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MIT's Eric von Hippel: Open Innovation & LEGO Mindstorms

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Periergeia Avatar
Posted: 07.03.10, 08:12 PM
Lego's products are wonderful... for kids. But real engineers have a lot better to play with. If someone wants to build really innovative products, they can get the grown-up version of all of this easily from the catalogs of industrial control and automation companies. One could buy any and all of this for years, and much more... and, to be honest, if one wants to build a lego kind of system with professional components, it really doesn't take more than a couple of days to drive a dozen cheap RC servos (of which one can buy hundreds of varieties these days, ranging from ultra-miniature to fairly solid force, torque and power output) with a simple microcontroller for ten dollars. Throw in the development tools for $50 and you are up and running. The real problem is that having a bunch of servos do the dance does usually not lead to an "innovative" design. It might lead to nice toys (robotic creatures of all sorts) and some eye catching research into autonomous systems, but from there to a real product is a long, hard and expensive way. As an engineer one would wish that Legos could change that... but, sadly, they can't.