Engineers, scientists, educators and exhibitors from all over the world came together to celebrate the 30th anniversary of National Instruments, as well as the 20th anniversary of the award-winning NI LabVIEW graphical development platform. NIWeek 2006, held Aug. 8-10 in Austin, TX, featured three full days of interactive technical sessions, exhibitions and workshops on the latest developments for automation, manufacturing, design and test. Here are some of the highlights.
NI celebrates labview's 20th with version 8.20
NIWeek kicked off its 30th birthday celebration with a more mature attitude than past gatherings of its zealous user community, focusing on new technologies and their benefits to users. Leading the advance is the latest version LabVIEW, which is celebrating 20 years in the market with the unveiling of LabVIEW 8.20.
Unlike prior NIWeek openings with motorcycles on stage and stop-action photos of water balloons being pierced by darts, demos this year were a bit less visceral, but no less impressive.
A real-time demo of LabVIEW 8.20's Web services got a thumbs up from a design team in Brazil, with shots from Google Earth that showed the Rio de Janeiro neighborhood that was communicating with the crowd in the Austin Convention Center. Another demo showed the music handling capabilities of LabVIEW and FPGA processors, as well as the deft spinning moves of an audience participant who tracked dance footsteps on a screen, stepping on squares on a sensor-laden mat in time to the music. LabVIEW CEO James Truchard and other speakers covered the history of LabVIEW, with a demo of LabVIEW 1.2 running on a decades-old Macintosh that had "a full Mbyte of memory."
But it is the new 8.20 that got the bulk of attention. The new release pushes the software further into the design side, adding MathScripts and object oriented programming. The mathematical capabilities let engineers bring mathematical models and algorithms into LabVIEW, either writing them in the NI language or importing them from other design tools such as MatLabs.
An FPGA wizard will make it simpler for engineers to program devices for different tasks. Also included is a Modulation Toolkit that gives engineers the ability to develop models to simulate communications systems and evaluate parameter and design decisions. The company also continues to upgrade its Graphical System Design capabilities, which have grown significantly since a light switch described binary changes in version 1. Read more information on NI's LabVIEW 8.20.
National Instruments Rolls Out Software Toolkit for Legos
Responding to a demand among adult Lego customers, National Instruments said it is rolling out the NI LabVIEW Toolkit for Lego Mindstorms NXT. The toolkit, targeted at the version of the well-known Mindstorms toy released last month, enables users to create and download virtual instruments to test the toy robots they build.
Lego representatives said last month that the new software toolkit is too advanced for many kids who play with the toy, but they added that they've long known a high percentage of adults buy and use Mindstorms. When Mindstorms was introduced in 1998, approximately 70 percent of users were adults. While that number has steadily dropped over the years, adults have nevertheless continued to make up a large population of the toy's customers. Lego and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) have worked together in the past, and discussion groups called Adult Fans of Lego (AFOL) have popped up on the Web. Most recently, a new Mindstorms discussion group has formed on the web called LV-AFOL (LabVIEW Adult Fans of Lego). In that group, users with strong LabVIEW backgrounds help those with Mindstorms knowledge, and vice versa.
"There are many, many engineers who use Mindstorms," notes Soren Lund, director of Lego Mindstorms in an interview at National Instruments NIWeek. "Many of them work with children as Mindstorms coaches and mentors, and many more just want to toy with our product."
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highlights from NI week 2006
. Get more information on Lego Mindstorms NXT