Startup Q&A - BrainRobotics is Changing the Game with Manufactured Prosthetics
Bionic implants are often seen in science fiction films, video games, and comic books. But, with biotechnology rapidly growing, this is starting to look less fictitious.
BrainRobotics is a startup with a focus on this complex, but helpful, technology. The company is developing sophisticated prosthetics that can be controlled by the amputee using it.
BrainRobotics’ Manufacturing and Operations Manager Michael Przekaza spoke with us about how they are developing their mechanical prosthetics and how they are disrupting the prosthetic market. Przekaza also shared how the company participated in CES earlier this year and about their time in MassRobotics and MassChallenge.
CB: I’m a big fan of the phrase “origin story.” What are the origins of BrainRobotics?
MP: Bicheng Han, the founder of BrainRobotics, had a booth at the Consumer Electronics Show in 2016 for his brain-machine interface company, BrainCo. One of their demos was showing how your brainwaves could interact with a simple robotic hand they had built.
During the demo, an amputee stopped by and started talking to Bicheng and asked if BrainCo could build a hand for him that he could control with his brain. The man was missing part of his arm and shared his story and how expensive the current functional prosthetic hands are. The idea for BrainRobotics was born out of this interaction. While Bicheng knew that brainwaves might not be the right solution for functional prosthetics, he was able to use his expertise in electrical signal processing to start developing a prosthetic that uses the electrical signals from a user’s muscles.
CB: What is the ultimate goal of BrainRobotics?
MP: BrainRobotics’ goal is to provide high-quality prosthetics at a fraction of the current market offering. We envision a world where everyone who needs a prosthetic will have affordable access to one. Current market prices are approximately $50,000 and can reach $100,000 for muscle signal-driven prosthetics. BrainRobotics aims to be affordably priced in the $2,000 to $4,000 range.
CB: Explain what your company does. If it’s a particular software/platform/service/etc. how does it work? Any use case that stands out to you?
MP: Our startup develops functional prosthetics for amputees. We use electromyography, (EMG) to translate electrical impulses from their residual limbs so they can naturally control their prosthetic. Currently, we are focusing on creating a solution for individuals needing a prosthetic below their elbow.
CB: How long was the development process on one of BrainRobotics’ products?
MP: The company was founded in 2016 and we are aiming to bring our product to market by the end of 2018.
CB: How big is the team? Looking to hire any particular position in the upcoming months?
MP: We currently have 11 people in our organization and are looking to expand our team in the near future. In particular, we are interested in meeting with engineering, technology, and marketing folks. We also welcome the opportunity to talk with people who are missing limbs or currently already use prosthetics.
CB: Has your company participated in any trade shows/meetup events in the Boston area? What about events outside of Boston?
MP: I’m glad you asked. We recently attended the 2018 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and are very excited about the response we received. We met several people who are interested in using our product as well as potential investors. We were also featured in CNN, Reuters, YouTube, and Chinese media including IFeng Phoenix.
One of our other cool awards was in first place on the Chinese TV show, My Future, where we worked with a double amputee named Ni Mincheng to showcase our functional prosthetic. Since then, that episode has been viewed over 300 million times and we continue to work with Ni to develop our product.
CB: Is the company bootstrapped or seeking investments?
MP: We received $50,000 from MassChallenge as a Gold winner and have otherwise been bootstrapped. BrainRobotics is always interested in meeting with potential investors.
CB: MassRobotics is one of the more interesting startup accelerators in the area. Tell me a little bit more about your time spent with the program.
MP: We have been with MassRobotics for about a month, but their wide variety of benefits made the decision easy to become part of their community. We were impressed with their software offerings and machine shop resources.
CB: I’m always interested in how a startup came up with its name. How did BrainRobotics get its name?
MP: Well it all started when our CEO opened a door with his mind...just kidding! Joking aside, it was more of a natural progression of the BrainCo brand and how we are looking to add value to the prosthetic space.