, like all Mindstorms kits, you can build your own robotic creations with the tools at hand, and add Lego Technic and System pieces for more complex projects.
The Intelligent Hub serves as the brain of Lego Mindstorms, and the block that houses the Mindstorms Robot Inventor Kit is the most advanced one yet. It features six input/output ports for sensors and motors, a six-axis gyro/accelerometer, a speaker, and a five-by-five LED matrix. The Intelligent Hub and all robots built with it can be controlled wirelessly over Bluetooth with the Lego Mindstorms Robot Inventor app for Android, iOS, Windows 10, and macOS. The app supports programming in both the tile-based Scratch language and in Python, for more complex projects that require the precision of written code.
Curiously, the Intelligent Hub has two fewer ports than the Intelligent Brick used by the Mindstorms EV3 kit, which had eight. However, the distance sensor features a six-pin adapter that enables the use of third-party components, including electronics boards, which adds more expandability to the kit. Lego has not specified the hardware inside the Mindstorms Robot Inventor Kit’s Intelligent Hub; the EV3’s Intelligent Brick used an ARM9 processor, while the Mindstorms NXT kit before that used an ARM7 processor.
The Lego Mindstorms Robot Inventor Kit is more than twice as expensive as the Lego Boost Creative Toolbox, which on its surface looks like a similar Lego-based robotics kit. However, Lego Boost is far less powerful. It uses its own simplified tile-based programming language and supports neither Scratch nor Python, and comes with only two motors (one built into its Move Hub block) and one combination color-and-distance sensor.
Lego Boost also does not process any programming itself; the Move Hub is simply a receiver for commands sent from the Lego Boost app on a phone or tablet. While Lego Boost is an excellent kit for younger STEM students looking to learn the basics of robotics and programming, it isn’t nearly as open-ended as a Mindstorms kit.
The Lego Mindstorms Robot Inventor Kit will be available this fall for $359.99.