Even adults watching Adventure Time wish to own a personal BMO, the quirky living game system from the Be More episode of the show. Although based on the GameBoy, BMO is a digital friend calling out through the nostalgia lens of our childhood times. Now Bob Herzberg has created Beemo, a BMO for his daughter and her friends.
In building the living little boy, Beemo, Herzberg used the popular single board computer Raspberry Pi (RBPi), which be runs on battery power, a USB battery pack. Although his body is made from laser-cut MDF wood, Beemo uses am 8-inch HDMI monitor. Herzberg had to 3-D print the arms and legs, attached them to the body, which he sanded, sealed, and painted. Adding some vinyl lettering completed the look. Adding a small wireless keyboard meant Beemo could be remotely controlled.
To interface the gaming button on the panel, Herzberg had to create a custom PCB, and he laser-cut the special acrylic buttons to mount them. These he connected to the IO header on the RBPi to make them work. Another PCB functions as a holder for the USB sockets. This allows Beemo to have USB ports on the front panel. Beemo works comfortably for a continuous 8-hour period on his battery.
Herzberg’s daughter created the custom animations that he then transformed into MP4 video files—giving Beemo most of his personality. The remote keyboard operations turn the animations on. Some BMOs are given an internal microphone and a speaker. The BMO translates the user’s voice using Google Voice API, and maps it to an appropriate response, allowing the user to have a conversion with BMO.
Herzberg also used the RBPi camera module. Some BMO makers use servos to make the camera pop out for taking a snap. This type is called the GoMO and it can take pictures. Actually, there is a whole family of MOs—GoMO, CMO, XMO, UMO, and a few others. Although people like to think of the retractable camera as a ghost detecting equipment, Beemo simply likes to take nice photos.
Playing games with Beemo is very simple. You only have to load one of the emulators Raspbian supports. Raspbian is the operating system that makes RBPi run. Herzberg faced some real challenges when creating Beemo. He had to use different materials and techniques to fabricate the enclosure. However, the presence of the RBPi inside meant bringing Beemo to life was much simpler.
While Beemo may not be able to hop around and sing as the BMO in Adventure Time did, he can certainly play a huge number of retro games, because of the RBPi within him. As Herzberg was familiar with the Atari 800 emulator, having written games for that platform earlier, he used the front panel USB ports for connecting gamepads. Of course, the D-pad and front panel buttons are also equally useable.
Herzberg uses the RBPi A+ as the heart of his project. He has split 256 MB of the RAM between the CPU and the GPU. He also uses the composite video and stereo outputs on the 4-pole jack internally. By modifying the config.txt file, he was able to shut off HDMI output completely.