A Bluetooth Enabled Omnibot... That Watches TV?!
By James Grahame
Nothing says "Welcome home, Master" quite like your own robot butler offering up a half-gallon glass of cheap whiskey at the end of a long day.
That, apparently, is what Tomy's marketing department had in mind for the Omnibot in the mid 1980s. Sadly, it required a human slave to type the appropriate command sequences on the remote control, which were then recorded on futuristic tape cassettes.
Fast forward twenty five years, And DJ Sures bought a vintage Omnibot from eBay and spent a few days wondering how to modernize it.
He started by disassembling it and giving it a good wash in the dishwasher: "It had a lot of dirt from the previous owner. It was rather disgusting, actually. Once it was clean, I painted it white with plastic paint and primer.
Then I started hacking away at it; adding new features. I added servos for the arms, so they can move now. I also made the head rotate left to right with a servo. I then added a wireless camera between its eyes (looks like a nose lol). I put a wireless microphone in its chest. I used a dual HBridge to control the standard motor and gearset."
The hardware robot controller is an EZ-B, with a servo-swept ultrasonic distance detector that feeds an object and wall avoidance algorithm to keep from scuffing his spiffy new paint job. The robot can even detect if its wheels are stuck.
He continues, "I have enhanced my motion tracking code for better edge detection and increased speed. I have also added a few global variables to his AI which allows him to like and dislike certain colors and shapes. He takes pictures of things he likes and saves them to the drive.
This robot is now currently my autonomous household watchdog and pet. He's always on and his 6 volt 4 amp rechargable battery runs all day. He randomly does things on his own and wanders around my house. It scares some people, but real neat for others!"