NXT Turing machine

This interesting use of Lego popped up on the mailing list of the University of Bergen. Build by a group of Norwegian Danish students, it’s a simple computer that implements Alan Turing’s design from 1937. Having both read and write functions, it implements its own (somewhat inefficient) medium of non-volatile memory. What we find interesting is that rather than move the ‘tape’ through the machine, the machine rolls over the tape. Thanks to [Thorsten] for the tip.

Comments

  1. jbot says:

    It’s official: I NEED an NXT kit for Christmas.

    Also, first!

  2. mickern says:

    Don’t know anything about the students, but Århus is in Denmark. ;)

  3. anon says:

    I would have guessed that the LEGO™ gears would not allow fine enough control. There is a lot of play in them.

  4. cacovsky says:

    Simply amazing, loved the background music.

  5. IceBrain says:

    Awesome stuff!

    I love how it combines storage of enormous sized bits with bluetooth communication :P

  6. Tixlegeek says:

    Damn… Since i’m a child, i ask my parents to make them buying me some Mindstorm…. But i’ts still too expensive !

    Now that i’m a big and strong young men hwo lives alone in a little appartment, it still to expensive.

    This is my punishement for usign Real mode programming, ASM, and Pics… u___u

    So this is a really awesome build! “This is the power between our hands, a powerful computer built from Legos”

    ++

  7. vester says:

    Yes, we are not norwegian.. We are from Denmark :)
    And you can see a Lego Designer at our blog to see how it is built

  8. madmaze says:

    @anon: ye but he keeps track of the curent position with a light sensor on the side of the track..

  9. Punkguyta says:

    Ever since the first generation Lego Mindstorms kit came out, I’ve craved to own one. I’ve played with several of the kits, and only touched the tip of the iceburg on what they were capable of doing, and what could be built with them.

    Then lego introduced the NXT mindstorm. I’ve never laid hands on one, but from what I’ve seen online, they have an incredible amount of uses like demonstrated here.

    My question is however, does anyone actually know what use this is as a calculator/volatile memory device?

  10. grovenstien says:

    awsome! technic lego hashelped me to figure out many of lifes problems!

  11. sol says:

    @Punkguyta
    the ‘use’ is to gain an appreciation of where all this came from.

  12. sinrtb says:

    (Given Infinite Tape) There is nothing your PC can do that a Turing complete machine cannot do. The difference is in speed, but not capability.
    And as sol and the makers pointed out having a machine that can physically complete the operations of DFAs and NFAs would greatly help in working out how it all works.

  13. alan says:

    turning machine!!! cool!

    nerds….

  14. Punkguyta says:

    @sol

    I agree, it is pretty amazing to see something like a computer constructed out of a computer, but what can it do, can it be hooked to a computer to do useful operations?

    @sinrtb

    “(Given Infinite Tape) There is nothing your PC can do that a Turing complete machine cannot do. The difference is in speed, but not capability.”

    Will it play doom?

  15. localroger says:

    OF COURSE it can play Doom, but you will probably evolve into a different species before you make it to the next level.

  16. sgf says:

    Awesome! I’ve always wanted to do a physical TM, but lacked the time, motivation, and all that stuff… It’s wonderful to see someone actually go do it. And the video on top… genius!

  17. Alan Parekh says:

    Nice project! Was it just me or did anyone else have visions of the A-Team flashing back in their head?

  18. arrangemonk says:

    the turing picture looks like “lol” when its small

  19. PlastBox says:

    I must say, that is quite cool! Useful? Practical? Absolutely not! A good learning experience? For sure!

    Not having read any of the details quite yet, I assume they implemented the “virtual cpu” on the NXT, so that the Turing machine can be programmed with flipping glorious Lego bits.

    And yes, a Turing machine can –by definition– do any operation that any other computer can. I don’t know how many miles of Lego bits they’d need to program it to do something like multiplication but “given infinite tape” (as was stated above) and near-infinite time this thing could multiplicate, divide or even run linux.

  20. eDave says:

    Normally such epic music would be inexcusable, but in this case seems appropriate. This is a seriously epic hack.

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