My Halloween Costume for the 1999 Industrial Light & Magic costume party

updated 11/9/99

  Name: Housebot 2000
  Size & Specs: 9 feet tall
4.5 feet long
approx. 200lbs (without passengers)
3 arms / 2 drive wheels
  Drivetrain & power:

(2) Dayton Gearmotors,
Vantec RDFR23 speed controller,
Interstate Deep Cycle Marine battery,
Futaba T6XA FM Radio transmitter/reciever,
front and rear heavy duty swivel casters,
16ah sealed lead acid battery for lights

  Passengers: Jim & Erica Smentowski (seated back to back inside)
  Maximum speed: 6mph
  Run time: Approximately 5 hours on a full charge
  Materials Used: Mirrored aluminum sheets,
lots of 1x1 and 2x4 lumber,
some MDF sheeting,
scrap computer equipment,
approx. 200 LEDs and colored bulbs,
dryer conduit for arms,
household items for props,
half a plastic barrel for head,
small headlights for eyes,
springs, cable, wire ties,
100 feet of duct tape,
and about 450 screws
  Time to build: Approximately 1 month

Alright, I'm nuts about robots, and I'm nuts for building this thing, but I've gone to too many ILM Halloween parties with a mediocre costume, watching onward as some incredible costumes were winning some of the best prizes I have ever seen in a contest, so this time I decided to get into the act.


My wife, Erica, and I started on HouseBot 2000 in September 1999 after she came up with the idea that we make a robot costume that could show that robots could be useful around the house. Little did she know what she was getting herself into. We started with no plans, just a bit of borrowed equipment from my other robots and a couple ideas from the scrapyard. After a few weeks and several trips to the scrapyard and hardware store, we had HouseBot 2000 sitting outside the garage.

  Here I'm putting some finishing touches on HouseBot 2000, as usual, I was too involved with the project to take too many pictures during the process.

HouseBot 2000 was built with lots of scrap parts, which, while it made him look kludged, it also made him kind of 'cute'.

The lights were the finishing touch, the two sides of the robot have the name 'HouseBot 2000' lit behind purple neon, there are about 200 flashing and non-flashing LEDs throughout the body, many colored bulbs, including one on top of his 'antennae' (a spring on his head).

The headlight eyes normally glowed a dim brightness, and the head could move around (360 degrees) and the eyes could be aimed downward to give him the appearance of 'looking around'. I could also press a switch to make the eyes come on full brightness (almost TOO bright in a dimly lit room, I discovered).

We had a bit of a scare on the way to the party, as we had the costume in the back of an open-bed truck to get him there, and even though I was driving slowly, one of his 'eyes' was ripped off by the wind! Amazingly, it fell back into the truck instead of onto the highway. After a little cosmetic surgery in the parking lot (thank goodness for Duct Tape!), I got it mostly working again.

HouseBot 2000 all dressed up and ready to go to the party  

HouseBot was a hit, mainly because of his size, but also due to the fact that he was truly motorized.

Erica & I sat on a bench inside, back to back, she had her arms out the back and side of the robot, and I had my left arm out the other side, freeing my right arm to control the joystick, control panel, and head movements. We both had little doors we could open up in front of our faces to accept goodies and beverages. Erica had the idea of putting on the "Please Feed Me" sign, which got a lot of laughs and people loved 'feeding' the robot.

We each had a screen in front of our faces to look out, that nobody could see inside, and I had screens to each side, giving me a good view of the area, I didn't want to run anyone down after all...

  "Please Don't Feed the Robot"

HouseBot also made an appearance at our church's 'Harvest Hoedown' party too, where the kids went nuts interacting with the robot arms, pushing the buttons, and staring into his mysterious eyes.

It was a blast, but HouseBot didn't get to move around much, too dangerous for the little ones...

HouseBot partying with the kiddies  

HouseBot got a lot of attention at the ILM party, and as a result, was invited as a finalist onto the stage! That in itself was an event, luckily they had a ramp to the stage, but we still needed a lot of help getting onto the ramp from the floor, and coming down the ramp was scary, as the whole robot started tipping over! Yikes! We made it through, though

The finalists were judged by crowd vote, and HouseBot 2000 was cheered into 6th place (out of THOUSANDS of costumes!), guaranteeing us one of the great prize packages!

Other winners: Titanic (3 people, including the iceberg), The Iron Giant (12 feet tall-awesome!), Barrell of Monkeys (silly, but lots of people involved), Ripley's Shrunken Head (cool visual done with reverse magnifying panels to make his head look small), and others I cannot remember right now.

In all, we walked away with a new iMac computer, a color Compaq palmtop computer, a Digital CellPhone with 6 months of free access, and a Y2K survival kit with lots of goodies that could be used for an earthquake survival kit. We were stunned at our success and very pleased with the prize package (even though we didn't get to choose the prize like some of the top winners, this was one of the packages I would have picked anyway- well, after the Hawaii trip, of course...).

Now what to do with a 9 foot tall robot that doesn't fit in the garage? Hmmm.....

  The builders pose with the robot- Nice shirt, huh?