Omnibot From The 80s Gets LED Matrix Eyes, Camera

[Ramin assadollahi] has been busy rebuilding and improving an Omnibot 5402, and the last piece of hardware he wanted to upgrade was some LED matrix eyes and a high quality Raspberry Pi camera for computer vision. An Omnibot was something most technical-minded youngsters remember drooling over in the 80s, and when [ramin] bought a couple of used units online, he went straight to the workbench to give the vintage machines some upgrades. After all, the Omnibot 5402 was pretty remarkable for its time, but is capable of much more with some modern hardware. One area that needed improvement was the eyes.

The eyes on the original Omnibot could light up, but that’s about all they were capable of. The first upgrade was installing two 8×8 LED matrix displays to form what [ramin] calls Minimal Expressive Eyes (MEE), powered by a Raspberry Pi. With the help of a 3D-printed adapter and some clever layout, the LED matrix displays fit behind the eye plate, maintaining the original look while opening loads of new output possibilities.

Adding a high quality Raspberry Pi camera with wide-angle lens was a bit more challenging and required and extra long camera ribbon connector, but with the lens nestled just below the eyes, the camera has a good view and isn’t particularly noticeable when the eyes are lit up. Having already upgraded the rest of the hardware, all that remains now is software work and we can’t wait to see the results.

Two short videos of the hardware are embedded below, be sure to give them a peek. And when you’re ready for more 80s-robot-upgrading-action, check out the Hero Jr.


8 thoughts on “Omnibot From The 80s Gets LED Matrix Eyes, Camera

  1. I’d like to see someone replace all the innards in an Androbot BOB. The Androbot’s wheels are the shape of a shallow, truncated cone and steeply angled. Along with the heavy, lead acid battery positioned down low, that provided built in stability like an old Weeble. But BOB still wobbled fore and aft a bit when moving.

    Current electronics with vastly greater processing power would have no trouble using PID for rock solid stability when moving while the built in inability to fall over would be used to save power when stopped due to nothing needing power to keep it upright.

    Funny story I read many years ago about Androbot was the company had some Japanese investors very interested. They programmed a BOB to give them a tour of the factory. They also set up cameras to watch how it went, but they didn’t have sound (this was the 1980’s, when video cameras were analog, bulky, and expensive). All seemed to be going well when the Japanese businessmen suddenly stopped, turned around and left.

    The next day the company owner told them why. Turns out you shouldn’t program a robot to whistle the “Colonel Bogey March” from “Bridge on the River Kwai” while giving a tour to Japanese investors – especially when some of them are WW2 veterans.

        1. Anything could be worth money in enough time.

          Crapintosh computers from the 80s have been known to sell for that, even the ones not signed by Jobs.

          Anything old enough will be worth some money.

          Americans will by anything old, that has “provenance”

          Furniture from the juneflower, chamber pots owned by Abraham Washington, Benjamin Lincoln, James Washington, anyone with even a little “fame”.

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