A prototype is a preliminary model of something. Projects that offer physical products need to show backers documentation of a working prototype. This gallery features photos, videos, and other visual documentation that will give backers a sense of what’s been accomplished so far and what’s left to do. Though the development process can vary for each project, these are the stages we typically see:
Proof of Concept
Explorations that test ideas and functionality.
Demonstrates the functionality of the final product, but looks different.
Looks like the final product, but is not functional.
Appearance and function match the final product, but is made with different manufacturing methods.
Appearance, function, and manufacturing methods match the final product.
Understanding how the brain works is the final frontier of science. Our brains control everything we think, feel, and do, and yet there are few educational toys that allow us to experiment with the brain’s inner workings. We are here to change that with NeuroBytes!
NeuroBytes allow students, makers, and tinkerers to combine neuroscience and engineering with the fun and satisfaction that comes from hands-on play -- and there is no coding required. We have kits and experiments suitable for the classroom, homeschoolers, makerspaces, libraries, and just for fun! We want everyone to learn more about their amazing brain. What better way to do that than by building something powered by NeuroBytes?
A biological nervous system contains hundreds of different types of neurons that are specialized for sensing the environment, processing and integrating that sensation, and controlling different types of muscles. NeuroBytes simplify that complexity into a handful of modules that respond to touch and light, process these signals, and control motors that represent muscles.
Neurons work using a combination of electrical and chemical signaling. The color-coded LED on each NeuroBytes module illustrates how the electrical signaling works, and the cables that connect them together into circuits model the excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitter chemicals that neurons use to signal each other.
Like biological neurons, NeuroBytes are modular, so all of our kits are compatible with one another. Any circuits or kits can be added to in the future with additional NeuroBytes to create something completely new!
NeuroBytes are sold in kits, all of which can be used to explore a multitude of interesting neurological phenomena using common introductory projects:
NeuroBytes are Open Source Hardware as defined by the Open Source Hardware Association. That means all source files -- schematics, PCB layout, firmware, etc -- are shared freely in their original form. You can use NeuroBytes as they are to build complex and fascinating neural circuits, but if you want to dive deeper you can add to the foundation we created by inventing your own accessories and behaviors. If you buy a NID (Network Interface Device), you are well on your way; this device is capable of updating NeuroBytes boards with the latest operating firmware, and can be easily switched to upload your compiled programs rather than those from our repository.
We try to use free and open source software for producing these files (such as Inkscape and KiCad), so you should not need to make substantial investments in order to view and edit our files. Our previous NeuroBytes v0.91 were certified under the OSHWA Open Hardware Certification Program (US000024); we intend to apply for certification of our new ecosystem and will update backers when the certification process is complete.
If you wish to design and sell products based on NeuroBytes, please be sure to read the license files in each product repository. None of these licenses include a non-commercial clause, but we do protect the NeuroBytes® and NeuroTinker® names under trademark. Note that our licenses are also all ‘share-alike’ -- that means any derivative works must be shared under the same license.
(Please Note: if you would like to combine multiple kits together into one pledge, the easiest way is to use the "Make A Pledge Without A Reward" box at the top of the support column. Enter in the total cost for the combined kits you would like (plus shipping), make the pledge, and send us a message indicating which kits you are supporting with that pledge so we can account for it properly.
The Network Interface Device, or NID, unlocks the real power of your NeuroBytes boards. The NID interfaces with your Android device or computer and interacts with a connected NeuroBytes network. You can view the real-time membrane potential of any board on the same network, adjust dendritic weighting, datalog firing rates for statistical analysis, and issue global commands like ‘FREEZE’, ‘SPEED UP’, and ‘LEARN’ to every connected module. The NID also gives you the power to update NeuroBytes firmware, the code that runs on each device that makes it act like a neuron. Our internal team will continue to develop this code over the coming years so having the NID will ensure you get all the latest operating modes. IMPORTANT NOTE: This kit requires NeuroBytes boards to function!
This kit is inspired by psychologist Valentino Braitenberg and the environment-sensing simple robots described in his book "Vehicles: Experiments in Synthetic Psychology". This kit includes everything you need to build a mobile platform controlled by a NeuroBytes network that you configure!
Build more complex neural networks and analyze their performance using the Network Interface Device (in conjunction with your Android device or computer)! Includes sufficient NeuroBytes of various sorts (24 in total!) to easily build a network that will produce unexpected and delightful effects.
