Tuesday, February 07, 2006
LEGO has seen the future -- again
The sign at the entrance to the super-secret LEGO Global Innovation and Marketing facility reads: We will do for robotics what iPod did for music. Guess what? Someone beat LEGO to the punch. An artist named Tomi creates PodBrix and sells them on his Website. According to Tomi, PodBrix are minifigs inspired by the popular ad campaign for portable music players. “I start with a standard LEGO® brand minifig and modify it by hand to create the desired appearance. Each one is slightly different.”
Okay—maybe that’s not what LEGO had in mind. They’ve been searching for a Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card ever since their profits plummeted. The last time I wrote about them, they were big into mass customization. Now, according to an article in Wired, it’s robotics. LEGO is about to unveil its newest robotic incarnation, Mindstorms NXT. This robot is fully programmable and works with USB and Bluetooth. It comes with ultrasound, sound, light and touch sensors; and three interactive servo motors. But it’s no toy—according to a LEGO survey from 1999, 70 percent of Mindstorms users were adults.
LEGO is comparing apples to iPods. If you Google “robotics kit,” you get 2.18 million pages. But Google iPod and you get 172 million pages. I’m not sure what this correlates to, but in some primitive fashion I think it shows that LEGO is no iPod. For me the question is: Is there still a broad market for LEGO? Or is LEGO trading in its mainstream appeal for a niche market? I don’t have an answer. Some somehow, I’m not convinced that LEGO has one either.
One more thing. If you have a minute, visit The Brick Testament. It’s scenes from the Bible, rendered in LEGO® brand bricks. It’s a must-see, regardless of your religious beliefs.
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