For the last week, I’ve been huddled over bags of Lego bricks, following instructions oh so painstakingly. Dozens of tiny connectors lay scattered at my feet.

Hours later, I made a farting robot.

Lego Boost isn’t a regular Lego kit: it’s a connected, programmable robotics set. It pairs with a tablet or phone with Bluetooth. It has motors and proximity sensors. And it might be the best all-in-one Lego kit I’ve ever seen. But it’s definitely a challenge. And, in the last week, I’ve sucked down a Lego rabbit hole.

Unlike Lego Mindstorms, the brick company’s “expert” line, Lego Boost aims younger, at kids 7-12. (There’s another kit, Lego WeDo, that’s similar but education-targeted.). Boost has a mix of standard Lego bricks and Technic-type pieces, which means that these robots can be enhanced or customized with other Lego pieces. That’s a big deal.

Lego Boost is also a robot kit, and it’s more advanced than you might think. A central Bluetooth-connected motorized hub with two separate modules come included. The hub drives motors that can lift arms, make treads move, or turn robot heads. One module has sensors that measure proximity and color. The other has an additional motor.

840 pieces come in the kit for $160, which isn’t bad by Lego standards. The kit can make more than one robot, too; in fact, the set has instructions for five main creations, and can be customized to others. Also, everything can be programmed with block-based coding tools in a connected phone/tablet app… which, by the way, you need to use Lego Boost.

So, here’s how I built what I built.

Part one: Vernie

Two hours, and following over a hundred steps on the iPad app, I had a rolling robot straight out of an ’80s movie. Vernie is adorable.

None of Lego Boost’s robots can make sounds on their own, but your paired phone or tablet can make it sound like it has sound effects. The app has a giant sound board of hundreds of phrases and effects, ranging from pleasant greetings to a spectrum of flatulence. The vast (and sometimes confusing) app also can record new voice samples for some of its various parts.

Lego Boost has a lot of unlockable extras, and that’s fantastic. I tested on a beta build with most parts unlocked already. I found it got a little confusing to know where to go next, though, and how to make things happen in different sections of the app. There are a number of minigame-like areas to make Vernie dance and move, and it’s hard to figure out where to start.

But Vernie is the star of the show, and I could see paying $100 or more for him alone.

Rock on.


Lori Grunin/CNET

Part two: Electric guitar

It’s a little crazy that this kit can also build a playable guitar-like toy, complete with a whammy bar. I built that one next around the same core and sensors as Vernie the robot.

Several hours later, I had a mini-banjo-like electric guitar replica. It doesn’t have its own speakers, but it plays sound via a connected phone or tablet, like a little amp. The coolest part is that it has a strummable lever, and the moving fret-like control near the top works by triggering distance sensors that convert that into notes.



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