Experiments and Curricula
In addition to a printed experimental guide, all backers and community members will have access to our excellent video experiment series. These short, easy to understand video experiments demonstrate how NeuroBytes work using engaging graphical and audio based instructions.
The classroom kits also include access to our NGSS-aligned curricula developed in conjunction with our biology and engineering educator partners. These curricula will allow educators with no previous knowledge of our products to integrate NeuroBytes into their courses for one day or up to three weeks, and experiment with concepts from neuroscience, physiology, and engineering.
The critical path lead-time item -- the NeuroBytes boards themselves -- are designed, quoted, and ready for manufacture as soon as our campaign ends. Other items that have shorter lead times are detailed below; several have minor revisions that have yet to occur, all of which are shown on the timeline above.
Laser-cut kits (NeuroBuggy and Knee Jerk Reflex): we are still evaluating a potential material change from hardboard to birch plywood, and have not finalized our supplier between several that we have quoted and tested. The Knee Jerk Reflex kit will also get at least one more minor design iteration to ensure the joinery-style fastening method is sufficiently robust.
Paper models (skin kit and eye kit): we are still working with Ellen McHenry to customize her existing papercraft designs to work with NeuroBytes, and have not yet finalized a printing service for the cut-and-assemble models.
Experiment Booklets: each kit includes an Experiment Booklet; we are still finalizing content and layout for these documents.
Bound Curricula (Classroom Kits): We are still finalizing content and layout for these documents; this is one of the reasons the Classroom Kit delivery date is set for June 2018 (2 months later than other rewards).
Misc. accessory sourcing: We have qualified several but have not finalized our vendor choice for a number of off-the-shelf items, such as USB cables and servo motors. These are commodity off-the-shelf items so the lead time is minimal.
See and listen to what is being said about NeuroBytes neuron simulators:
Jesse Kohler of the college preparatory organization 12+ talks about the educational potential of NeuroBytes
Our company has existed since April 2015, but the origins of the NeuroBytes concept go back several years. Read on for an abbreviated history of the project.
Sometime in early 2014, Zach Fredin and Andrew Salveson shared a delicious brunch with mutual friends and started talking about neuroscience. Andrew had developed a Ruby-based SketchUp plugin that allowed a user to instantiate a large number of neuron-like entities, freely connect them into complex networks, and observe a real-time simulation of information flowing between the elements. He expressed interest in building a physical version of the concept, and Zach (who was looking for an excuse to get back into electronics) jumped at the opportunity for a collaboration. They worked their way through two breadboard generations before designing and manufacturing Neuron (later NeuroBytes) v0.4.
At roughly the same time and unbeknownst to the two Minneapolitans, Joe Burdo was busy building an Arduino-based neuron simulation for his undergraduate neuroscience classroom. His platform was designed from the start for education, and focused on interacting with students in the real world--for example, his pain reflex model used air muscles to realistically emulate a human hand reacting to a hot flame. The physical models showed huge potential even in prototype form; his students were highly engaged with the subject matter and left the course with an elevated understanding of the basic concepts Joe was teaching.
Late summer 2014 found Andrew and Zach moving on from the project. The architecture firm Andrew worked for offered him an excellent opportunity in New York City which he accepted, and Zach started exploring other projects in his spare time. In the fall, Zach began documenting the Neuron project on his Hackaday Projects site, eventually open-sourcing the entire endeavor and encouraging the community to build on his and Andrew's work. A few months later, Joe stumbled across the page and got in touch with Zach, who flew out to Boston to discuss a potential collaboration which eventually resulted in the formation of NeuroTinker, LLC. Joe and Zach commenced full-time work on the project on January 1, 2016, after receiving a Phase I SBIR grant from the National Science Foundation.
Risks and challenges
This campaign represents the result of nearly 5 years of development and classroom testing, some of which occurred on our own time and a good deal of which was funded by the National Science Foundation. Over that time, we have built over a thousand individual NeuroBytes boards and hundreds more accessories spanning a dozen distinct prototype generations. We have moved the bulk of our manufacturing -- PCBAs, cable assemblies, wood parts, and more -- to trusted third party CMs. All of the major cost drivers in the various NeuroBytes Kit BOMs are accurately quoted and well-understood. We are confident in our ability to fulfil all rewards regardless of backing levels.
