Hacktivism and hackers have been getting a lot of press lately, from Aaron Schwartz to the Syrian Electronic Army. So when I read about another hackathon, I cringe and wait for the bad news. But not this time. When you combine Legos and robots with hacking, you get a whole lot of awesomeness.
Groups of techies from companies like Facebook, Flickr, Autodesk, and Pandora received Lego’s new EV3 Mindstorm kits and were told to have at it. Each team built a robot and then, naturally, the robots fought to the robot death. Before we get to the battle, take a moment to check out the new Lego development, the third generation of the Mindstorm model. The kit contains motors, sensors, and other elements that allow users to create and control robots via a small programmable brick, smartphones, or software. They walk, talk, dance, or hack the websites of major media outlets.
The Mindstorm EV3 hits shelves this weekend on September 1—just in time to distract your kids from going back to school. Or if you’re in my class, just in time to get an A, especially if you can program to write competent essays.
Flickr-bot, an homage to Emperor Norton, a San Franciscan who declared himself emperor of the U.S., used banknotes as a weapon, in reference to the currency Norton developed and used (and that people actually accepted). A money-spewing robot? What’s not to love?
Autodesk’s diminutive droid clung to an iPhone (in a Lego case, of course) and got so wrapped up in playing with the phone that it kept running into feet, otherwise oblivious to its surroundings. I don’t know if it was the intent, but this robot is certainly the most human-like. We’re not the only ones that are easily distracted.
Bay Area-based Pandora used the kit’s computer with two robots in a San Francisco Giants v. Oakland Athletics showdown. One pitched while the other hit. The baseball robots can compete autonomously or via human control, and registered hits both ways. At least this event was free from doping scandals.
The Facebook bot was more the t-ball type than fast pitch, and cruised the bases using route indicators.
At the end of the day the judges deliberated. Since none of the robots actually delivered Robot Combat League style beat downs, the victor had to be named by decision, and Pandora took home the top prize. Now to program the robot to get rid of all their ads.