Introduction: DIY Mod an Omnibot 80's Robot With Voice, Camera, Servos, Bluetooth

Picture of DIY Mod an Omnibot 80's Robot With Voice, Camera, Servos, Bluetooth
*Check back for more updates on this build :)

So, have you heard of the Omnibot? Well! Any kid from the 80's will remember how amazing this robot was. For you young kids, this robot was released in the early 80's by Tomy. The robot was "programmable", in the sense that the actions were recorded to a casette tape. As you operated the robot over its remote control, the casette would record tones for each action. When the tape was played back, the tones would control the robot.

It also had a microphone and speaker in the remote and robot, so you could spy on your family. Man, I really wanted one as a kid! But now that I have made this robot even better, anyone would want one :)

So, I found this fully operational Omnibot on Ebay for $105 USD. Came with the tray and remote too! And, you know me! I couldn't wait to hack into this toy and make it come alive! The shell of this toy made an awesome home for my servos and the robot controller.

So here is what I did, and you can too. Hopefully this instructable will give you the ideas and confidence to begin hacking your own robots. If not, check out my other instructables and you'll certainly get an overdose of robot hacking!

The robot is currently using EZ-Builder and the EZ-SDK (available at ). I have added voice recognition, camera recognition and autonomous exploring to the robot. The camera recognition detects faces, skin tone, motion and objects by color. The voice recognition allows remote control commands to be verbally spoken.

To make a robot pet! So currently I have this robot cruising around my house in autonomous mode. The personality I wrote for it does a bunch of different things, randomly. The robot will follow colors, follow motion, sit there and look around, bleep and make interesting noises, wander around on its own, or listen to voice commands. He never gets stuck with the new autonomous code and HC-SR04 Ultrasonic sensor.

What I Used:
  • •1 x EZ-B Robot Controller
  • 1 x Servo for head
  • 2 x Servos for arms
  • 1 x Omnibot shell
  • 1 x Wireless Camera
  • 1 x EZ-Builder Software
  • 2 x Bright Blue LEDs
  • 2 x QR111D Edge Detectors
  • 1 x micro servo for Ping Sensor
  • 1 x HC-SR04 Ultrasonic Ping Sensor
  • 1 x x Sparkfun TB6612FNG HBridge Motor Controller

Source Codes

There are two ways to control your robot. If you use the EZ-Builder, then you will not need to write any code because it is a graphical interface for controlling the components. If you use the EZ-SDK, then you can customize every action in your .Net application. I released both projects for you to use :)


  • Dremel
  • Hot Glue Gun
  • Soldering Iron
  • Plyers, Screwdriver

Video #5 demonstrates his observing ability by tracking motion, colors and shape edges. His AI observes and really gives the impression that he is enjoying the road trip... We drove 2 hours north to visit a friend, and he really enjoyed himself. Can you tell? :)




Video #4 demonstrates the enhanced motion tracking algorythm I just finished. In this video he is watching TV. There are some colors and shapes that he learns to like and will take snapshots of them. After a day of autonomous living, my drive is full of some funny photos!!

 Video #3 demonstrates the autonomous mode and how he navigates without getting stuck. This is one of the modes he can randomly choose. While in this mode, he also may follow colors (red green or blue)


In video #2, I disect the head and demonstrate the motion and color tracking.

This is video #1 where you may watch the assembly and modifications necessary to get Omnibot up and running :)

Step 1: Take Apart the Shell

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Yes, sorry. You will need to take this cute little guy apart. And you'll also need to throw out a few things, like his brain!! EAK!

Step 2: Wash the Parts

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The robot is old, and therefore dirty. He'll have dirt in places that you won't get to with a cloth.

So throw him in the dishwasher! AKA the robot spa, as I call it...

When he returns from the Robot Spa, use a wet rag to wipe off any dirt that was not removed by the dishwasher. The dirt will be very loose and easy to remove after the dishwasher.

Step 3: Modify the Arms to Move

Picture of Modify the Arms to Move

So your robot is back from the spa and feeling great. Now is the perfect time to begin operating!

The Omnibot doesn't have motorized arms. That can be fixed with a little dremel action. Follow the pictures to view how the servo was installed. You will need some pretty powerful servos for the arms. Make sure you lubricate the joints with a little grease.

The servos I used for the arms are Eagle high torque servos. They can be a little expensive, but very strong.

Watch the Video #1 to see how the arms were modified and assembled. It was actually quite easy :D

Step 4: Add a Camera to the Head

Picture of Add a Camera to the Head

I found a great affordable wireless webcam on ebay for $30. I bought a few of them since they will come in handy for future robots!

The best place to put the camera is right between the eyes. Oh look, a nose! :)

Step 5: LED Eye Lights

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The standard lights in Omnibot are red led's. That's cool, if it was 1982!!! Today we use clear bright leds! I chose blue because his body will be painted white, soon.

