Taking Halloween to the Next Level with JARVIS

As an avid “Haunt Hacker”, [Steve Koci] knows a thing or two about bringing high-tech to Halloween. Wanting to build a mobile robot that could accompany him to conventions as a demonstration of the sort of animatronic mechanisms and controls he uses, he came up with the idea of JARVIS. The original plan was to make a more traditional robot, but with the addition of an animated skull and some Steampunk-style embellishments, JARVIS is definitely the kind of thing you don’t want to run into on an October night.

Construction of JARVIS started in 2016, after [Steve] saw the Agent 390 tracked robot chassis from ServoCity. With the addition of extra wheels and a custom track, he converted the Agent 390 into a triangular track arrangement which he said he’s had his eye on since “Johnny 5” sported them back in Short Circuit.

There’s a dizzying array of electronics required to make JARVIS move and talk, not least of which is the “Banshee” prop controller. This device is made to simplify the construction of animatronic heads and provides not only organic-looking randomized movement but automatic jaw synchronization. Using a wireless audio connection, [Steve] is able to talk through a speaker mounted on the chest of the robot, while the skull automatically matches its mouth to his speech in real time. Combined with the GoPro in a two-axis gimbal, this allows JARVIS to function as a fairly robust telepresence platform. Much to the delight/horror of those it’s used on.

Getting JARVIS to move requires not only the two beefy motors and a dedicated controller supplied by the Agent 390 platform, but no less than thirteen servos for the head, arms, and grippers. There’s even a linear actuator used to tilt the skull up and down, presumably for terrifying people of various heights and ages. JARVIS even has a pair of Adafruit’s electronic eyes mounted in the skull, as if you thought you would be spared the horror of seeing glowing eyes following you in the dark.

To control all this hardware, [Steve] uses two RC transmitters in conjunction with a smartphone displaying the video feed coming from the GoPro. It takes some serious finger-gymnastics to get JARVIS doing its thing, which [Steve] says he’s still trying to master.

As many projects that have graced these pages can attest to, hackers seem to delight in coming up with new and exciting ways to terrify the young and old alike. Sometimes they can’t even wait until Halloween.

11 thoughts on “Taking Halloween to the Next Level with JARVIS

    1. I agree that the cost of this build is high for what he is. He was built so that I could take him to some of the conventions I travel to where I teach classes on Animatronics. I added a wide variety of items to him in order to illustrate some of the techniques I utilize in building my Animatronic characters. It is possible to discuss concepts but considerably more effective if you can actually demonstrate them. Plus he is a blast to drive around the convention floor and have him interact with the attendees!

    1. Thank you! I too like the track design and enjoyed the process of modifying the original kit.
      The Actobotics components make assembly a breeze and have cut down my parts fabrication time down considerably. He is a bit on the wobbly side when he gets moving around but that is unavoidable unless I wanted to add a lot of extra bracing. I didn’t like the look so decided to keep that to a minimum.
      These mechanisms are usually added to my Animatronic characters that are more securely fixed in place. This provides the rigidity I need to get better performance.
      All in all he works as a teaching and demonstration platform and gets plenty of attention!

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