Retrotechtacular: A 1983 Walking Robot Called ODEX-1


ODEX-1 is called the first commercial walking robot in this video from 1983. Of course you will quickly recognize this as a hexapod. It’s hard to get over the fact that what was so advanced at the time can now be built at home relatively inexpensively.

As with most of these retrotectacular posts the presentation is a big part of the fun. The audio track right at the beginning of the video expresses the shock at seeing such an advanced robot walking through the building (it’s coming right for us?!). The trends in engineer garb are also on display. ODEX-1 is being heralded as the solution to mechanized travel in an environment full of ladders and stairways. Apparently it can get traverse the stairs, but you’d better be ready to wait a while for it to get anywhere. See for yourself in the video after the break.

23 thoughts on “Retrotechtacular: A 1983 Walking Robot Called ODEX-1

    1. They’ve sent robots into Chernobyl. I recall they discovered something novel, a black “radiotrophic fungus” which uses melanin to capture energy from radiation, similarly to how plants use chlorophyll to capture energy from light.

    2. There are people living in the area itself, they need to be careful what they eat though.

      Inside the reactor on the other hand is a different story. They have sent in robots before, but they tend to last about 30 minutes or so before the radiation starts killing chips. That was a while back though. I have no idea how well modern chips would stand up (likely a lot worse).

      1. 30 mins – this was small itelligence robots. And time problem was with accumulators, not with chips.
        STR-1 for example cleared near 90 tons of high active materials and worked near 10 hours.

    1. Ha ha… I just bought that DVD on eBay a month ago. Gotta love Gene Simmons shooting heat seeking bullets.

      Also, I remember the ODEX-1 from when it was new for sale. It seems like I recall one of the promo photos showing it climbing in or out of the back of a pick-up truck….

  1. One demo was to drive up with ODEX-1 in the bed of a pickup and it would then walk out of the truck, which rose several inches as the suspension was unloaded.
    I seem to recall that the beast was driven by high voltage (900V or so?) DC motors.

  2. What would be cool is to take all these old robots and things like the Hardi-Man and walking truck and completely replace the clunky obsolete control electronics with new systems. Then the robots could actually work better and faster than their inventors ever imagined.

    As for it being a very long time until robots walked like humans, some history.

  3. I actually worked for the company that once was Odetics. In fact, sitting in my garage is one of their manipulator arms which originally was projected to cost $750k. Only problem is the software computer tower control was done by JPL which also cost $750k and I don’t have a pinout handy to make this arm move like a champion. One day I will make that happen.

    I was THIS close to being able to take home the actual original walking robot, which I am sad till this day that I didn’t get that chance.

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