Step 6: Make the Head Spin

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The Omnibot does not have a moving head. So that's your next job. Trim down the pastic and attach a servo. Oh, now he can look around. What a classy dude.

You will need to be a little creative if you decide to perform this step. I wanted my omnibot to have a head that could watch things, so it was a bit of a challenge. In the second video of this project you can see a better view of the mechanism I used to modify the head.

The head "floats" on a servo wheel by two peices of plastic that I had glued to it. I then used tiny screws to secure the peices of plastic to each other. The head can be removed because it is pressure fit. Obvoiusly a bit delicate, but after all it is a robot :D

Step 7: Motor Controller

Picture of Motor Controller

The standard gearbox and motorset of the Omnibot is great. No need to modify it. However, there is a need to control it!

So I chose the Sparkfun Motor Driver:

You can also use the Pololu Motor Controller, but it is expensive:

Wiring the Motor Controller is quite simple. The instructions included with the controller you choose will have labels for each motor's + and -, as well as the 2 channels from the microcontroller. Motor Controllers are called HBridges, and buying assembled ones will save you a huge hastle in making your own.

You may do a google search on HBridge to read more about them. Simply put, they are a collection of transistors that allow you to control the direction of a motor via logic lines.

Also, if you are using the OmniBot .Net source code, you wlil notice there is an ADC Port for monitoring the motors. The motor controller I chose does not have a Voltage Load pin, but you can get around that. When the motors are under a lot of strain and load, a tiny bit of positive current wll be detected on the GND feeding the motor controller. You will want to monitor the GND with an ADC connection directly at the motor controller to be accurate.

When the monitoring software notices a teeny tiny bit of positive voltage (caused by a short) on the GND at the motor controller, the routine stops the robot, backs up, looks Left and Right, turns in the direction of freedom.

Step 8: Paint Paint and Paint

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The yellowed plastic of the 1980's isn't very appealing. I purchased Khyron Plastic Paint in White. It doesn't require a primer. And since he already visited the spa (aka dishwasher), he's already clean for painting.

Make sure you wipe or blow off any dust particles from all of the dremeling you have been doing :)

With anything you paint, the proper disclaimer and warnings are the same. Paint in an open vented area, preferrably outside. Also many light coats is the best! I have always had patience issues, so it has taken yeras for my painting skills to get where they are now. I would always paint thick coats and end up with runs and orange peal.

I masked the original stickers with masking tape. I'm now considering on taking the stickers off and replacing them with something new. I'm not sure yet :)

Step 9: Put Him Together

Picture of Put Him Together

Let's assemble our omnibot now. Put him all back together :)

As you can see for the front plate in this shot, I used two peices of styrene to fill the gap now that the tape recorder was removed.

In the latest version of this robot, I had attached a HC-SR04 ultrasonic distance sensor to the chest peice with a micro servo. This allows the servo to SWEEP the distance sensor so he may avoid objects in autonomous mode. The video #3 demonstrates the distance sensor and how it was attached.

Step 10: Programming

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Depending on what kind of microcontroller you used, you will need to write code!

Since I used the EZ-B, I chose to use the EZ-Builder software:
I will be adding some more custom code in the near future, so I will also be using the EZ-SDK:

I added voice recognition and camera color/object recognition very easily! It connects over the bluetooth to your computer and voila...

The goal of this robot project is to have a robot pet that drives around my house, watches, takes pictures, beeps, and generally acts like a pet. The EZ-SDK project (below) is the advanced version of his personality. He also takes pictures of colors and motion to save to your hard drive for viewing later. I leave my robot running all and he acts like a security robot too. When he detects motion, he takes pictures. Plus, he is always driving around the house and monitoring things. Pretty cool hey? :D

Source Codes
You can get the EZ-Builder project here:

You can get the C# source code here:



blindguy101 (author)2016-10-20

This is SO awesome!! I just took my old Omnibot out of cold storage and am getting ready to follow all your notes and give him the upgrade!!!

I see you wrote this about 6 years ago and I feel a bit behind!!

Thanks for all the info!!

stevesy1 (author)2015-10-31

Cool little bot! Love the eyes.. : ]

Max the Tutorialist (author)2014-12-15

i wan to make one with the same features and more like you could put a ''Disected" amp in the chest and im probably 3d print the body of the robot so it would have a awesome look to it

thanks for inspiring my project

Tomdf (author)2012-06-12

This is cool! I have to have one of these old robots laying around my parents house somewhere. Time to give it a new life!

robotmaker (author)2012-03-13

DJ the links to the files dont work,can you fix them

Qwertydub (author)2012-02-19

Do you know if the sparkfun ardumoto motor control board is suitable for this?
I would like to keep to arduino related controllers for this project if I can.

Also, what did you use for power? "official" replacement batteries are all in the 6V 4.5amp range but I think I would prefer to just use C or D batteries because they are easy to find. I'm thinking 5 should do the trick and get me in the range of both the original spec and what the arduino wants, around 7V?

