Time To Get ‘Powered Up’: Known Knowns, Known Unknowns. And A Little Speculation…

Feeling overwhelmed after a barrage of press releases and new sets being announced by LEGO in New York this week, I attempt to put together what is known about the new Powered Up platform, previously referred to as Power Functions 2.0

60197_LEGO_City_Personenzug_Packung-2This week, at the Fall Preview for the (Northern) Summer 2018 LEGO® releases, there have been a number of exciting announcements, some of which have been vigorously speculated about for most of the year, plus a couple of surprises!

Given that this year respresents (amongst other things) the twentieth anniversary of the LEGO Mindstorms range, and also represents 10 years since we first saw the arrival of Power Functions, it should come as no surprise that we have seen a number of sets featuring the new “Powered Up” platform – previously referred to as Power Functions 2.0.

“For 20 years, we have been creating new ways for children to combine technology and LEGO building, starting with the introduction of LEGO MINDSTORMS®, a robotics toolkit that pioneered the idea of a ‘smart toy,” said Michael McNally, senior director brand relations for the LEGO Group. “With Powered Up, we’ve established a flexible connected platform to enable innovative new play experiences that merge digital and physical play in natural ways that will delight and inspire the builders of today and tomorrow – while still focusing on the core physical play proposition of our System of Play – the LEGO brick.”

We have also seen some exciting announcements to go with LEGO Boost.

Powered Up: Power Functions 2.0 Known Knowns.

Back in February, we presented information about the new power functions platform. We were aware that we have a new combined Bluetooth receiver and Battery Box, as well as a motor unit suitable for trains. We knew that the new cables featured the same connections as the WeDo 2.0 platform, as well as Boost.We also knew there would be a new remote and that the platform could also be App Powered.

This new platform, and all of the other Motorised LEGO Elements now fall under the broader banner of “Powered up,” and includes CITY Trains, app driven vehicles, Boost and the DUPLO Cargo Train.

Trains

60197_LEGO_City_Personenzug_Produkt-2According to LEGO Germany (press release below), there are two trains slated for release, “From July.” They are 60197 Passenger Train and 60198 Freight Train. They both feature the ‘Powered Up’battery box receiver, as well as a bogie mounted motor, similar to the current Power functions motor. They also come with a new remote control. There has also been a new LEGO City Train App announced, allowing up to 10 different speed levels. [LEGO Germany Press release – see below]. It would appear that the level of control for the train app is essentially as a simple remote control, with no programming acceleration and deceleration planned for the immediate future.

60197_LEGO_City_Personenzug_Packung-3.jpgThe Passenger Train comes with four minifigures, a platform and a simple oval of track layout (sixteen curved, and four straight pieces of track). The train appears to be dark blue and flame yellowish orange in colour, and incorporates a speed champions windscreen into the front cabin. As well as the engine, there are two further carriages. The top of the train carriages and the engine cab can be removed. Some people may wish to connect a second set, to recreate how such trains might appear in real life. There is a small platform, as well as a kiosk on board the train. There also appears to be a bright yellowish green roller suitcase element. Expected price is EUR129.99, compared to the current 60051 High Speed Passenger Train EUR 109.99/$AUD229/USD149.99 – released in 2014. Given this price has been unchanged over those four years, this represents 3.8% pa increase. It will be interesting to see what happens to the Australian price over that time, as I think $250 for such a set would represent a potentially significant psychological barrier to purchase. (Edit – word is that in Australia, we will pay $199.99! $aud30 cheaper than the previous one)

60198_LEGO_City_Güterzug_Produkt-2.jpg60198_LEGO_City_Güterzug_PackungThe Freight Train comes with 5 minifigures, and features a crane; a flatbed carrying logs (relatable to the forest tractor in the first half year sets), and another flat bed to carry two containers: one armoured and one containing a snow mobile, the latter being a nod to the Arctic Explorer theme this year. There is also a control platform to oversee all the activity. This set come with Sixteen curved tracks, sixteen straight tracks and one switch. Expected price is EUR189.99, compared to the current 60052 Freight Train -EUR 179.99/$AUD299/USD199.99 – also released in 2014. This increase of 10 Euros over four years represents a 1.3% pa increase in price, in line with CPI. However, in 60052 you had 20 curved, 8 straight and 2 switch rail elements. – so there are fewer rails provided in this new sets. (Edit: in Australia, the new set will cost $299.99: no change compared to 60052) New rail packs will also be available later in the year, including switches, straight, fixed curves, and variable flexible curves.