Having said that, there are a number of risks inherent to this project. First, our product has not yet been through the formal agency approvals required to sell on the open market. If during (for example) EMI testing we must make a design change to pass a test, this will add several weeks if not a month onto our delivery schedule. However, we have mitigated this risk by consulting with experienced electrical engineers and explicitly designing our product to maximize our chance of passage on the first test. For example, we avoid the use of crystal oscillators wherever possible; we deliberately throttle back pin rise times to minimize high-frequency components; and we do not have any products that include active radiators (such as Bluetooth or WiFi radios).
Second, a number of the parts in our BOM -- the STM32L0 microcontroller, the JST headers, the ambient light sensor, etc -- cannot be substituted for equivalent devices from other manufacturers. We are thus at the whim of the global electronics market, and the relative inventory of these products varies significantly on a day-to-day basis. In some instances, the worst-case factory quoted lead time for the products are in excess of 4 months. We have mitigated this risk by engaging with a series of trusted manufacturing partners that have deep supplier networks; these partners understand our requirements and based on our quoted quantities (which on the top end exceed our target by an order of magnitude) are confident we can meet our scheduling goals. Having said that, there is always the chance that an unexpected raw material shortage causes our timeline to slip by a few months. If this happens, we will keep you informed and will give you an opportunity to cancel your preorder (although we hope you won’t!).
Third, our company is young and this will be our first major fulfilment effort of any kind beyond shipping a few dozen prototype products to known colleagues and early customers. Our Minneapolis office has the space, and if needed, we have plans in place to scale up our order fulfilment staff (currently Zach and Jarod) to meet demand. We include a generous 'touch time' entry on all of our BOMs, and back this data up with rigorous testing data for activities we are not sending to CMs, such as kitting, board testing, and box assembly.
NeuroBytes are beautiful even before power is applied. They look great on your desk and the diagrams on the front will teach you a few basic neuroscience concepts! If you back this reward, we'll send you one of the extra boards from our production run. And if you want, you can always buy a kit later and use this board with it!
The Network Interface Device (or NID) unlocks the real power of your NeuroBytes boards. The NID interfaces with your Android device or computer and interacts with a connected NeuroBytes network, showing real-time membrane potential, dendritic weighting, and more. IMPORTANT NOTE: This kit requires NeuroBytes boards to function!
The NeuroBytes Skin Kit demonstrates two different types of mechanoreceptors using our Touch Sensory Neuron and Pressure Sensory Neuron, and also includes an Interneuron, Motor Neuron, and motor. This kit also includes a cut-and-assemble skin and brain model designed by Ellen McHenry, along with a storage box and instruction booklet. Some assembly required; four AA batteries not included.
The Knee Jerk Kit will teach you how reflexes work. This kit includes a precision laser-cut model of the knee, four NeuroBytes modules, ligament and tendon connectors, and two servo motors for muscles. Includes storage box and instruction booklet. Some assembly required; four AA batteries not included.
The NeuroBytes Eye Kit lets you build a working model of the retina, including three Photoreceptors, three Interneurons, and a Motor Neuron and motor. This kit also includes a cut-and-assemble eye and brain model designed by Ellen McHenry, along with a storage box and instruction booklet. Some assembly required; four AA batteries not included.
Inspired by synthetic psychologist Valentino Braitenberg, this kit includes everything you need to build a mobile platform controlled by a NeuroBytes network you configure! Includes 11 NeuroBytes modules, a precision laser-cut chassis, bumper hardware, motors with wheels, storage box, and instruction booklet. Some assembly required; four AA batteries not included.
Build complex neural networks and analyze their performance using the Network Interface Device (in conjunction with your Android device or computer)! Includes sufficient NeuroBytes of various sorts (24 in total!) to easily build a network that will produce unexpected and delightful effects. Includes storage box and instruction booklet. Four AA batteries required for use without NID, not included.
Ten NeuroBytes NeuroBuggy kits, along with two bound copies of our curriculum and three hours of professional development (does not include travel expenses unless PD location is within 150 miles of Minneapolis or Philadelphia). Some assembly required, batteries not included.
Five each of our Eye, Skin, and Knee Jerk Reflex kits, five NIDs, two bound copies of our curriculum, and three hours of professional development (does not include travel expenses unless PD location is within 150 miles of Minneapolis or Philadelphia). Some assembly required, batteries not included.