As some of you know, I’ve been in the Lego Mindstorms NXT beta group. Sadly, I’ve had ~zero time to actually participate, so I can’t say much about the product firsthand, but most people in the group seem quite positive about the whole thing- both the product and the beta experience. Today we’ve been (semi?)released from our NDA, so information is starting to sprout up around the web. If you want to find out more about the product, the place to start is Jim Kelly’s NXT blog, which has good content and links to what other people are posting. He also has a flickr set if you want to see the hardware itself. Presumably the excellent lugnet robotics group is the way to go for ongoing discussion, though not much is happening there yet.
On the free software front, there is still not really Linux support, nor a free OS on the hardware, unfortunately. The hardware is substantially more powerful than the old stuff, so getting a new OS running will be hard. The good news is that the beta group had a long discussion about what goals Lego should have in licensing the existing OS, and what licenses Lego might use- and it looks like they may well do the sane thing and open source the OS. Definitely psyched about that- if it is true. [Nutshell of why this is the only sane thing: Lego is (as far as we know) a hardware vendor; they benefit from anything that increases sales and reduces support costs. They don’t benefit from proprietary advantage in the software space- more operating systems means more demand for the hardware, not less revenue in the software space.]
Anyway, I’m psyched to see what people do with this- should be fun and a big step in the continued push for personal robotics to become widespread.
[Update: it looks like the firmware for the NXT will be opened, but not the client-side SDK. I don’t fully understand why the distinction, but for Linux users the firmware is the important part anyway- the rest can be puzzled out from there.]