Updated 4/9/19 with some new information regarding the sensors from newly available datasheets.
Lego® just announced their brand-new (as of April 2019) robotics education kit, the SPIKE Prime. It's available for pre-order for US $329.95 from the Lego® Education Store as part number 45678, and is expected to ship in August.
The SPIKE Prime system appears to be using the same LPF2 (Lego® Power Functions 2.0) BluetoothLE communication system that they introduced with their PoweredUp and Boost robotics gear in the last few years. This new set introduces a new hub that now has 6 general purpose ports (up from 2 in their previous LPF2 systems), and an expanded set of peripherals such as sensors and motors. I'm hoping to update my Python library BrickNil to support this once it comes out.
The hub now appears to have a 5x5 programable segment LED display, a built-in rechargeable battery, as well as a built-in 6-axis accelerometer and speaker, and can be ordered separately for relatively pricey $248.
Even more exciting is that it says it's running an embedded MicroPython OS, so hopefully they will release the Python API at some point for downloadable programs. The processor inside is, however, only specc'ed at 100MHz.
The peripherals appear to include two small motors, one large motor, light sensor, distance sensor, and a touch sensor. Only the larger motor, which LEGO is calling Technic Large Angular Motor is currently available separately for pre-order for $35. According to some details from a LEGO developer, all the SPIKE motors support angular positioning capability with an absolute zero reference. Previous motors with angular movement would reset their zero reference to whatever position they were in at power-up, so this new feature should be quite interesting for resetting your system to a known state.
According to the datasheet on the distance sensor, there is easy access to a break-out pin header that should let anyone design and plug in their own hardware to expand this system with new sensors/actuators. I wonder if any third-party commercial devices will start becoming available (assuming Lego® publishes the UART and physical specification on this connector). Regardless, this should be quite easy for hobbyists to take advantage of.
Let's take a look and compare this with the two older LPF2 gear. The included peripherals between PoweredUp and Boost are interchangeable (also to a lesser extent with the Wedo educational set), so the hope is that SPIKE Prime will be compatible with the older gear as well, and possibly the new peripherals will plug-and-play with the older hubs.
|PoweredUp Train||Boost||SPIKE 45678|
|External motor (medium)||1||2|
|External motor (large)||1|
|Matrix display||✓ 5x5|
|Ultrasonic distance sensor||✓|
|Power||6 AAA||6 AAA||Rechargeable|
It does seem that the new SPIKE Prime hub opens up room for significantly increasing interaction with the environment with its support for a larger number of plug-in peripherals. I'm looking forward to getting my hands on one when they start shipping in the fall.