Should I buy Lego Mindstorms NXT?
December 30, 2011
I have been browsing (and wishing I had more money) my favourite tech and robot shops today because I was bored and I stumbled upon the Lego Mindstorms NXT kit for 250EUR. I have looked at the Mindstorms before but I can't decide if they are toys or something that can be made into a real robot (or a thing that does things). So how suitable is the Mindstorms kit for someone who has never made a robot but know something about electronics? I am currently studying computer engineering at university and I have some knowledge of electronics from school and from my own projects (mostly arduino based - if someone is interested - www.r00li.com ). I have much experience with arduinos and I know how to programm in many languages (Assembler (ARM), C++, Java, Objective-C, Python).
I would realy like to get into robotics (I am aiming at robotics classes in university) and I would realy like to throw myself into this field. Making robots and developing iphone applications are quite a different thing so I don't know where to start. I was thinking about making a cheap robot with arduino which is quite nice for this but I feel it is quite limited. If I want to build an autonomus robot it won't do much else that drive/walk around and bounce of walls. I would like to make something a little more useful/interesting. The NXT at least has a bluetooth module for remote control (at least I think that it can be used for that - don't see any other use for it) which would enable me to do some little cooler stuff. But at the same time NXT seems more like a creative toy than a real platform for robots and I feel that it would start boring me. And the additional sensors are very expensive (but I get a feeling that I could hack arduino to talk with the NXT to expand its brain a bit). And I realy can't figure out if I should buy the NXT or not. It isn't cheap for what it offers but it isn't realy expensive either.
What I wan't more than small robots are a little bigger and more automated robots. Something like Qbo or (Aldebaran) Nao. The first one is basically a nice shell with a computer in it and can run the ROS linux distribution so it can be used for almost anything. The other one is actually my goal. I have been very fascinated with that robot and I would give almost anything to have it. Sadly it costs around 15000EUR or 3000 for the developer version (which you can only get if you are chosen for their developer program). Both of these prices are waaaay out of my budget. I have been also looking at a turtlebot (an roomba with a kinect and a computer running the ROS) and that also looks quite cool. And the basic kit costs about 300EUR which is inside my budget and I already own a roomba and a laptop so this is all that I need.
So does anyone have any advice on what I should do? Would the NXT be a good idea for me or should I get the turtlebot or something completely different?