[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.
[markw2k9] has an Alexa device that sits in his kitchen and decided it was time to spruce it up with some rather uncanny eyes. With some inspiration from the Adafruit Uncanny Eyes project, which displays similar animated eyes, [markw2k9] designed a 3d printed shell that goes on top of a 2nd generation Amazon Echo. A teensy 3.2 powers two OLED displays and monitors the light ring to know when to turn the lights on and show that your smart speaker is listening. The eyes look around in a shifty sort of manner. Light from the echo’s LED ring is diffused through a piece of plexiglass that was lightly sanded on the outside ring and the eye lenses are 30mm cabochons (a glass lens often used for jewelry).
One hiccup is that the ring on the Echo will glow in a steady pattern when there’s a notification. As this would cause the OLEDs to be on almost continuously and concerned for the lifetime of the OLED panels, the decision was made to detect this condition in the state machine and go into a timeout state. With that issue solved, the whole thing came together nicely. Where this project really shines is the design and execution. The case is sleek PLA and the whole thing looks professional.
We’ve seen a few other projects inspired by the animated eyes project such as this Halloween themed robot that is honestly quite terrifying. The software and STL files for the smart speaker’s eyes are on Github and Thingiverse.
Some of us have computer mice with more buttons than we have fingers, resolution tracking finer than a naked eye can discern, and forced-air vents. All these features presuppose one thing; the user has a functioning hand. [Federico Runco] knows that amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, ALS, or Lou Gehrig’s disease, will rob a person of their ability to use standard computer inputs, or the joystick on a motorized wheelchair. He is building EyesDrive for the 2020 Hackaday Prize, to restore that mobility to ALS patients. There are already some solutions, but this one focuses on a short bill of materials.
Existing systems are expensive and often track pupil location, which returns precise data, but EyesDrive only discerns, left, right, and resting. For these, we need three non-invasive electrodes, a custom circuit board with amplifiers, signal processing circuits, and a microcontroller. He includes a Bluetooth socket on the custom PCBs, which is the primary communication method. In the video below he steers a virtual kart around a knotty course to prove that his system is up to the task of an urban wheelchair.
[Will] wanted to build some animatronic eyes that didn’t require high-precision 3D printing. He wound up with a forgiving design that uses an Arduino and six servo motors. You can see the video of the eyes moving around in the video below.
The bill of materials is pretty simple and features an Arduino, a driver board, and a joystick. The 3D printing parts are easy to print with no supports, and will work with PLA. Other than opening up holes there wasn’t much post-processing required, though he did sand the actual eyeballs which sounds painful.
There are so many important design decisions behind a robot: battery, means of locomotion, and position sensing, to name a few. But at a library in Helsinki, one of the most surprising design features for a librarian’s assistant robot was googly eyes. A company called Futurice built a robot for the Oodi library and found that googly eyes were a very important component.
The eyes are not to help the robot see, because of course they aren’t functional — at least not in that way. However without the eyes, robot designers found that people had trouble relating to the service robot. In addition, the robot needed emotions that it could show using the eyes and various sounds along with motion. This was inspired, apparently, by Disney’s rules for animation. In particular, the eyes would fit the rule of “exaggeration.” The robot could look bored when it had no task, excited when it was helping people, and unhappy when people were not being cooperative.
The build relies on special contact lenses, which [Kyle] suggests are best sourced by searching for “electric blue contact lenses”. These glow in the presence of UV light, which here is provided by a strip of UV LEDs embedded into Thor’s helmet from the recent Marvel movies.
The concept is simple, but the attention to detail is what makes this project a winner. Not content with an earlier build that was a tangle of wires and uncomfortable to use, [KyleofAsgard] made some smart upgrades. The battery for the LEDs and all circuitry is built into the helmet, making it easy to take on and off on those long convention days. For a more impressive effect, a relay is used to turn the LEDs on by remote control with a 433MHz module. This allows [Kyle] or an assistant to trigger the effect covertly, adding plenty of drama when the eyes suddenly begin to shine. It’s all done with off-the-shelf parts that even a novice could put together.
Unless you have an incredibly well-stocked parts bin, it’s probably too late to build these spooky animated eyes to scare off the neighborhood kiddies this year. But next year…
It’s pretty clear that Halloween decorating has gone over the top recently. It may not be as extreme as some Christmas displays, but plenty of folks like to up the scare-factor, and [wermy] seems to number himself among those with the spirit of the season. Like Christmas lights, these eyes are deployed as a string, but rather than just blink lights, they blink creepy eyes from various kinds of creatures. The eyes are displayed on individual backlit TFT-LCD displays housed in 3D-printed enclosures. Two pairs of eyes can be driven by the SPI interface of one ItsyBitsy M0 Express; driving more displays works, but the frame rate drops to an unacceptable level if you stretch it too far. Strung together on scraps of black ethernet cable, the peepers can live in the shrubs next to the front door or lining the walk, and with surprisingly modest power needs, you’ll get a full night of frights from a USB battery bank.
We like the look of these, and maybe we’ll do something about it next year. If you’re still in the mood to scare and don’t have the time for animated eyes this year, try these simple Arduino blinky eyes for a quick hit.