10875-1The DUPLO Trains; Cargo Train 10875 (USD119.99/CAD149.99 105 pieces) and Steam Train 10874 (USD USD49.99/CAD79.99 59 pieces) will be released in the US in August. As discussed earlier in the year, they will be able to be pushed to start, or controlled using an app, and using control blocks inserted in the rails, with the control block activity being mirrored on the App Screen.

76112 LEGO DC Superheroes Batmobile

32621026_10155714442533403_3425372680692432896_o-2Looking more like a tank than traditional Batmobile, this set is due to be released in August 2018. It features the Battery Hub and TWO motors. There is no included remote, but instead is controlled using a smart phone. The short wheel base, and raised centre of gravity will contribute to its ability to do stunts, such as wheelies. In fact, it is somewhat reminiscent of an oversized Mighty Miro vehicle.

According to the LEGO Press release…”The LEGO Batman App-Controlled Batmobile, created for children 8 years of age and older, combines LEGO building and remote-control car play. It is the first codeable and programmable LEGO Batmobile that is fully controllable via smart device. Users can steer the Batmobile using one of two preset remote-control interfaces or personalize their experience through a customizable interface. With the interface unlocked, users move sliders, buttons and other elements to customize the remote control to their liking. Through a coding canvas that will be introduced later this year, users can code and re-code speed, direction, sound and duration to program various movements and stunts and create their own unique driving experiences.”

Images on the box suggest that the wheels are gear driven, and I believe that there is a separate drive for left and right side of the vehicle. I have cropped some of the official images, and boosted the shadows to draw attention to the driving mechanism. Several Fan Media attending the Fall Preview Event, including FBTB and  The Brothers Brick had the opportunity to get some hands-on time, and there is a quite a bit of useful information to be gained from the videos that were taken.

speculation
Reconstruction of the new Battery Hub, based on reports from Nuremberg Toy Show 2018 and the Fall Preview event.

It would appear that the receiver has an LED at the opposite end of the battery box to the plugs, and is square at both ends (unlike the WeDo hub which is rounded) and has 2 ports at the end.

d72e23af-a94d-4621-9b79-a4b500c428eb
The Medium WeDo Motor: quite probably the motor found in the Batmobile 76112

Some further speculation based on glimpses in the videos would make it reasonable to assume that the motor in use here is the same medium motor that has been available on the LEGO Educational WeDo platform since 2016.  This is a straight forward, plain vanilla motor, with no ability to provide feedback to its hub. The LEGO Boost external motor is described as ‘interactive’: it can be controlled within fractions of a rotation, and provides information of its rotational back to the Move Hub. The Medium WeDo motor offers a similar form factor to the current medium PF Motor, but also has 2×2 studs on top.

The App Controlled Batmobile will be available on August 1st.

Boost Integration

Since the Boost Creative tool box was released last year, we have seen ongoing incremental additions to the software, with additional projects, and functionality. No longer are you limited to a tablet: Windows 10 laptops and smart phones (Android 5.0 or greater; iOS 10.3 or greater) supporting the appropriate Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) – Version 4.1 or Highter –  have been added to the list of supported devices. It has become easier to unlock sections of the app, in case you change your phone or tablet, or just need to have access to the entire programming toolbox. We have seen project bases for walking and steerable driving MOCs, as well as the addition of a sliding door.

The Boost Software (version 1.6) received an upgrade this week this week on tablets and smartphones (Android and iOS) reveals integration with the recently released Roller Coaster 10261, the Ninjago Dragon 70652 Stormbringer, as well as the 70194 Polar Scout Truck (available in June).

img_0930The Roller Coaster starter project can be found within the creative canvas (through the vortex).
img_0929
Integration in the first instance is simple: the system takes you by the hand to set up a program whereby the arrival of the cars at the base of the chain link will start the motor to elevate the train to the top. An appropriate fairground music block is also provided (we also have a synchronised ‘passenger scream’ soundtrack). I look forward to experimenting with this soon. I wonder whether it will be possible to integrate the servo motor with the ‘platform progression’ mechanism, for a more realistic fairground experience.

img_0922The 70914 Polar Scout Truck and 70652 Stormbringer instructions are found to the right of the canvas, and follow a similar approach to the other base models in boost, where you build up the model gradually, and intermittently break to see what can be coded at each stage. The final build of the Polar Scout Truck creates a large fork lift, and various programming challenges follow on.

