The new Lego Boost kit makes the classic bricks come to life with programmable motors and sensors. Three junior builders help us put it to the test

The Lego Boost kit, which arrives in stores for $160 on Aug. 1, updates the beloved plastic bricks with simple motors and sensors that connect wirelessly to a tablet. In the box, you get the pieces that can make a rolling robot named Vernie, a cat, a rover, a factory or an electric guitar. (Just not all at once.) You create basic programs by dragging and dropping icons, little blocks of code, in a companion tablet app.
Lego Boost, though, is immediately more approachable and cheaper than anything Lego has done in this space before.
lego boost

First, it’s a true marriage between your Lego robot creations and the tablet-based app (iOS or Android). Instead of programming through the central Move hub or brick, everything — from the instructions to the programming of the central brick, sensors, and motor — happens on the tablet. Lego Boost doesn’t getting mired in tech set-up and the minutiae of actual code. It gets you building and coding through a icon-based drag-and-drop interface as quickly as possible.also uses standard Lego bricks, which means you can add to it fromyour own collection.

Getting started with Lego Boost is, in one way, at least, just as daunting as it would be with any other 847-piece Lego set. There are 11 plastic bags full of pieces that, since they build five different models (you can only build one at a time), are not really organized in any way. Yes, the tail pieces for Frankie the Cat are all in one bag, but they are the exception.

If I have one criticism of this set, it’s that there is no easy way to find the tiny pieces you’re often looking for, except to go through each bag. To be fair, I chose to jump ahead and build one of the most complex Lego Boost projects, which meant I was searching for dozens of pieces through hundreds of build steps.

Normally, you’ll start by building and programming simple Lego robots and, with each success, the app guides you to progressively more complex projects and coding tasks.

lego boost
The colorful and inviting Lego Boost app (iOS and Android) starts by showing you a landscape of possible projects. You must complete basic building and coding tasks before you can access the tougher ones, which makes perfect sense when you think of Lego Boost as a fun-filled teaching tool.

The largely visual app does provide some crucial text to help you get up and running. The first step is putting six AAA batteries in the Move hub. As soon as you press the green power button, it connects via Bluetooth to your tablet.

The app drops you into an icon-based programming screen, but your first stop is going to be under the image of two Lego bricks at the top. I do wish the app automatically led me to these instructions, but I don’t think anyone will have much trouble figuring out where they are.

 Fortunately, Lego Boost makes the most of these instructions. There are large forward and back buttons to help you walk through each step and, better yet, a slider that lets you effortlessly scrub back and forth through the entire build.

I did start with a simple model that uses the Move Hub, Interactive Motor and Color & Distance Sensor. The latter two plug into the Move hub via proprietary flat cables. Following the simple on-screen instruction, it only took a few minutes to build the little, faceless Lego vehicle.
 It’s easy to keep things simple, making small robots with basic programs, but there is almost no limit to what you can program.

By the time you get to a build like Frankie the Cat, your programming screen offers eight different code block categories. Along with basic commands like Start and Stop and sensor-based commands, there are nested code blocks that let you build entire subroutines that you can drop into a program as a single block. Since it’s a visually based programming system, this isn’t as complicated as it sounds.

lego boostThe other major models you can build include a dump truck, and auto builder, and a slider guitar that uses the distance sensor to impressive effect. They all look like a lot of fun to build, but, to be honest, after spending more than two days building my model, I think I’ll just sit here and pet my Frankie the Cat.