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Now Even Lego Bricks Have Computer Chips

Copenhagen, Denmark-based The Lego Group has introduced programmable building bricks in a significant expansion of its children's construction products.

It is adding two new items to its range of Lego brick packs: Mindstorms Robotics Invention System and Technic CyberMaster. They will allow children to build robotic pets, vehicles and other intelligent toys, and to program them with various behaviors.

Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, Lego's president, said: "These are the first products ever to give children the opportunity to build their own intelligent and interactive inventions. Combining Lego bricks and computers creates a new category of fun play and learning with a whole new dimension to imagination and creativity."

Although there are no "Internet-enabled" bricks (yet!), an Internet community is being established on www.LEGOMINDSTORMS.com. At this site, children can create their own home pages, upload programs, and show off their latest robotic creations. It will allow them to get in touch with each other, swap strategies, programs and ideas, and consult Lego experts in chat rooms and on message boards.

Lego Mindstorms is the result of more than a decade of work with the Media Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Initially aimed at 11 years and older, Lego Mindstorms includes a special "RCX" brick which is embedded with a microchip. The chip takes input from its environment, processes data and drives action and behavior. Children first build the robot using RCX and other bricks, then they use RCX Code (described as "a powerful yet simple and child-friendly programming language") to create a program for their invention. Finally they download from their PC to the RCX via a special infrared transmitter.

The other new range, Lego Technic CyberMaster, is an extension to the vendor's existing Technic line, and allows children to add touch sensors to their Lego toys. With the sensors, the models can respond to stimuli from the world around them.

Lego Technic CyberMaster will be launched throughout Western Europe and in Australia, New Zealand, and South Africa in October 1998. The Lego Mindstorms community on the Internet will be launched in the Fall, 1998. Until then a preview site will be available.

For more information: http://www.lego.com/computerlego

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