Known Unknowns:

There are still a few points awaiting clarification on the new platform, and I have attempted to list them here, and offer my ‘best guess’

  • At this stage, the exact form factor of the motors in the Batmobile has not been officially revealed, although they appear to be the same motors used in the WeDo 2.0 robotics set. It would make sense that the new system would use the same. The Train Motors have not been seen closely. It would be reasonable to presume they will look similar to the current train motor, but with the new connector.
  • When can we expect to to see rumored Powered Up connector to PF1 adaptor cable? Will it be a real thing??
  • We don’t know what other motors might become available: particularly to replace the PF1 servo motor and linear actuator, larger motors with greater torque, or when we can expect to see a seperate receiver/motor gear set – like the current Power Functions set. However, Technic sets due for release in the second half of the year ( particularly 42080) have been said to be compatible with both PF1 and ‘Powered up Platforms’. Therefore, we can probably presume such a set will arrive in the future. Will there be a ‘Technic form factor Battery Hub or will any solution just involve attaching Technic bricks around the Battery Hub?
  • We DO NOT know if the train controller will work with the Batmobile set, or indeed if the batmobile app will work with different types of motors other than the type supplied with that set (e.g. train motors).
  • We also DO NOT Know about the Bluetooth pairing process for the trains with a given remote, or App.
  • I done know the exact dimensions of the new battery box, and the number of batteries it will need, as well as the requirements of the train remote.
  • We do not know if the new motors will be able to be driven by the Boost Move Hub, or if they are just the same as the old PF motors, with an updated plug. Given the differences that exist with the Boost ‘interactive motor.’  Boost and WeDo motors are not supported out of the box, BUT some creative people have been able to use Boost
  • The time frame for coding with the Batmobile App to be available is unclear, but will be delivered through a software update at some later time (expected late this year). Hopefully we will see this in time for Christmas.

Not Quite Motorized, But Also Announced this week

75955 Hogwarts Express

This week we saw a number of Harry Potter sets announced, including a revamped Hogwarts express. It is unclear at this stage exactly how this set could be ‘Powered Up’ – whether through the addition of the standard motorised bogie, or using a medium motor, similar to the Emerald Night, where the large driver wheels are in fact powering the train. I look forward to seeing what motorising options are offered for this set, due for release in US August 1 ($USD79.99).

In conclusion

Hopefully this has given you a reasonable ideas of where we stand in May 2018 with the forthcoming Powered Up Platform. Plainly I did not attend the New York Event, but have merely sifted through published information associated with the event, as well as other recently released information from the LEGO Group around the world.

Do you have experience with any of the new elements? How are you looking forward to integrating the new systems in your models? Why not leave your comments below, and follow the blog for further updates.

Until next time,

Play Well!

Appendix: Source Material

Images sourced from Brothers Brick, Brickset, Zusammengebaut, Promobricks and LEGO Germany. Screen Shots have been from the Boost App v1.6 on an iPhone 7Plus.

Powered Up Press Release

LEGO® Powered Up Platform Empowers More Builders
to Bring Their LEGO Play to Life

-LEGO® Batman™ App-Controlled Batmobile™ and More New Sets Join Growing Universe of LEGO Connected Toys That Blend Physical Play and Digital Creativity-

ENFIELD, Conn. (May 17, 2018) – Today, the LEGO Group announced the Powered Up Platform, a suite of new elements and apps, which introduce new ways to bring to LEGO® sets to life seamlessly across its System of Play. Revealed today as part of the Powered Up platform, the LEGO Batman™ App-Controlled Batmobile, inspired by DC’s Caped Crusader, is a buildable LEGO Batmobile that is fully controllable by smart device. It will also incorporate light coding and programming later in 2018.

Leveraging the power elements and coding language developed for last year’s award-winning build and code toolkit, LEGO BOOST, and other LEGO connected toys, Powered Up enabled sets give kids the ability to modify and personalize their experiences by adding dynamic motion control and in some instances simple coding. Powered Up LEGO sets will range from simply powered to remote controlled to smart device connected, creating endless customized play possibilities. Some building sets will ship with Powered Up capabilities included in the box, while others will be Powered Up-enabled, giving kids the option to add power features to their creations if they are interested.

