Intelligent Lego

Max More (
Tue, 27 Jan 1998 11:48:09 -0800

If you, like me, enjoyed Lego as a child, you'll find this interesting
(even more so if you have children). In fact, I'm tempted to go back to
playing with Lego now...



<excerpt>A thinking Lego? Blocks now come with computer chips=20

Copyright =A9 1998

Copyright =A9 1998 Reuters=20

LONDON (January 27, 1998 12:49 p.m. EST - Toy maker
Lego unveiled on Tuesday the world's first thinking child's building

The Danish company launched an intelligent brick equipped with a
micro-computer that will enable children to design, build and program
their own robots.

The manufacturer of interlocking plastic building bricks used by children
all over the world unveiled products it dubbed "a new generation of
intelligent construction toys and learning tools for children" and
incorporating computer technology.

"Now we are able to put the Lego universe into the computer and the
computer into the Lego brick," said Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, the
third-generation owner and president of the international group, at the
official launch in London.

The basic construction brick was created in 1949 and the addition of
wheels, gears and motors in the 1960s enabled children to build machines
that move.

This third level of innovation allows the new generation of
computer-literate children to give their creations a personality.

A personal computer is used to program the Lego invention using the
intelligent brick which controls the model's motors. Sensors allow the
model to react and respond to its environment independently of the

"When children combine the three levels, there is basically no limit to
what they can create," Kristiansen said.

Gordon Carpenter, Managing Director of Lego UK Ltd, said
computer-literate children aged 10 and older would be able to grasp the
basics of the system in under an hour and would soon be dealing with
concepts previously taught only at university.

"It adds even more to our concepts of aiding imagination, creativity and
development in children," he said.

The privately-owned Lego company has been working on the project for over
a decade with Dr Seymour Papert, Professor of Learning Research at the
Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

"When you give children this kind of material, very often they perform at
an intellectual level that astonishes their teachers and themselves," he

Children testing the new product have built and programmed musical
instruments which play tunes when light sensors read different colours
and a robotic arm that could pick up a soft-drink can.

A nine-year-old girl built a bird feeder digitally linked to a camera
which took pictures of every bird that landed on the feeder platform.

Lego has also created a computer game to complement the intelligent brick
used in the models, providing a futuristic fantasy environment called
Lego Technic City of Tomorrow which sets the scene for models that 'come
alive' on the floor.