Open source Lego? Cool!

By   |  April 24, 2006

Big news for Lego Mindstorms fans: the next generation of Mindstorms, NXT, will be open sourced. This is according to online Danish journalist Jon Lund, quoting Lego’s Soren Lund at the CustomerMade conference last week.

According to J Lund, Lego is currently choosing which open souce licence to use, and is expected to make an announcement within days.

“When released, developers around the world will be given the possibility of modifying the software themselves. For example, the Mindstorms software is by default only able to coordinate two of the motors of the robot at the same time. This could be changed by clever users,” says J Lund. “Lego excepts users to be able to make considerable improvements to the software, and to implement such modifications in future official releases.”

The first version of Lego Mindstorms was reverse engineered by Kekoa Proudfoot in 1998, and he released the information on the Internet. At the time, Lego executives considered legal action, but held back to see what the community would do with the information. David Baum write a compiler based on Proudfoot’s work, and finally Markus Noga wrote an operating system, LegOS, which was released as open source.

At the time, Lego execs said that they wouldn’t discourage – or actively encourage – the hacking of Mindstorms. If Lego does release Mindstorms NXT as open source, it’ll certainly prevent the inevitable reverse engineering of its code, while no doubt encouraging some very creative development in what has proved to be a highly popular geek hobby.

Mindstorms NXT has been available for pre-order since the beginning of the month, and is expected to ship in August.

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