In gearing up for season II of Gambier GigaFlops, my big priority has been to give kids more access to equipment. That includes not only robots but also the PC/laptops used to program them. Unfortunately, the laptops can cost as much if not more than the eV3 robots they control.
Currently, the Retail (and Education versions) of the LEGO eV3 Mindstorms software can be downloaded for Windows or Mac from the LEGO website. However, the LEGO eV3 Mindstorm software FAQ makes it clear this software will not run on cheaper tablets which a growing number of schools and individuals have.
LEGO does have a number of apps for both Apple and Android. The eV3 Mindstorm Android app comes with 3D instructions to build Retail Kit Robots but with very limited functionality to control these robots for those who basically don’t want to program. The Apple iOS app has even less functionality (no 3D build instructions) to have some remote control over the Retail Robot builds.
The good news is that things are changing for the better. One nice development is the rise of Windows 8/8.1 tablets rather than the more limited Windows RT Surface Tablets. These devices purportedly run a full-scale Windows 8/8.1 OS and thus should be able to run the LEGO eV3 Mindstorms more affordably than a full-blown Windows 8/8.1 laptop. Microsoft and LEGO have even partnered to allow eV3 robots to incorporate MS tablets into their system.
Just announced for release the month (March 2015) is an iOS version of the eV3 Mindstorms software. Unfortunately, it looks like this will be a cut-down version of the full eV3 Mindstorm programming software. Still, it’s nice to have more alternatives to lower the price and broaden access to the eV3 robotics system.
The next logical step would be for LEGO to port their eV3 Mindstorms programming software to the Android Operating system so the very popular and affordable Chromebook platform could be used to learn eV3 programming.