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Brainlink Gives Any Robot a New Brain

For just $125, you can instill your old robot with some new smarts

2 min read
Brainlink Gives Any Robot a New Brain

Roomba is a reasonably clever robot. Heck, for a vacuum, it's brilliant. But compared to other robots, it's lacking some sensors and skills that are starting to become downright basic. Roomba could use a new brain, and since it's a robot, you can actually just go and do that now.

Brainlink is a little piece of hardware that can augment (or replace) the brain that's currently powering your robot. Yes, your robot. Any robot at all, pretty much, as long as it's controllable with an IR remote or a serial connector or some other common type of interface. Brainlink itself (the plastic triangle thingy in the above pic) talks to your Android phone (or a computer) via Bluetooth, enabling programming and wireless control of whatever it's attached to.

In addition to providing a new programming interface for robots that may not come with one, Brainlink can also be configured to use a wide variety of sensors. A three-axis accelerometer and a light sensor are built in, and there's a whole heap of digital and analog connectors that make it easy to plug in, say, proximity sensors to keep your Roomba from running into stuff. Watch:

The overall idea with Brainlink is that there are a bunch of robots out there (I'm looking at you, WowWee) available for very cheap with fundamentally sort of decent hardware, but no easy way to get them to do what you want. Brainlink provides these less-than-clever robots with a new level of usefulness that makes them suitable for anyone with desire and some basic programming skills to mess with. A Brainlink module will set you back $125, but I'd say that's not too much to ask for a brand new brain, right?

[ Brainlink ]

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The Bionic-Hand Arms Race

The prosthetics industry is too focused on high-tech limbs that are complicated, costly, and often impractical

12 min read
A photograph of a young woman with brown eyes and neck length hair dyed rose gold sits at a white table. In one hand she holds a carbon fiber robotic arm and hand. Her other arm ends near her elbow. Her short sleeve shirt has a pattern on it of illustrated hands.

The author, Britt Young, holding her Ottobock bebionic bionic arm.

Gabriela Hasbun. Makeup: Maria Nguyen for MAC cosmetics; Hair: Joan Laqui for Living Proof

In Jules Verne’s 1865 novel From the Earth to the Moon, members of the fictitious Baltimore Gun Club, all disabled Civil War veterans, restlessly search for a new enemy to conquer. They had spent the war innovating new, deadlier weaponry. By the war’s end, with “not quite one arm between four persons, and exactly two legs between six,” these self-taught amputee-weaponsmiths decide to repurpose their skills toward a new projectile: a rocket ship.

The story of the Baltimore Gun Club propelling themselves to the moon is about the extraordinary masculine power of the veteran, who doesn’t simply “overcome” his disability; he derives power and ambition from it. Their “crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks, caoutchouc [rubber] jaws, silver craniums [and] platinum noses” don’t play leading roles in their personalities—they are merely tools on their bodies. These piecemeal men are unlikely crusaders of invention with an even more unlikely mission. And yet who better to design the next great leap in technology than men remade by technology themselves?

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