Lots of exciting news has come out of the Nuremberg Toy fair about upcoming releases for the year, but perhaps the most interesting for me will have a ripple effect that lasts well into the future: After ten years, the Power Functions system which has powering our models is getting an upgrade.
In news coming out from the Nuremberg Toy Fair this week, a new Power Functions system is due to be released later this year. Reporting from the fair, our friends at Promo Bricks bring news of new train sets arriving later in the year, along with the new system. Unfortunately, photos were not allowed of the display, so what follows is in part speculation, and interpreting information in the above article.
Featuring similar plugs and cables to those seen with both the WeDO 2.0, as well as the Boost Robotics Systems, the new system also allows for bluetooth control. The receiver for this system is located within the battery box. The battery box is a similar size to the current PF battery box currently used for trains, and can fit in the train in a similar way.
RAMPANT SPECULATION FOLLOWS
A quick and brutal photoshop hatchet job transformed a WeDO hub to look something like this:
After removing the Technic Brick Wings, the WeDo hub measures 4×8, as does the existing battery box. So it can be slotted into place easily enough. I am unsure where the sockets will be on the new model: same place as the WeDo hub, or on top, like the current battery box. If on the front, will they be recessed one stud, as on the Boost Hub, or on top, like the current battery box. If recessed one stud, it would allow the cable to wrap up, and the box to retain the same form factor as the current AAA battery box.
There will apparently be an adaptor to allow retrofitting the new battery box (or is that installing the new motors) – further details about this are not available at present.
There is also a new Bluetooth based remote to work with this battery box, but specific details are not available. There will, however, also be an app that allows your smartphone to connect to, and control your Power Functions devices.
The use of Bluetooth will be useful, compared with the infrared system currently employed by LEGO®️ Power Functions, especially where line of sight is not always possible (I’m looking at you, large railway layouts with tall buildings and tunnels…).
I do wonder how well this system will work in an environment where multiple trains are running: when considering Boost, the app rapidly connects to the nearest powered on Movement Hub (I experienced this when meeting the Karl Merriam from the Boost team at the fan media days, where we swapped rapidly between models, using the one tablet.) I wonder how well stable the connection will be of multiple models will stay running in the area when moving in and out of range, and whether swapping controllers with nearby models will be an issue. Admittedly, at present, many train clubs use a mix of 9V and 12V powered systems, as well as power functions, either on its own or in conjunction with SBrick or other third party Bluetooth controllers, but the system will need to be extremely stable to win over train fans.
It will be interesting to see if the app to control the new system offers the same degree of flexibility of control and programming acceleration/deceleration as seen with other Bluetooth controllers.
Other Questions I would love to know answers to:
- Will elements be reused from other powered systems- for example, the battery cradle from Boost?
- Can the new remote/app drive a boost hub as a remote control unit?
- Can the new battery box drive the Boost servo motor?
- Will any new motors be able to be driven by the BOOST hub or Wedo, and controlled through that system?
- How long will it be before the variety of motors we see for the current power functions becomes available?
- What will it all cost?
Are you looking forward to the new Power functions system? How about the new trains that have been spoken of? We should find out more towards the middle of the year as the new sets are officially announced.
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