Toy firetrucks that you build and then program. Imagine your iPhone (or compatible Android device) controlling the firetruck - flashing its lights, making sounds, driving around, extending its ladder, maybe even detect fires and putting them out? All using familiar building blocks.
Or maybe you have a brilliant idea for a hardware project to add to the "Internet of Things" and you need a solid, modular framework to prototype and eventually deploy?
BRYX are iPhone controllable, Arduino programmable, LEGO compatible building blocks. We take custom 2x4 building blocks and embed tiny circuit boards with power, smarts, sensors, lights, speakers, motors, etc.
Similar to the Arduino "shield" concept, we add functionality by simply stacking BRYX. BRYX are currently programmable via Arduino IDE and soon from mobile devices over Bluetooth 4.0.
The following pics show a sampling of our prototype pieces, both inside and out:
Video demonstrating iPhone/Bluetooth connectivity. You've always wanted to talk to your LEGOs...
BRYXlite - a RGB USB status light - ATTINY85 with RGB LED. The 'standalone' BRYX: plug this into your computer's USB port and have it strobe when you receive an email. Plug it into a 5V USB wall wart charger and use it as a night light. You can program it, so you can decide!
mcuBRYX - ATMEGA328 microcontroller (the 'brains') with RGB LED
BRYXel - Programmable RGB LED
usbBRYX - Allows a computer with Arduino IDE to program the MCU BRYX, also currently used to supply power to BRYX.
bt40BRYX - Allows a Bluetooth Smart enabled device (iPhone, some Android phones, plus iPad and some Android tablets) to communicate AND SOON PROGRAM the AVR via Bluetooth 4.0 (aka Bluetooth Smart)
BRYXlite: USB-A + programmable RGB
BRYXel: usbBRYX + BRYXel (programmable RGB)
iBRYX: mcuBRYX + bt40BRYX + usbBRYX
BRYXshield: BRYXshield + mcuBRYX + usbBRYX
BRYXin' The TARDIS: TARDIS + mcuBRYX + bt40BRYX + usbBRYX
Producing BRYX will involve several steps; this list describes how we plan to execute each:
Plastic production - The company we've used to make our prototype plastic pieces is capable, and willing, to do a production run for us. They have proven manufacturing capacity in the volumes we'd require for our campaign, and we've pre-negotiated the next steps in going to production. Our costs here are well known from the prototype phase, indeed getting the plastic mold made for a production run is one of the reasons we've reached out to the Kickstarter community.
PCB construction and assembly - Again, we plan to use the same companies for production that we used for prototyping. We've been through the process of submitting PCB designs and layouts to both the PCB manufacturer and the PCB assembly house, and thus we know that our PCBs are viable and producible. We have the added benefit that both the board manufacturer and the assembler are local; we can (and have) expedited order submits and pickups. We have verified that each company can provide the volumes we need for our campaign and that each can accommodate our production/delivery schedule. Costs are known from prototyping here as well, but we have the benefit of scale: the more BRYX we produce, the cheaper the electronic components become as we will be able to take advantage of volume discounts.
Final unit assembly, test, and shipping - For this step, we investigated several options. One is to use a local manufacturing firm with experience in final product assembly. Another option, and the choice which we've baselined in our cost estimates, is to hire local workers and train them in the final assembly process. We have already lined up someone to manage this step, and we know several folks who would be willing to pick up the assembly work. Additionally, we are currently working on a test harness wherein the assembled BRYX will be pre-loaded with software (for the MCU Bryx) and given an electrical checkout (all BRYX). Shipping will be handled by our assembly/test manager, and we've budgeted for that accordingly.
Software - This portion we will do ourselves. We have 30+ years of combined experience in C/C++ and embedded programming, and have been using the Arduino environment for the last several years as hobbyists.
We envision BRYX becoming a full featured building block environment, but there's still a lot of work to do. Part of our Kickstarter proceeds will go towards R&D, including creating prototypes, of the next phase:
BRYXsound - Like a speaker for your BRYX creations. Check back soon for sound-specific apps (like a keyboard for you phone, where the notes play on your BRYX).
BRYXmotor - Build a Lego car and, in conjunction with an iBRYX package, drive it around with your phone as the remote.
BRYXservo - Make robots out of your existing Lego sets.
BRYXors - Simple BRYX sensors like distance (proximity), acceleration, temperature, sound, etc.
BRYXBatt - Currently, all BRYX are powered over USB; our plan is to develop a battery that will look and connect like a standard BRYX block.
We are unemployed spacecraft simulation and test engineers, and consult on various robotic and manned space missions. Recent cutbacks in the aerospace industry have left us without work. So, we made BRYX. Unfortunately, we have run out of money, and need your help to bring BRYXco to fruition.
First and foremost, our expertise is in designing and testing software for spaceships, not building thousands of bricks. We are working with excellent talent and companies who do know about these things, but we want to be certain that we have plenty of time and margin to successfully overcome the inevitable hurdles and the things we don't know we don't know. Getting production lines up and running can be challenging. That said, we believe we have the margin to meet our goal of a January delivery.
Plastic is a question. The urethane prototypes are functional, but do not quite grip as well as the ABS production plastic will. We may have to iterate on the recipe to get it just right.
We will - soon! Bluetooth 4.0 (Bluetooth Smart) support has just made it into Android 4.3, and isn't quite mainstream yet. We have installed Android 4.3, and have Bluetooth Smart connectivity, but we are waiting on the serial library (BRSP) from our Bluetooth vendor. Android support will be available by delivery in January, and hopefully we'll have a demonstration very soon!
We are very open source friendly. Since BRYX are based on Arduino, software will be primarily sketches, available to download and edit as you see fit. The iPhone/Android applications themselves will be open-sourced on a case by case basis. Distributing the BRSP serial protocol library is a bit tricky, as we don't own it, but we will work with the developer to try and make it available.
VIP SUPPORTER - This is our most important reward. Help us bring BRYX to life. We'll add you to our VIP mailing list and let you in on advanced news about new BRYX in production. Plus, as a VIP supporter, you will be in a unique position to recommend to us what BRYX you would like to have!
This reward includes everything you need to program the MCU RGB BRYX and control it via BT 4.0 compatible device (such as an iPhone 5, or some Android phones with Bluetooth Smart).
Or you can use the supplied iOS (check back soon for Android!) app to interface with the pre-loaded Arduino sketch, which will give you control of on/off, fading, blinking, and color of the RGB LED on the MCU RGB BRYX. No programming required!