“For 20 years, we have been creating new ways for children to combine technology and LEGO building, starting with the introduction of LEGO MINDSTORMS®, a robotics toolkit that pioneered the idea of a ‘smart toy,” said Michael McNally, senior director brand relations for the LEGO Group. “With Powered Up, we’ve established a flexible connected platform to enable innovative new play experiences that merge digital and physical play in natural ways that will delight and inspire the builders of today and tomorrow – while still focusing on the core physical play proposition of our System of Play – the LEGO brick.”
The LEGO Batman App-Controlled Batmobile, created for children 8 years of age and older, combines LEGO building and remote-control car play. It is the first codeable and programmable LEGO Batmobile that is fully controllable via smart device. Users can steer the Batmobile using one of two preset remote-control interfaces or personalize their experience through a customizable interface. With the interface unlocked, users move sliders, buttons and other elements to customize the remote control to their liking. Through a coding canvas that will be introduced later this year, users can code and re-code speed, direction, sound and duration to program various movements and stunts and create their own unique driving experiences.

Additional Powered Up sets launching in 2018 include the LEGO City Passenger Train and LEGO City Cargo Train, which add simple remote-control functionality to classic LEGO building. The LEGO DUPLO® Steam Train and LEGO DUPLO Cargo Train introduce kids as young as 2 years old to cause and effect play, a pre-cursor to coding, with low-tech brick accessories that utilize sensors and color-coded train track elements.

The Powered Up offerings join a growing portfolio of LEGO connected toys that bridge physical and digital play. The LEGO NINJAGO® Stormbringer dragon and LEGO City Arctic Scout Truck allow children to leverage elements from the LEGO BOOST build and code toolkit to add behavior and movement. Builders can also add LEGO BOOST elements to the new LEGO Creator Expert Roller Coaster to motorize the chain lift and set a roller coaster in motion with realistic sound effects.

The Powered Up Platform launches July 1. The LEGO Batman App-Controlled Batmobile will launch August 1 with the suggested retail price of $99.99 and includes 321 pieces, two motors and a battery hub. The Powered Up App works on phones and tablets running iOS 8.0 and up or Android 5.0 and up.

Via Brothers Brick

LEGO Germany City Range Press Release [Google translated]

FROM ETERNAL ICE TO RAPID TRAIN JOURNEY WITH THE NEW LEGO CITY SETS

With the ten new LEGO City Sets, children aged six and seven, respectively, are on an adventurous journey: whether in the Arctic, when they find long-extinct saber-toothed tigers or when they ride a passenger train over mountain and valley – thrills are guaranteed. Tech-loving LEGO fans can combine and bring the LEGO City Arctic Exploration Truck to life with the LEGO BOOST Roboticset. This is how they playfully and intuitively gain their first programming experience. The different speed levels of the Bluetooth-controlled LEGO City passenger train guarantee, just like the other new sets, a lot of realistic construction and playing fun with cool functions and details.

With the LEGO City Arctic sets on an icy expedition

The LEGO City Arctic Exploration Truck is an all-rounder on the ice. With him children from the age of seven start playfully on a reconnaissance trip through the rough terrain of the Arctic. Especially cool: the exploratory bridge can be combined with the LEGO BOOST Robotic set to get exciting movement functions that control children with the coding commands from the LEGO BOOST app. That’s how boys and girls experience classic LEGO building fun combined with digital gaming experiences and initial programming experience. Playfully, they use the app to steer the reconnaissance truck, which was converted to a forklift truck, for example via rough terrain or transport the scanning station to the excavation site. Of course, young builders can go into eternal ice even without the use of the LEGO BOOST Roboticset. The play set makes it possible to explore the area on a snowmobile or to take samples from the ice with the half-tracked vehicle. Details like a polar bear and a camera complete the research trip in the nursery.

The cargo plane takes off in icy air. This extensive set includes a heavy duty quadrocopter with rotating rotors and landing skids. Children over the age of six grope their way as Arctic climbers to the crevasse and let the plane hover in the right position. Using rope, hooks and a winch, they attach the block of ice and fly it to land.

The adventurous investigations in ice continue with the Mobile Arctic Research Station. With this detailed set, children over the age of seven can set up camp in the Arctic and study extinct creatures. As inquisitive researchers, they use the circular saw to liberate rare finds from the ice and then start on the snow motorbike for more exciting expeditions.

By train through the LEGO City world

Get in please! With the passenger train , children from the age of six on a rapid ride through the LEGO City world. The motorized locomotive can be driven via the new Bluetooth remote control or via the new LEGO City Train app in ten different speed levels. But before young train drivers really pick up speed, they first create their very own route with the rail segments and the buildable platform. In this case, both the top of the train and the engine cab can be opened. Also enough provisions are provided in the two cars: muffins, hot dogs and a croissant are on the menu. This allows kids to reenact realistic train experiences in a creative way.

Via google translate/LEGO Germany.

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