Volvo Construction Equipment (Volvo CE) and LEGO Technic construction toys have joined creative forces with a team of children to design a futuristic, autonomous construction machine. The result: The LEGO Technic Volvo Concept Wheel Loader ZEUX set, scheduled for release in toy stores in August 2018, and the digital prototype for a real-world autonomous machine.
What started out as a fun, informal team-building event to inspire the Volvo CE and LEGO Technic design teams gradually evolved into an idea for an actual LEGO Technic product. Their goal: Design the construction machines of the future. The collaboration has led to a number of potentially revolutionary patents.
Autonomous lawnmowers and vacuum cleaners are already a familiar sight in homes around the world and are generally considered safe to be around. And as the first self-driving cars were tested on roads, the gear wheels were turning in the heads of designers at Volvo CE in Sweden and the LEGO Group in Denmark, as they worked to find new ways to increase safety and bring a more human aspect to the artificial intelligence in big construction machines.
A focus group consisting of children helped out in the process of creating the ZEUX, at top. Looking at early drawings and models, the group gave feedback that led to the development of new, unique features. Two main features that the group decided on were the scout drone and the adjustable “camera” boom mounted on the roof of the vehicle, called the Eye. In addition to the scout drones and built-in sensors a real-life model would have, the Eye illustrates a new and inventive feature: it will show exactly where the vehicle’s “attention” is directed, which means it can make “eye contact” with humans and acknowledge their presence.
“We have enjoyed a truly fun and productive collaboration with the LEGO® Technic team over the past few years,” said Arvid Rinaldo, Brand Communication & Partnerships at Volvo CE.
“It allowed us to test ideas for new types of construction machines for the future, both in terms of functionality, scale, design and interaction. This model may seem futuristic now, but autonomous, connected and electric construction machines are already starting to be a reality. The Volvo Concept Wheel Loader ZEUX is a realistic next step in the exciting evolution of our construction machines.”
“We wanted to cooperate with a premium toy manufacturer, just as we are a premium player in the construction equipment sector. Volvo CE and the LEGO® Group together create a perfect match, both culturally and in what we try to achieve in our products—exploring together how we can build tomorrow,” he added.
“Volvo CE and the LEGO Group share the same values when it comes to our requirements for quality and usability, while at the same time pushing the boundaries of creativity and functionality,” said Andrew Woodman, Senior Design Manager for LEGO Technic. “It has been very motivating helping Volvo CE to develop what could be the future of construction machines.”
Facts about the 42081 Volvo Concept Wheel Loader ZEUX:
—Futuristic LEGO Technic concept model developed in collaboration with Volvo CE
—New, inventive Eye function to illustrate intuitive interactions between humans and the machine
—Working boom and bucket
—Moving counterweight by raising and lowering chassis
—Comes with a mapping drone
—Articulated four-wheel steering
—Building instructions for an alternative model, a Volvo Concept Hauler PEGAX, available online
—Facilitates co-play: the main and alternative models are both designed for construction site play so the two can work together