Cute Retrofuturistic OmNibot hoUsed aSsociate

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This project aims at upgrading a 1986 (the year I was born too) Omni Jr. to fancy capabilities while preserving the essence of his retrofuturistic design.

I chose the Odroid U3 as CRONUS' brain, since it offers very large computational power at a small form and cost factor. He sees his world through a webcam and will hopefully be able to navigate through my flat by pattern recognition. CRONUS is not only voice controlled but even able to understand and reply as an AIML based chatbot lives in him.

In Greek mythology Cronus castrated his father Uranus to lead the world into the Golden Age when people had no need for laws or rules. Although I hope that he will not castrate me sometime and somehow, I gave him this name to encourage him to quickly outreach his father's capabilities and lead the world into a state somehow specified by Kurzweil's singularity. However, later Cronus' own son Zeus defeated him again, which he shall take as a cautionary example to go not to far.


This is one of two intentional modifications to CRONUS' look. The red of his eyes fits the original Omni Jr. look quite well but not Radio Shack's version.


CRONUS' neck is modified such that he can turn his head and the red eye cover is removed cause I think white suits him better.


The Omni Jr. already has a built-in speaker that I took for audio output. To amplifiy the signal coming out of the Odroid, I used an old TDA2822M that I had lying around in one of those boxes you have, when you eviscerate old hardware from time to time.

Voice controll

CRONUS uses the google speech recognition API for Python to understand and he speaks via espeak. I decided to build my own AIML semanitc extractor and not to use Jasper, because AIML already offers better methods to implement the interpretation of commands by semantic reduction and tags to call external functions.

What I really don't like here is that I must access the internet to have voice recognition which is the only point that violates the robot's autonomy. I tried PocketSphinx but it really worked out badly. My plan is now to use google's solution until I have time to train and configure cmusphinx.

Artificial Intelligence

CRONUS runs an AIML based chatrobot that is heavily based on the ALICE files.

  • 1 × Robbie Junior Radio Shack's version of the Omni Jr.
  • 1 × Odroid U3
  • 1 × U3 IO Shield
  • 1 × TDA2822M Audio ICs / Audio Amplifiers
  • 1 × Microsoft LifeCam HD-3000 without enclosure

View all 12 components

  • 1
    Step 1

    The Head Turner

    I just used some cardboard to build it. The only part I had to remove from the robot was a small blockade standing out of the front part of the transparent head dome. To reduce friction while turning, I added some multi grease. As the head basis is rather eliptic than perfectly round, it can unfortunately only be turned by approximately 45° in each direction.

    The turner itself spreads itself between the small circles and nozzles of the inside of the body and the ear notches of in the head to do its job. Vertical stability is simply achieved by placing it between those plattforms and the nozzles. The small numbers you see written onto the parts are meassures in mm. Maybe you're able to read/use them...

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Silur wrote 10/05/2016 at 13:11 point

are you using Dr Wallace's referece AIML interpreter and model for chat?

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Kojote wrote 08/24/2015 at 05:32 point

Don't forget to sign the Call for Makers for in Jan 2016

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davedarko wrote 02/17/2015 at 20:36 point

The video of the eyes is blocked in Germany due to rights infringements (to replicate this, you might have to log out of youtube first). Anyway, cool project!

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herrkami wrote 02/17/2015 at 21:29 point

Schade ;) Unfortunately, I do have only this video of the eye action at the moment. I'll add another one, by chance, but it's not so important anyhow. Thanks for telling me and for the props! 

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Mike Skovgaard wrote 02/17/2015 at 19:27 point

Do you have any more details on how you added that servo to control the head? I'm curious how you put that all together. Great work by the way! It looks slick!

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herrkami wrote 02/17/2015 at 20:30 point

I'll add pictures and another video of the head turner itself soon. But for now: As far as I remember, the only part I had to remove with a Dremel was a small blocking that prevented the head from being turned. It belonged to the front part of the transparent dome. The turner, I built, is mounted such that it spreads between those little noses at the inside of the body, where the head lies upon and the ear notches. It is just properly placed there without glue or sth.. I recommend to use multi grease or so if you want to turn it with a servo. I'll make a small log entry soon. 

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herrkami wrote 02/17/2015 at 20:33 point

Oh, and thank you of course! Your Robie seems quite cool too! 

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suicidal.banana wrote 02/17/2015 at 15:27 point

Great project! I always love re-worked toy robots. (especially if you set yourself goals like these) Keep us updated :)

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herrkami wrote 02/17/2015 at 20:34 point

Thanks! I will! 

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herrkami wrote 02/17/2015 at 10:09 point

I know of a few other TOMY robot hacks, like those of DJ Sures (also featured on hackaday sometimes):

 or this :

or that:!

However, as far as I know, DJ Sures controlles them remotely from Windows PCs and has a great ambition to blue LEDs (which I - sorry DJ Sures - hate, especially when they appear on an 80s toy robot. I could write a whole essay on the pollution of great designs by blue LEDs in the early 21st century). However, that's a matter of taste and the hackers have done an amazing job here!

I do not know of an Omni hack, that incorporates high computational power, to make it smartly autonomous. By smartly, I mean that it orientates itself in a moderately complex environment and not just drive straight until reaching a wall to then turn left and drive straight again until... And I don't know of a homebrew, autonomous robot who is able to chat in a funny way. If you know some please post it here!

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