Mindstorms 51515 Robot Inventor Announced

LEGO Mindstorms has been a mainstay of the educational/robotics platform of the LEGO Product line for over 20 years now. Today, the LEGO Group has announced 51515 Robot Inventor, replacing the EV3 set, 31313, after 7 years. Based around the same hub as the Spike Prime ducational system (set 34567) .While Spike Prime is set to remain aimed at the classroom environment, the new Mindstorms Robot Inventor is much more a consumer set. Like the educational equivalent, it the new Mindstorms is programmed using a scratch like language, on either computer, tablet or phone. Unlike the other programmable Powered Up elements- such as Boost, Smart hub, or Technic Smart Hub- once the program is uploaded, the connection to the app does not need to be maintained for the program to run.

Read On for the Press release, and further thoughts:

Today, the LEGO Group has announced the first addition to the much-loved LEGO® MINDSTORMS® theme in seven years. The new LEGO MINDSTORMS Robot Inventor 5-in-1 set unleashes a new world of fun, creative coding possibilities and provides the ultimate playful learning experience for young inventors and creators. 

For over two decades, LEGO MINDSTORMS has inspired those of all ages to test and build their confidence with technology through play. By combining the LEGO building system with robotic and coding elements, builders can create anything they can imagine, while developing the STEM skills that 7 in 10 parents say are essential to their child’s future success[1].

This latest evolution of the much-loved theme continues this commitment to helping children develop STEM skills in a fun and exciting way at home. The new LEGO MINDSTORMS Robot Inventor 5-in-1 model gives builders aged 10+ the power to bring one of the set’s five unique designs to life or take their own builds to the next level by programming them to walk, talk, think and do more than ever before. Kids can also code their own remote-control features for the models in the LEGO MINDSTORMS Robot Inventor app or connect their own controllers to the app using Bluetooth. 

From your new sidekick Charlie to action hero Blast, the five personality-packed bots or new intelligent creations can be easily controlled remotely using the LEGO MINDSTORMS Robot Inventor app. The app is also packed with over 50 fun coding challenges and awesome activities to help those of all abilities build coding confidence. The app uses drag-and-drop coding language based on Scratch to support those getting into coding for the first time, as well as Python for advanced coders looking for new challenges.

Packed with 949 pieces and new LEGO Powered UP components, the LEGO MINDSTORMS Robot Inventor will be available in early Q4 2020 from LEGO.com, LEGO Retail Stores and retailers globally. The LEGO MINDSTORMS Robot Inventor 5-in1 set will be priced at £329.99/$359.99/€359.99 and includes digital building and coding instructions for these five unique robots:

  • Blast – this master robot is a stoic action hero. It can fire or hammer its way through obstacles and grab items. Builders can be the ultimate commanders, programming it to scan its environment and fire darts if it senses danger. Perfect for guarding your room!
  •   Charlie – this quirky sidekick helper can give out high fives, dance, play the drums, deliver small gifts, and charm friends with its smile. 
  • Tricky – the sporty bot is the ultimate athlete. Code it to complete the perfect slam dunk or master a plethora of robot sports: basketball, bowling or soccer – the list goes on and on. 
  • Gelo – a real life four-legged robot. Its unique mechanism means it can walk, avoid obstacles, and even perform tricks. 
  • M.V.P. – The Modular Vehicle Platform gets the job done. Create and code your own remote control and build the M.V.P. into a buggy, a crane, a shooter turret or even a brick-eating truck to pick up LEGO bricks left by the other robots.

Lena Dixen, Head of Product and Marketing Development at the LEGO Group, commented: “Since the launch of LEGO MINDSTORMS over 20 years ago, we’ve been committed to helping children and adults develop STEM skills through play. We are extremely excited to introduce a new MINDSTORMS product that offers even more creative opportunities for those of all ages, and we thank our fans for continuing to show us what is possible with LEGO MINDSTORMS. We are continually inspired by the creations the community share with us and hope that the LEGO MINDSTORMS Robot Inventor inspires many more children and playful adults to explore the exciting world of robotics and coding.”

LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Robot Inventor (51515)

  • The LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Robot Inventor Kit is intended for builders and coders ages 10+ to discover and expand on their STEM skills at home. 
    • 949 pieces
    • 5 unique models to build and code
    • The largest robot Blast stands at over 14” (36 cm) tall
    • The free LEGO® MINDSTORMS® Robot Inventor coding app for kids uses coding language based on Scratch and supports Python for more advanced coders.
    • The application works across PC Windows 10 + macOS, iOS and Android tablets and smartphones as well as specific Fire OS devices. Please see updated list at www.lego.com/devicecheck  
  • New elements include:
    •  The new Intelligent Hub is an advanced yet simple-to-use device featuring 6 input/output ports for connecting a variety of sensors and motors. The Hub can also be used with LEGO Technic and System elements to create fun robots, dynamic devices and other interactive models. 
      •  LED 5×5 matrix  
      • Bluetooth connectivity
      • 6 axis gyro/accelerometer
      •  Includes a micro USB port for connectivity with compatible devices
      •  Speaker
      •  Rechargeable Lithium-ion battery included
    • Colour sensor – able to distinguish between eight colors and measures reflected and ambient light from darkness to bright sunlight
    • Distance sensor – detects obstacles, programmable LED ‘eyes’ and an integrated 6-pin adaptor for third-party sensors, boards and DIY hardware.
    • 4 x medium-angular motors feature low-profile design, integrated rotation sensor with absolute positioning
    • New 7 x 11 teal baseplate
    • New black wheels
    • New frames

So, How does the 51515 Robot Inventor set compare with EV3 and Spike Prime, for components and price?

