When you think of Tomy — more properly, Takara Tomy — you think of toys and models from Japan. After all, they have made models and toys as iconic as Transformers, Thomas, Jenga, Boggle, and Furby. They also made figures associated with Thunderbirds and Tron, two favorites in our circles. However, their recent design for SORA-Q is no toy. It is a tiny lunar rover designed at the request of JAXA, the Japanese space agency. The New Yorker recently posted about how this little rover came about.
The SORA-Q looks a bit like a modern Star Wars drone or — if it could fly — a training drone from some of the older movies. The rover caught a lift from a SpaceX Falcon 9 towards the moon with the Hakuto-R M1 lander. Another SORA-Q is scheduled to touch down later this year.
Continue reading “Lunar Rover Is No Toy” →
What happens to old, neglected 1980s toy robots? According to the [Randi Rain], they turn to the dark side! Way back in the ’80s, Tomy had an entire line of robots — from keychain wind-up toys to rolling, talking machines almost 2 feet tall. Tucked into the middle of this line was Verbot. Verbot’s claim to fame is that it is a voice-controlled robot. More than that, it was speaker-dependent. Train the robot with commands like “go forward” and then watch as it responds to your every command.
As you might guess, the speech recognition wasn’t great by today’s standards. Recognition was handled by a Microcontroller — a Mitsubishi product that was possibly a mask programmed 8051 variant. Pretty novel for an 80s toy — in fact, there’s a patent for it.
Continue reading “Verbot Goes To The Dark Side” →
[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.
Continue reading “Omnibot From The 80s Gets LED Matrix Eyes, Camera” →
A few months ago the Raspberry Pi magazine The MagPi gave away a piece of hardware, the Google AIY voice control kit. Subscribers all received one, but as always the eBay scalpers cleaned up all the in-store copies and very few lucky enthusiasts scored a kit of their own.
Among these frustrated Pi owners was [Circuitbeard], who decided instead to make his own kit. And since a cardboard case lacked style, he decided to do so in the shell of a 1980s Tomy Mr. Money toy novelty bank. Into it went a Raspberry Pi Zero W and an audio pHat, with a servo to operate the head and a microswitch connected to the toy’s arm as a trigger.
The Python code to run everything is all included in the write-up, and he’s posted a video of the device in operation which we’ve placed below the break.
Continue reading “Classic Tomy Toy Gets AIY Makover” →
If you were a child of the 80’s or early 90’s you probably remember Magic Mike. He went by many names, but he always said the same thing “I am the atomic powered robot. Please give my best wishes to everybody!” [Oona’s] version of Mike had been malfunctioning for a few years. He’d stopped talking! She decided he needed more input, so she disassembled Mike to reveal the flesh colored plastic box in the center of his chest. This talkbox was used as a sound module in several toys. Before the days of cheap digital playback devices, sounds were recorded in a decidedly analog fashion. [Oona] found that Mike’s voice and sound effects were recorded on a tiny phonograph record in his chest. The phonograph was spun up by an electric motor, but the playback and amplification system was all mechanical, consisting of a needle coupled to a small plastic loudspeaker. The system was very similar to the early phonograph designs.
Mike’s record contained two interwoven spiral tracks. Interwoven tracks is a technique that has been used before, albeit rarely on commercial albums. One track contained Mike’s voice, the other the sound of his laser gun. The track to be played would be chosen at random depending upon where the needle and record stopped after the previous play. The record completely sidetracked [Oona’s] repair work. She decided to try to read the record optically. She started with a high resolution image (image link) of the record, and wrote some Perl code to interpolate a spiral around the grooves. The result was rather noisy, and contained quite a bit of crosstalk. [Oona] tried again with laser illumination using a Lego train set. Unfortunately the Lego train / laser system wasn’t smooth enough to get a good image. In the end she used a bit of Gimp magic and was able to pull better audio from her original image. We never did find out if she put poor Mike back together though.
Continue reading “Atomic Powered Robots And Records Played With Optics” →