Robosapien Camera Mod

Can you find the camera on this robot?


The purpose of this page is to provide an illustrated, step-by-step guide on how to install a miniature wireless camera in your Robosapien robot. Thanks to for the initial idea. Memnon has installed a similar camera into the robot's head. This is sweet, since the head turns when you raise and lower the arms he can pan the camera around. Getting the head assembly apart is extremely difficult since it is glued so I went for the easier solution: installing it into Robosapien's roomy chest cavity.

Please email me if you have questions or comments.

You can click on any image to view an enlarged copy.


For this project I used a small 'ZT-802' type RF mini camera. They are easily found on eBay, I paid about $40 including shipping for mine. It will transmit both audio and video. The actual camera is about the size of a sugar cube and fits very nicely in Robosapien's chest cavity. The receiver has composite (RCA style) outputs that you can plug into a TV, or a tuner card in your computer. I build and install HTPCs (home theater PCs) and swear by the Hauppauge WinTV PVR-250. With this mod it works great, since it provides the ability to record the audio and video (or snapshots) on your PC. Before you start cutting up Robosapien, it is a good idea to test the camera, to not only make sure it works, but to make sure you are happy with the quality and with the setup (i.e. plugging it into a TV or VCR probably isn't as much fun as plugging it into a PC that can control Robosapien and record the images).


The camera lens is 0.5" inches so that's what size hole we need to drill in Robosapien's chest. I think he'll probably have nightmares of this drill for a long time to come. I tried using smaller holes, but the result wasn't as good as letting the entire lens come through the Robosapien shell. It also looks nicest to put the camera lense flush with the robot's chest.


Here is what it looks like after I drilled the hole. I chose the center location in his chest for several reasons. One, it was the spot where his chest cavity is widest. Also, it is the furthest point away from his arm and waist motors, so interference is kept to a minimum. I didn't even need to shield his motors. This spot is also one of the more stable points on the Robosapien, and since it is dead center, it shouldn't affect his balance. Finally, I felt it was the most aesthetically pleasing place for the camera.

A few notes on drilling the hole. Make sure you take your time and go slow, since once the hole is there, you can't easily fix it. I started with a 1/8" inch drill bit, and drilled in the center point there on his chest, right where his 'cleavage' meets his black "throat piece". Once this hole was made and cleaned up with a hobby knife, I moved to a 1/4" inch drill bit and enlarged it and smoothed the edges with a hobby knife. Finally, it was time for the 'big daddy' 1/2" inch drill bit. This made a mess because the plastic is so thin (comparitively) and required a lot of the old in and out with the drill to smooth the hole. It also required quite a bit of sculpting with the hobby knife to get the edges nice and smooth.

As you can see in the picture of the inside of the hole, I used a dremel tool and ground down the molded lines near the hole. This lets the camera sit flush.


Once the hole is made, you will need to start fitting the camera in it and making any adjustments to the hole. As you can see in the picture, there is really no place to attach the camera -- I don't really think it would be a smart idea to hot glue it onto the chest shell up where the lense goes through. Although you probably could, the threaded lens screws in and out of the camera body to focus, and doing so would eliminate the ability to do this. I guess you could try and make the hole for the camera higher, so you could glue it to the top part of the chest shell, or lower, so you can attach it to the bottom support peg there. I think either of these options would make drilling the hole much more difficult, however.


I used a small piece of wood to attach the camera to the robot's chest shell. I used a spongey sanding block to make it nice and smooth, and more importantly to get it exactly the right size and shape. Note that if you do not want Robosapien to film people's shoes, you will need to angle the camera upwards slightly. A nice sandable piece of wood is perfect in this regard. Make sure you fit it exactly how you want it before you even plug in your hot glue gun.


Apply the hot glue to the piece of wood, and press the camera into place. This makes it much easier to install. I used the center support peg there to glue the apparatus onto. I left the antenna for the camera inside the chest cavity. Now that the camera is attached to Robosapien's shell, hook it all up and make sure it still works, and that the position, angle, and so on are to your liking.


The next step is to enlongate the cables for the battery. I simply snipped off the original battery snap from the connector, leaving the wires intact, and then used a Radio Shack 9v snap. This gave me 3 or 4 more inches of wire which was plenty. I also drilled a small hole in Robosapien's back shell to feed the wires out of. If you are going to do this make sure you feed the wires before you connect them. I used velcro to connect the actual battery to the robot.


Put it all back together and you are done. If you have other mods that are taking up space in the chest cavity you may need to secure the battery cable connector inside, it's pretty bulky, but I just let mine lay where it wanted. One thing this mod showed me was that there is a ton of space inside the chest cavity.

I know someone will ask: the decals on his chest are left over from a Tamiya 1/35th scale WWII BMW R75 motorcycle model . The skull and crossbones is the marking for the German 3rd SS Tank Division. The "Y" is for the German 7th Tank Division.

The 'backpack' in the second picture is a RF audio receiver that allows the robot to play sounds and music from my computer and microphone.


Here are some snapshots taken with the camera as the robot spied on my dogs. In that last picture, I think the robot might be in trouble! Overall, this was an easy and fun mod to do. The camera picture quality isn't the greatest, that's for sure, it needs a LOT of light to operate adequately. Combined with computer control of Robosapien and the RF audio receiver it is fantastic. Using remote desktop I can walk the robot around the house via the internet and see, talk to, and listen to people and objects he comes across.


Update: 4 September 2004

Well as I mentioned the main problem with the mini cam is how much light it needs. Memnon mentioned on the I-Cybie and Robotic Pet forums a thought about adding some lighting to help alleve this problem. So I was at Costco today and came across a Coleman brand LED headlamp for $10. I convinced my wife that it would be great for camping (which we havent done in 3 years) heh. Anyway I had planned on gutting it but it turns out it fit pretty well as "headlamp underpants" on Robosapien right out of the blister pack. I like the design as it's just one piece. I've seen a lot of headlamps that have a seperate pack for the batteries. I still need to test how well it works with the camera in terms of upping the light levels, especially during daylight indoors. Anyway here are some pics.