We loved anything to do with robots in the 80s and there was a specific one that was designed to be used in your home.
The Tomy Omibot 5402 was a toy robot that could be programmed and follow commands. It was released in 1984 as the flagship robot from a series of robots that would be released by Tomy.
The 80s were a real golden age of robots, and we got as much of them as our hearts desired. From Transformers, Gobots, Jonny-5, R2-D2, it was like we were living in a toy robot utopia. I wanted a Tomy Omnibot more than life itself. It seemed like this was more than a toy and would exist as a genuine robot companion.
From my perspective (and epic commercials) the Omnibot seemed like it could exist as almost like a pet and that it truly had its own artificial intelligence. These things were not cheap however so any dreams of having a robot best friend went down the drain faster than the batteries for them would run out.
This is a look back on the Tomy Omnibot 5402.
What Was An Omnibot?
We’re looking specifically at the Tomy Omnibot 5402 as shown in the pictures and commercials in this blog. The Omnibot robot family included a bunch of different versions including:
- Omnibot 2000
- Omnibot MK II
- Robie sr
- Omni jr.
Honestly, there was a crapload of these toys that I didn’t even know existed. This was the prime age of Radio Shack and you had enough toy robots available to chock a trash compactor. We’re still looking at an age where tech related things were kept more to “nerd culture” and didn’t have a lot of mainstream appeal.
The Omnibot 5402 was the attempt at crossing over into the bigger toy market and making robots something that could be enjoyed by all – hence one of the funniest and dorkiest commercials of the 80s. They wanted to let you know this wasn’t for “tech geeks” but more like a novelty.
It has remote control function but also a ton of other features including a cassette deck and the ability to perform various chores and “services”. This was no protocol droid mind you, and what you had was basically a slower remote control car but an object that was definitely unique.
What Was The Tomy Toy Company?
Tomy was the company behind the Omnibot but exists today as Tomy Company, Ltd and is a combination of the original Tomy and long-time rival, Takara. They are based in Japan where there they are known as “Takara-Tomy” but both these companies have a long history.
Takara goes back to 1955 and even though many of their toys would be branded as Hasbro in North America, they have brought us:
- Battle Beasts
Tomy itself was founded in 1924 and when they merged with Takara in 2006 they brought us things like Pokemon, Thomas the Tank Engine, The Game of Life, and sell Hasbro products in Japan such as Jenga, Play-Doh, Monopoly, and My Little Pony.
When Tomy first started they were making toy airplanes and in the 50s, they got big producing B-52 bombers toys after World War II. In the 60s they started opening offices in New York to make more inroads worldwide and were getting on board with more toy robots like the Tumble Robot.
The 70s brought us micromen which would pave the way for Transformers and they moved their production to Singapore and they would hit their 50th anniversary in 1974. In the 80s they would then bring us more toy robots such as the Transformers and the Omnibot and would continue into the 90s including two massive ones; Pokemon and Furby.
How The Omnibot 5402 Worked
Like it’s big brother Soundwave, the Omnibot had a cassette tape player built right into its chest. The cassette could slide out of his chest and you could record, and playback, a bunch of different sequences of commands. You could also make regular audio recordings to bring some human life to this artificial intelligence…
There was also a built-in digital clock with timers and different alarms and this allowed the Ominbot 5402 to perform specific movement recordings at specific times. The next big thing was that the Omnibot was able to broadcast speech from the remote control handset that it had that would be broadcast through a speaker that he had on it (why the hell am I calling this a he?)
Last but not least, the Omnibot had some claws that allowed it to carry a specially designed tray that let it carry around items. This reminds me of the a). The drinks robot at Gordon Gekko’s beach house in Wall Street, and b). R2-D2 serving drinks of Jabba the Hut’s barge in the Empire Strikes Back which was called the ‘Khetanna’.
The Omnibot 5402 took some programming to get set up but honestly, it had some pretty cool features and technology in an age where most new tech pieces were the size of Volkswagen. it reminds me a lot of the Robotic Operating Buddy or ROB that came with the original NES. I’ve got an article all about the amazing story behind the ROB that you should check out.
Also, I’m aware the Khetanna appears in Return of the Jedi and not the Empire Strikes Back, that was just to see who I could infuriate.
What Came With The Tomy Omnibot 5402?
So here’s a quick run down on some specs and what was included with the Omnibot:
- The RC remote control
- The detachable tray which could hold up to 2.2 pounds or one large burrito
- Demonstration cassette tape
- Battery Charger
- Home base
- A tuner
- He was 1 foot tall
The home base was a cardboard type thing that you were to tape to the floor and this would be used as a reference point for doing the programming. The Omnibot would also run on 5.5 Volts and you could get around 4 hours of usage from the little trash can.
The Tomy Omnibot 5402 was, I think, a slightly ahead of its time toy. It embraced the popularity of advancing technology – and the fascination with all things robots – into a pretty creative toy. I sure as hell wanted one, but these suckers were NOT cheap. I don’t recall how much they were at the time but I knew that I was out of my mind to try to ask for one of them.
Turns out the original retail price (in my best ‘Price is Right’ voice) was around $250 USD and if you adjust that for inflation today, that’s around $600 bloody dollars. I was right to not ask for it.
But, despite the hefty price tag, I believe you got quite a bit for your money. This was a serious toy and wasn’t even specifically intended for kids. I think for the price you got a lot of functionality and at the very least you had a cool remote control robot.
I think the Omnibot was a short-lived, moderate hit but they still pop up today and you can find used ones on eBay for $100-300. But either way, the Omnibot 5402 is one of those toys that makes you go “oh ya, I remember that!”.