This week at the CES technology convention in Las Vegas, LEGO unveiled Boost, an entry-level building and coding toolkit to help bring your creations to life. More simple than Mindstorms, LEGO Boost (17101) is like its little brother but cooler and easier to get to know. The Brothers Brick is at CES and we’ll bring you hands-on coverage soon, but in the meantime, here are the basics.
The impressive base set includes sensors, motors and an app which serves as the brains and interaction point for coding, essentially teaching anyone who uses it how to program. LEGO Boost will be available in August 2017 and priced at $160, which is a far cry cheaper than $350 for the more complex Mindstorms EV3, so we predict that Boost will quickly find favor among LEGO fans and schools alike.
The first set of the Boost line is a creative toolbox containing three Boost bricks and 840 other pieces. Boost bricks are essentially modular Mindstorms functions. The heart of Boost is the Move Hub, which is powered by six AAA batteries and holds a six-axis tilt sensor, two input and output ports, a color-changing light. Boost bricks are covered with standard studs as well, meaning that they can be integrated into standard System LEGO creations more easily than EV3. Other Boost bricks include a color and distance sensor as well as a motor capable of finite control.
If the Boost bricks are the heart of this new system, the companion Android and iOS app is the brain. It has all the instructions for five charming models that highlight the capability of Boost bricks and serves as a tutorial for how to use them. You can arrange pre-programmed blocks of code to make the Boost bricks do certain tasks. The app serves as the primary interaction point for the system through simple coding and vocal recognition, communicating with the Boost bricks via Bluetooth.
The set comes with instructions for five models: Vernie the Robot, Frankie the Cat, the Guitar 4000, the Multi-Tool Rover 4, and an Autobuilder. Each model shows what Boost bricks are capable of. For example, while building Vernie the Robot, you build his upper body then plug in the Move Hub which brings him to life. The app recognizes which model you are building and starts interacting with you as the character of Vernie, immediately asking you questions and encouraging you to finish building him!
Once completed, the model feels alive. It can move its head, talk to you, move on tracks, and more depending on what you can imagine. The app has a linear and graphic coding area for three purposes: movement, speech and action. You can experiment with these functions by completing activities in the app, one of which turns Vernie into a Western gunslinger who can shoot targets on command. Each activity teaches new coding functions and capabilities of the Boost bricks, from pressure response to light shows and dancing.
But Vernie is just one model in LEGO Boost. The other four models each highlight other capabilities of Boost bricks. Frankie the Cat will purr and twitch and respond to being fed from a brick-built bottle (triggered by a color sensor). The Guitar 4000 lets you play music. The MultiTool Rover is a Swiss Army Knife of a vehicle that can be programmed to do just about anything. The AutoBuilder can assemble bricks on a grid pattern and build other smaller LEGO creations (brickception!).
As entertaining as the core five models are, the true potential of Boost bricks lies with the LEGO fan community as they incorporate them into custom creations. The app contains a creative canvas zone with instructions on how to program a walking base that can be built into any animal or mech, a driving base for any car or vehicle, and an automatic door for forts or other buildings. Boost bricks will likely be a gateway for many builders into motorizing and programming their creations, and we at TBB look forward to featuring the great creations you come up with.
Move over, Mindstorms. Your brother, Boost, is here to stay.
You can watch a video with the LEGO Designer showing off Boost:
And check out Vernie in action below: