i-SOBOT: Some Serious Hacking


The i-SOBOT has a lot going for it. Character, personality, low price, 17 degrees of freedom, and some 'programmability' just to mention a few of its strong points.

Still, there are a lot of robot fans out there that desperately want to do even more with it. They want to take advantage of the basic i-SOBOT robot and expand it to do things its designers at TOMY never imagined.

But, to accomplish any serious hacking, first you have to figure out what's what inside the i-SOBOT's tiny body and brains....

We've already posted about Robert's project expanding the popular RoboDance software to control the i-SOBOT, and how it includes use of the Wii-Mote controller so that by waving your hands and arms the robot will respond.

It's a great application that we plan to write more about soon. But, it's all external and doesn't require any potentially warranty violating modifications to the robot itself. It still leaves the question of what magic and mysteries is the i-SOBOT hiding under it's covers?

One brave soul, apparently a devoted robot fan and hacker living either in France, or perhaps a French speaking location in Canada, decided to find out.

On his (her?) blog, they are slowly and painstakingly disassemblying and documenting all the i-SOBOT internals, mechanical, electrical, and software. They started off by observing:

"I received my first i-SOBOT yesterday and tried the various preprogrammed modes. It is really fun for the value, especially the special actions mode like dancing and doing exercises. Tomy and Takara engineers have done a great job and i-SOBOT is certainly a milestone in humanoid robots history."

Then go on to lay out their goals for the project:

"As a robotics enthusiast, I am much more interested in studying the hardware to use i-SOBOT as a low-cost humanoid platform with advanced robotics controller like Mobisense Systems MBS270, especially to add sensors and computer vision."

The follow-on posts include:

The i-SOBOT power supply

i-SOBOT Controller Overview - covers disassembly and includes two detailed and annotated photos that show all the major connectors and functionality.

i-SOBOT Controller Overview 2 - digs deeper into the i-SOBOT controller including servo connections, the on  board gyro, and quite a few pin-outs.

Right-Arm Control - covers the servo signals and protocols

More About i-SOBOT Servo Protocol - Includes the i-SOBOT frames and protocols in quite a bit of detail.

Very exciting stuff. We can hardly wait to see what they post next.

You might also enjoy:

  1. i-SOBOT: Rumors Open the Door to Extreme Hacking
  2. TOMY i-SOBOT Robot Certified by Guinness (Video)
  3. Tomy i-SOBOT Robot Site Live!
  4. i-SOBOT in the New York Times
  5. More On The New TOMY i-SOBOT humaniod robot. (Video)
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  1. Ah, now this is the stuff I’ve been waiting to see! It’s amazing how some of us just aren’t satisfied till something is taken apart. The problem with such cute little robots is that my wife would have a fit if I ever tried to dissect them.

    Anyway, I’m impressed to see that i-SOBOT has a real gyroscope, or maybe it’s just a tilt sensor? It’s not clear from the pictures.

  2. > The problem with such cute little
    > robots is that my wife would have a
    > fit if I ever tried to dissect them.

    That might have something to do with the fact that I’m suddenly single again…

    > Anyway, I’m impressed to see that i-SOBOT
    > has a real gyroscope, or maybe it’s
    > just a tilt sensor?

    It has both. The gyro is real and does a great job. There is also a mercury switch type tilt sensor. In the original prototypes the robot would sense that it was laying down and after a few seconds would get up by itself. That functionality was disabled when they felt that the robot might be left close enough to the edge of a table that the action would cause it to fall to the ground.

  3. Thank you for the great posting!!!

    PS. Sorry to hear about the suddenly single part…

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