Robodance 5 Makes Your Robot Smarter -- and It Helps the Physically Disabled

[ Robodance creator Robert Oschler running the software using the Emotiv EPOC neuroheadset. ]

WHAT: Software that makes consumer robots faster and smarter. Use with the WowWee Rovio telepresence robot -- a three-wheeled audio- and video-streaming bot -- to keep tabs on your house using Skype from anywhere in the world.

Robodance 5 Pro supports the $300 Emotiv EPOC neuroheadset, which can detect brain waves and facial gestures so those with limited mobility can control the robot hands-free. The software also has voice control and when at home, Rovio will notify users when they have an incoming Skype call.

Robodance 5 software supports five other robots, including Femisapien and Wrex The Dawg. Raised nearly $11K on Kickstarter, 60% above its goal.

Robert Oschler, founder. Programmer at Android Technologies, Inc not to be confused with Android, Inc.).

 Current robotics software has limited to no functionality for disabled people. The Rovio's own software presented hurdles for non-techies and had room for improvement. The audio and visual quality of Robodance's video stream could be improved by closely integrating with Skype.

 Robodance 5 is in development / Boise, ID.

Robert set out in 2004 to create Robodance 1.0, which let people script robots and use the computer to control the robot, after he realized robots on the market could be more user-friendly. 

"The ones at the times had these remote controls which would give an Xbox 360-player feel," Robert tells LAUNCH. "I saw this and I thought, 'this is probably keeping people from really enjoying their time.'"  

Robert continued to release Robodance software every year since then at his own expense. 

"Every single thing I've done has been prompted by a breakthrough in hardware," Robert tells LAUNCH. "Rovio came out and I pretty much flipped out."


"There's other people who develop software," Robert tells LAUNCH. "But there's absolutely nothing for the disabled. There's something about the market for the disabled that people just aren't interested enough."

"About a few hundred users," Robert says. 6K people on the mailing list, 33% open rate.

To provide affordable, useful robotics telepresence for everyone. The most important feature, Robert says, is the support for the Emotiv headset "that allows people with severe movement disabilities access to the robot so they can navigate their own homes and interact with loved ones and pets, and to explore places half way across the world, extending their eyes and ears beyond the confines of their bodies."

Robert's next project is to provide a social network for the disabled based on remote telepresence. 

"Maybe they can’t talk but they can connect to each other, explore each other's home and see new places [using remote telepresence]," Robert says. "Businesses could set up a little Rovio track and people can log in, take a little tour around the zoo, do group tours... There is not an effective social network for the severely disabled because you need a product like the EPOC to provide the interface."

140 backers on Kickstarter, including Evernote CEO Phil Libin

$10,898 on Kickstarter [ Robert is still accepting donations here. ]


WowWee Rovio wifi-enabled robotic web camera. Sells for $299 on Amazon.

The mouse-driven, point-and-click interface for those using Robodance without the EPOC headset.

The Emotiv EPOC EEG 14-electrode headset detects facial movements and emotions.

The sensor map for the Emotiv headset -- green indicates that every sensor has good contact.

The main Robodance 5 interface for those using the EPOC headset. The left side shows the meters that reflect the strength of various head and face movements that trigger movement in the robot. The volume indicator meter, labeled "concentration," shows the strength of the user's emotions. Users set the Emotiv EPOC to detect facial movements and assign specific emotions to trigger different movements in the robot. Head movement is detected via the headset's built-in gyro accelerometer and the rest is detected by the electrodes.

The right side of the picture shows the Skype client, since a Skype video call is used to manage the session between the user and the Rovio. The video panel shows what the robot sees. In this case, it's Robert's WowWee Alive animatronic chimpanzee head.


1. "The age of personal robotics is at hand (video)" (Venture Beat, Aug. 21, 2011)

2. "A universal language for robots" (CNN Money, Nov. 30, 2010)

3. "Robots could improve everyday life at home or work" (Cornell Chronicle, Sept. 21, 2010) 

4. "Reflections on Personal Robots, Backwards and Forwards" (Forbes, Jan. 1, 2011)


Robert Oschler 
Email: robert dot oschler at gmail dot com 
Twitter: @roschler

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