Wednesday, February 22, 2006


A brainopedia is something like a constructopedia, but for software.

Tradionally, when people exchange software, the software is ready made. That makes it very hard to learn from it. It is like someone hands you a complete (and complicated) Lego Technic vehicle, and asks you to build a second one. You have to start taking it apart, and it takes a long time for you to figure out why someone did things the way they are done. Using a constructopedia, where you have step-by-step instructions really explains the design.

In software, you also have step by step tutorials. Unfortunately, these usually address a simple problem, and then it is up to you to combine these into more complicated programs. It is like knowing how to use the Lego bricks, getting all the bricks, and now it is up to you to invent that Lego Technic vehicle. That is very complicated.

Lego Mindstorms NXT comes with powerful graphical development environment. I propose to store visual programs in a brainopedia, which starts the program with just a few instructions, and gradually expands the program. Unlike a constructopedia, it would be good to include lots of written descriptions of why you introduce the block, and how it relates to the hardware.

So, a brainopedia is like a prolonged tutorial that ends in a complex program.

Building on the previous articles in this blog on the Wiki-Constructopedia, it makes sense to allow anyone to augment the programs in the brainopedia, thereby creating a Wiki-Brainopedia. This is not only a great way to store your software (and design) for later use, it also brings insights to others.

Because you can see the robot move based on your instructions, I'm hoping a Wiki-Brainopedia is a great way to learn how to create software.

What do you think?


At February 23, 2006 12:08 AM , Blogger Jim Kelly said...

Since the LabView software APPEARS to have built-in tutorials/walkthroughs for the 18 challenges, I'm HOPING that this means there is a library of component images for use with LDraw or other application. This would certainly keep LEGO from having to create the walkthroughs from scratch each time.

With that said, I also hope that there is a built in file structure with the software, capable of organizing the programs and add-ons (if any) to the software.

Your Brainopedia idea will work if enough contributors get behind it - it may even be that it already exists and LEGO will roll it out at a later time. They already have a website where users can upload the pictures of their designs. I'm hoping that NXT will have an online database of programs that can be searched, downloaded, etc...

(It would also be great if there some sort of built-in commenting system with the LabView software, so you can provide comments/explanations for the designs.


At February 23, 2006 10:12 AM , Anonymous Filip said...

Hi Jim,

Personally, I believe it would make more sense for Lego to have these bricks in CAD software for various purposed (including production). They would have something internal that resembles LDraw, but that is based on whatever CAD software they are using. To build a challenge, they build the model step by step, and export the image each time.

I was thinking that Mindstorms isn't new, and RoboLab (Educational version) was also based on LabVIEW. To the best of my knowledge, there is no equivalent of a wiki-brainopedia to date. Off course, it is unclear what new initiatives Lego is taking. I'd be really very happy if they did have similar initiatives!

I agree with you that it is better to wait until LabVIEW can be analysed and see how it is best integrated with both LabVIEW and Lego's own initiatives.


PS. How do you keep finding that news on your site!?

At February 23, 2006 2:55 PM , Blogger Jim Kelly said...

What news are you referring to, Filip?

At February 23, 2006 5:55 PM , Anonymous Filip said...

I was referring to this article on your blog, written during the period that you were supposed to be out for the day job, and can't have had a lot of time to flip through the web.


At February 23, 2006 6:55 PM , Blogger Jim Kelly said...

I submitted that one via GoToMyPC... it's a program I use to access my desktop from the road (via my laptop). I had limited access to the internet from my client's office (I can't bill them for my blogging time - would be nice, though) and would sneak away at various times. Submitting from my phone was too much of a hassle and I don't think it was working correctly anyway.

As for the source of that audio... honestly can't remember. Someone on a forum posted a link that led to a link that led to a link... sort of stumbled on it. As you can see, it's a bit dated, but it was still nice to listen to. Did you catch that bit about a 'temperature sensor' being included??

At February 23, 2006 8:08 PM , Anonymous Filip said...

Yes, I did hear that, but he quickly changed to another sensor.

He did say that picking of colored balls was due to the ultrasonic sensor, which is clearly not the case. I'm sure he was just thinking ahead too quickly and was already into his next sentence here (on navigation).

But because of that, I kind of thought the temperature sensor was a minor slip-up, that he really meant the light sensor.


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