My "Hero" Robots

The Heathkit Company had many electronic kits and always seem to be ahead of its time. In the 1980s they developed four robots which included the HERO 1, the HERO Jr., the HERO 2000, and an Arm Trainer. HERO, by the way, is an accronym for "Heath Educational Robot". The HERO Jr. was considered a personal robot, whereas the others were developed as educational devices. The Arm Trainer is basically the HERO 2000 Arm mounted on a stationary base.

My first HERO robot was a HERO 1. I traded a 1000' spool of electrical wire for this non-working unit and after installing four large batteries I was able to get it to talk and do a few things. I obviously needed repair parts which, for the most part, were very hard to find. Another HERO 1 showed up on Ebay and it had no bidders because the shipping was very high. The owner was going to have a shipping company pack and ship the unit. Fortunately, this seller was located in my area, so I was able to have a look at it and I was able to pick it up relatively cheap since no shipping was required. It included a remote which I really wanted. Here is a picture of my HERO 1 with the remote.

An ideal teaching tool, the HERO 1 is a completely self-contained robot that interacts with you and its invironment. It is a perfect tool for learning the components and circuitry of robots, as well as artificial intelligence.

The HERO detects sound, light, motion, and obstacles and travels over courses that you predeteremine. This robot can see and hear through on board light, sound, and motion detectors, plus a sonar ranging system. The light detector sees over the entire visible light spectrum, and even into the infrared range. The sound detector hears over 200 to 5000 Hz frequency range which is more than a typical persons voice range. I once set up HERO 1 to detect sound, and when the grandchildren came to visit and made some noise, HERO spoke up and said "Please be quiet....I'm trying to sleep".

HERO 1 has seven motors so it can turn its head, move about the room, steer itself, and has an optional arm that rotates, extends, and a wrist that turns and a gripper that can pick up things.

My HERO 2000 (aka H2K) was the last generation of Heath robots and is an incredible machine. It uses the same computer processor as did the early computers (16-bit 8088). This master processor not only runs user programs, but also controls eleven 8-bit peripheral microprocessors. This mythology lets you simultaneously operate sensory and manipulative functions. Hey, this is multitasking before the term was invented! There is a HERO BASIC language stored in a 64K ROM as well as several programs for demostration, diagnostics, and sensor adjustments.

New technology has provided a memory expansion board to bring the memory to 640K and the board also includes IDE disk drive capability. Since most of the electronics is on plug in boards, troubleshooting, modifications, additions, and adjustments are relatively easy. There are 12 circuit card slots so room for expansion and there is even an optional experimental board for conducting experiments and testing your own circuits, two RS-232 ports configured for a terminal and a printer, and a cassette port so you can use a standard cassette tape player for storing and/or inputting programs. I actually use a miniature Olympus VN-240PC Digital Voice Recorder for this function.

The synthesized voice lets HERO talk in any language, generate music, sing, and emit sound effects and even includes inflection. Unlike the HERO 1 which required putting together lots of small phonemes to say anything, the H2K has a direct text-to-speech conversion. Type in "hello there" and that's what it says. My grandson likes to type in random letters to make the robot talk funny.

The built-in sensors include: 360 degree sonar with a range of 4.5 " to 10.5', a light scanner with 255-level coverage at 24 bearings 15 degrees apart, a temperature sensor that covers from 60 to 90 degress F, and a sound sensor which picks up 255 audible levels.

H2K has much more maneuverability than HERO 1 since there is a motor on both wheels. A fast turning radius is possible since during a turn both wheels will be turning, one in one direction, and one in the other. The powerful two-wheel drive system pulls 26 pounds.

The optional robot arm is multi-jointed with a gripper that has a patented sense of touch. The arm lifts 1 pound in any direction, plus has full wrist action and accurate repeatability.

There is also an optional auto docking accessory which enables H2K to automatically dock with its charger when a low battery is detected. It's funny to watch. After he says his battery is low, he scurries around until he finds and backs up into his charger.

On the top of H2K there is a top-mounted hexadecimal keypad and display for inputting data. You can also use an optional typewritter-type ASCII keyboard remote console to control all the robot functions from up to 100' away. At that distance, it's fun to have HERO in the driveway when the school bus drops off the kids. I can can go over and even talk to them through a 2-way voice-operated hand held radio I added.

Other sensational features include sixteen head-mounted LED status indicators with eight being user definable. These can be observed to show what functions HERO is performing. With a single large 24 amp-hour battery, HERO 2000 can operate for days without a charge. Here is a picture of my HERO 2000 and remote.

HERO 2000 .................................................................................... HERO 1 next to HERO 2000


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