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Summary:

There really is an app for everything now that LEGO has released software that turns an Android handset into a wireless remote control for robots. MINDroid uses a wireless Bluetooth connection and phone accelerometer to send commands to a robot with the flick of a wrist.

mindroid-android-featured

Just when I thought there was an app for every possible task I needed, along comes MINDroid for Google smartphones running Android 2.1 or better. The free application turns an Android handset into a wireless remote control devices for robots built using a LEGO Mindstorm NXT kit. MINDroid quickly connects to an NXT robot over a standard Bluetooth connection. Once connected, the app uses the phone’s accelerometer to send directional controls to the NXT brick, which is the “brains” of an Mindstorms robot. Tilting the phone will activate motors on the robot to move left, right, forward or back, for example. An included Action button in the software can be used for other motor-based activities, such as shooting out an object from the robot or closing a gripper hand.

The timing of the new MINDroid app couldn’t be better in my household. My son and I are convinced that the “next big thing” is robots in the home. Indeed, in a recent GigaOM Pro article (subscription required), I examined in detail how such a future with simple robots in the home isn’t far off thanks to the rise of the smartphone. These mobile devices already offer enough processing power, battery life, connectivity and input options with sensors such as cameras and microphones to theoretically act as robotic systems. In fact, the original G1 Android handset is already the brains behind a number of homebrewed robot creations called cellbots.

Semi-autonomous robots are already available in a number of forms: the most notable being iRobot’s Roomba and Scooba line of single-purpose devices. And the new MINDdroid app isn’t going to replace such commercially available robots. But for now, my son and I can look into using a smartphone to remotely control the robot arm we built a few months back.

My guess is that such smartphone software is just the beginning of remotely controlling intelligent devices. We’re already able to remotely activate lights or the heating and cooling system in our smart home with a web connected phone, for example. With MINDroid and future apps with similar or extended features, I expect the smartphones of tomorrow to become even more central to our lives; either with or without robots.

Related content from GigaOM Pro (subscription req’d):

  1. I’m already envious of my future kids. The Mindstorms kits already had me salivating – now the idea of controlling them remotely using my phone makes me want to get some kits for myself even more.

  2. research_paper Tuesday, October 12, 2010

    Lego is one of the best toys I’ve ever seen, equally interesting and useful for children and adults, and I’m glad that guys at google think the same way!
    Indeed we are stepping into the new era. Thanks for the post. If it wasn’t your son on the video, I would also comment on robotic hand recently featured in the Big Bang Theory:)

  3. Lego’s MINDroid Android app remotely controls Mindstorms NXT robots | Phone H4xor Tuesday, October 12, 2010

    [...] Permalink GigaOM  |  Lego  | Email this | Comments Did you like this? Share it:Tweet [...]

  4. Lego’s MINDroid Android app remotely controls Mindstorms NXT robots « Technology Feeds Tuesday, October 12, 2010

    [...] Engadget on Tue, 12 Oct 2010 12:02:00 EDT. Please see our terms for use of feeds. Permalink GigaOM  |  Lego  | Email this | CommentsLink: Lego's MINDroid Android app [...]

  5. Lego mindstorm is really cool but really complicated. My kids are still young for that type of technology. The have really taken to the Rokenbok toy line which has similar building blocks and RC components. They are really well designed and made. http://www.rokenbok.com

  6. I totally agree with this statement: “My son and I are convinced that the “next big thing” is robots in the home.”

    It just makes the future really exciting for those with a passion for this area and for the kids. The Mindstorm kits just get me so excited.

  7. I added a website to describe how to build a robot wrist / hand without a turntable part:

    http://lego–robot.blogspot.com/

    Enjoy!

  8. McGuire’s Law » Blog Archive » Observations: Uses – October 27, 2010 Wednesday, October 27, 2010

    [...] LEGO Launches Robot-Controlling Android App [...]

  9. Malik Wahaj Ahmed Friday, December 10, 2010

    Wow this is called mixing the research with business… interesting app…

  10. For My Next Trick: Talking to a Robot via Phone : Mobile Technology News « Wednesday, February 23, 2011

    [...] One handset as our next robot will surely need an attached webcam. And Cellbots will supplement the official LEGO MINDdroid app I found last year, which also allows for remote robot control throug…. With IBM’s Watson recently besting all human challengers on the game show Jeopardy!, [...]

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