Any info would be appreciated!

ms10 (author)2011-12-03

where did you get those blue leds

gstewart3 (author)2011-09-18

Hi - Can you give a link to sources for the QR111D edge detector you used? Neither Google nor Bing can find it. Also, can you give a specific part number for the micro servo for Ping Sensor?


Aaronius (author)2011-08-30

completely awe inspiring.

jparsons2 (author)2011-08-03

ps id like it if u instaled servoes for hands

jparsons2 (author)2011-08-03

could u make me one of those
i dont care what he looks like

ms10 (author)2011-07-23

cooooooooooooool iliked it

hooper521 (author)2011-03-21

I love it have two of the Omnibots that my folks picked up for me when i was younger. now they can be fun again

djsures (author)hooper5212011-03-21

Definetly get into hacking it! If you do, ask any questions my way and I'll surely help out. I have a few more additions to my omnibot that will be happening soon (one being a front display). It is pretty exciting to have a robot pet around.

Let me know when you start getting into modding yours. It will be neat to see what you come up with also :)

dhooper (author)djsures2011-05-21

i am finally getting a start. could you use a Arduino? would the code be the same?

djsures (author)dhooper2011-06-06

CreatorRoboto is right. You "could" create this project in arduino, but it would require years of work. I created the EZ Robot project to include all of the robotic work for you. I do the hard work, and you do the creative work :) Seems to work well! - DJ

creatorroboto (author)dhooper2011-06-06

It actually really depends. The code has to:

a. Be written in C (Arduino is programmed in C)

b. Be compatible with Arduino

I had this nightlight that I was trying to was written in C++...I changed the pin outs from the At tiny13 to something in Arduino. Didn't work out great...I have a busted Arduino...I finally got it up and running again after 3 weeks.

rbryer (author)2011-05-17

dude thats pretty cool what you did

do you know where i can find a remote for the omnibot 5402
ive been looking everywhere on the net

omnispong (author)2011-03-28

Hey great guide,

I recently bought an omnibot on impulse off ebay but didn't read the add through. Bacicly I bought an omnibot with no remote or tray. I just wondered now that you have modded your onmibot would you be interested in selling your remote and tray?

djsures (author)omnispong2011-03-28

Send me your address in a private message and i'll send you the remote. You can have it for free :) .. I'm still using the tray though

brooklynbrownie (author)2011-03-21

So cool! I would have loved one of these. Just sent a vote your way!

djsures (author)brooklynbrownie2011-03-21

Thank u! That's awesome :D There are some real wicked projects in the contest. I'm impressed with them all!

SWV1787 (author)2011-02-21

Awesome idea. are you going to make it fetch you beer and nachos when all is said and done? I wish I knew how to use microcontroles. There is a whole world of builds out there that I am still oblivious to.

wilgubeast (author)SWV17872011-03-03

It looks a bit like the bot has already fetched a beer in the opening frame of the second video. Awesome project. Wish I'd had one of these when I was a kid.

djsures (author)wilgubeast2011-03-03

Don't let that stop you from having one now :) ... The EZ-Robot project is geared toward easy robot building. All you need is the EZ-B, Servos and a Hot Glue Gun!

shadeydave (author)djsures2011-03-10

Thanks for developing the platform. I've been having a blast.

djsures (author)shadeydave2011-03-10

Whoa we're online at the same time! nice. Wait till u see the next release of the firmware and ez-builder. I have a some wicked features that'll knock ur socks off :)

djsures (author)SWV17872011-02-21

thanx dude! i have it doing a lot more now. there is a custom application running that gives it more of an interactive personality. the goal was a robot pet. so it will be drivin around my house and doing its own thing. last night i left it on for about 4 hours and it was great. it got stuck a few times, so i have to work on the programming a bit more.

the microcontroller world is easy or hard. depends on the platform you chose. i use the ez-robot project so its obvoiusly really easy: check it out :)

omnibot (author)2011-03-09

Nice job :D

rc26204 (author)2011-03-04

It reminds me of that one robot from Battlebots. I think it's name was Dr. inferno Jr.

firepup104 (author)2011-02-22

Wher do you get the Omnibot?

djsures (author)firepup1042011-02-22

I purchased the shell of the Tomy Omnibot off Ebay. The toy was from the 1980's, and I modified the internals to do my own things. You do not need to use an Omnibot specifically for your robot. You can use any Robot Toy and modify it. Look at my other instructables for ideas. Also, I have more videos and robots on

firepup104 (author)djsures2011-02-22

I cant find anything that big. Can you help?

djsures (author)firepup1042011-02-23

you want to modify a toy robot shell into a robot? Check ebay:

About This Instructable




Bio: I build robots to encourage others to do the same. I believe the future is in robotics and playing a part for the future is ... More »
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