‘Brainlink’ lets you remotely control toy robots and other gadgets

December 16, 2011

Brainlink (credit: CMU)

Carnegie Mellon University spin-off BirdBrain Technologies has developed a device called Brainlink that adds a wireless Bluetooth link to robots and other gadgets, allowing users to remotely control them with an Android-based smartphone or computer.

The Brainlink system uses a small triangular controller that you attach to the gadget, with a Bluetooth range of 30 feet.

Auxiliary connectors allow you to add new sensors and actuators to your robot or device, such as multiple digital and analog sensors, accelerometer, and light sensor, enabling the robot to respond directly to changes in movement, light, sound, temperature, air quality, etc.

By adding a proximity sensor, for instance, you can help iRobot’s Roomba vacuum cleaner avoid hitting walls (see video below).


Brainlink connected to a Roooba (credit: CMU)

“Millions of Robosapiens, Roombas and other consumer robots have been sold and many of these could serve as great platforms for education or research,” said Tom Lauwers, who heads BirdBrain Technologies. “By giving these devices Bluetooth links to Android phones and laptops and adding ports for sensors, we can repurpose these robots in ways that couldn’t have been foreseen when they were made.”

The Brainlink device can also be used to control anything that has an IR remote control, including TVs, cable boxes, and DVD players.