Mindstorms Robot Inventor 51515Spike Prime 45678EV3 31313
Hub6 port; ‘powered up’;
LED display on case.
Blueish green/white. Bluetooth
6 port;
‘powered up’;
LED display on case.
Bright yellowish orange/white
4 port, intelligent brick. matrix display, SD port. Linux based.
Sensors included:Distance x 1
Color x 1
built in 6 axis gyro and accelerometer
distance 1
Color x 1
force x 1
built in 6 axis gyro and accelerometer
distance (US) x 1
Colour x 1
touch x 1
Motors:4x medium angular servo motors (light stone grey)2 medium;
1 large
angular servo motors ( light azur)
2x large sevo
1 x small
Part count949523601
Price: AUD $549.99
NZD $629.99
USD/euro 359.99
GBP: £329.99
(Presumptive pricing)
AUD $515.00
NZD $574.95
AUD $499.99
USD/euro 349.99
GBP £299.99

As with previous Mindstorms set, 51515 comes with a number of Hero Models: EV3 seemed to have a number of models that looked rather aggressive in their styling and actions, but the style here appears to have returned to a more relaxed pace. Although, If I had the line up of those five walking across my desk, I suspect I might try to beat a hasty retreat, and reconsider my loyalties.

New Brains and Motors

The Intelligent Hub brick is not as directly interactive as the EV3 brick: no direct programming is possible from the brick itself. However, since it is based on the theme Powered Up architecture as the Technic sets using the Control+ App, as well as Trains and Boost, the system should be able to use any of the other existing Motors and sensors. And indeed they should be able to go the other way. Implementing Powered Up has been…a difficult exercise characterised by poor communications between the LEGO Group and the Fan Community, with many fans not liking the need for a tablet or phone to maintain interactive behaviours. At least the Intelligent Hub has a number of default behaviours built in, and, like the NXT and EV3 Smart Bricks, is able to store programs, and run them, once the programming environment has been removed.

Fewer plug-in sensors(in the box):

While the Spike prime and EV3 come with a touch sensor, this is missing from this set. I suspect it will be available from the LEGO shop online, at an exploitative price, in due course. The hub does have a 6 axis gyro, as well as an accelerometer built in.

New Programming Paradigm:

Unlike the previous Block oriented programming environments provided by NXT and EV3, the new system can be programmed using both Python and Scratch like languages, as the default. At this point in time, the Intelligent Hub does not connect to the Powered Up App. Hopefully, this simplistic option might become an option later on, for the benefit of unskilled programmers such as myself.

Coming Q4 2020…whenever that is

I like the look of the new set, although it would be nice to know the actual shipping dates. Spike Prime was delayed 6 months before it shipped, and we have had the pandemic interfering with regular life this year. Perhaps it will be staggered across different markets, as we saw with the Boost Toolkit when it came out. Of course, if you want to play with the new hardware, Spike Prime (34567) is available through Shop@home in the USA and Europe. In Australia and New Zealand, there are seperate distributors for LEGO Education – I’ve linked to them in the comparison table above. Overall, however, with the higher part count, 51515 looks like better value for money. I am sure that, in months to come, the motors will be available independently, through the Powered Up section of the online LEGO store. Probably at unreasonable prices.

I do like the fact that this new Mindstorms platform supports the Powered Up Connectors: the motors and sensors should be able to plug directly into any of the other hubs, and add to their functionality. Hopefully we will be able to control the existing motors and access the color and tilt sensors through the new hub over the next few years. That said, the colour sensor included in the Mindstorms/Spike prime sets is allegedly superior for colour recognition, when compared with the Boost light/colour and distance sensor block. Although, that also acts as a Infra red transmitter, capable of controlling Power Functions projects. Perhaps it can also be programmed to act as the IR beacon for Mindstorms too…(this might just be unnecessarily hopeful)

Of course, this new platform does not mean that any previous versions are out of date: NXT/NXT2 and EV3 might not be the current model, perhaps, but fortunately, but they have both been supported using the same software until now. Hopefully, this will continue to be supported, if only to ensure it survives operating system upgrades.

In the mean time, let me know what you think of the the set. I do wish 51515 was more colourful – like Spike Prime – what do you think? Leave your comments below, or join the conversation on Facebook or Twitter. And until next time,

Play Well.

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