Bionet Reader

A helpful exercise we went through as a team at BioBricks was to imagine what the user experience (UX) and interaction (UI) with the Bionet would be like. This focused around the design and creation of a cheap barcode reader that could be made with easy to find technology, and free to inexpensive materials. An impediment to primary biological research is automating and keeping track of the numerous sample vials a laboratory is working with, which can number into the multi-thousands.


It seemed that we might contribute to lower interaction costs by offering a cheap and easily available version of this tool. A tool for entering things into the Bionet. While this exercise led to the creation of novel instrumentation, it also helped us develop a language around the thought space of interaction with the Bionet.


Barcoded vials used in the storage of biological samples.

These are loaded onto trays so that their barcodes all line up on the bottom.

There are several commercially available scanners like this on the market which can scan the vials’ barcodes as well as their carrying trays.

We designed a system that would use a cell phone as the scanning device, using lighting and mirrors to illuminate the barcodes.

A portal into the Bionet

An early version of the attendant software that would track the location of a sample within a laboratory.

A cardboard version of a Bionet scanning device.

A magnetic, foldout scanner for the side of a freezer.