univac : uni-Poo
The uni-Poo: a circuit bent Tiger Electronics Poo-Chi robot dog from 2000, the motor of which is now CV controllable; the output of a RF pickup coil reading the staccato EMF emitting from the tiny motor provides a discordant alien servo soundscape. Utilizing an array of eurorack modules, optical and potentiometer control uni-Poo can be encouraged to make sequence-able noise.
Circuit Bent CV controlled Motorized Robot Dog Toy After poking through the circuit board of a Poo-Chi robot dog toy, a new instrument commission, exploring for any interesting circuit bent audio sounds and finding none, I began poking around the circuit with my modular synth, trying to find interesting places that may take CV control. I found several motor control points that responded to gates and oscillations, causing the motor to spit, sputter, whine and cavort.
I pulled a coil from an old modem, wired it up to a mini-jack (creating a RF pickup), and attached it to the motor to extract the EMF emissions, and discovered beautiful, strange alien servo-motor sounds that could be triggered and sequenced. I added additional optical and potentiometer control to the circuit for added flavorful noise manipulation.
I was especially excited about this gadget as I’d never seen another instrument, circuit bent or otherwise, that utilized RF exclusively as the output source.
I mounted the separated head and body in a sloped enclosure, engineered the motor assembly to attach to the body to retain disturbing inverted leg-wiggling, laid out the controls in an aesthetic manner, and uni-Poo became a full-fledged instrument.
Frequently Asked Questions
What inspired you to do this?
I got a commission from someone to build a circuit bent gadget. He sent me the Poo-Chi robot dog to circuit bend. I didn't find much initially, but then discovered I could control the motors with CV from my modular synth, so instead of traditional audio output, I used an RF mic (EMF pickup) to read the RF output of the motor as audio source.
How long did it take to make it?
Several weeks, on and off.
How long have you been doing things like this?
I've been building instruments and making noise with them, including making live visuals, since the late 1980's. I've been circuit bending audio and video gadgets since 1995.
How much did this cost to do?
Have you done other things like this?
Sort of -- see my website, techdweeb.com, and https://linktr.ee/univac
However, I have never built a circuit bent instrument using an RF pickup mic as the entire sound source, nor have I seen any others that do.
What did you wish you knew before you started this?
I wish I had a 3D printer. It would have made some of the engineering of the motor mount and enclosure much easier. I will have one soon...
Are there plans available to make this? Do you sell this?
Perhaps. This one was a commission and I liked it so much I bought another Poo-Chi to make one for myself. I may do a series if there is interest.
What’s next?
Always something...video bending projects to finish. A few commissions. A modular version of The TinyFlaccid TubbyBox (see techdweeb.com)
Amazon for the sloped enclosure. eBay for the robot dog. Hardware store for paints. My large collection of fasteners (screws and nuts) for attaching things together (every tinkerer should scour garage sales for jars and collections of fasteners. You can never have enough variety). Several minijack outputs, potentiometer and knob, misc switches, optical resistor.
Soldering equipment, plumber's epoxy putty, wire and misc tools.
univac : TechDweeb
The maker univac
Costa Mesa, CA
Consummate TechDweeb, visual artist and NovaTone “musician” univac continuously re-purposes the detritus of trickle-down technology, toys and off-the-shelf electronics in order to create circuit bent audioVisual hybrids—causing the engineers of the original items to shudder in disbelief. He has been making experimental electronic noise and visuals since the late 1980’s.

univac holds a degree in cinematography and sound-designed for film/video, games, software and the early web and VR in the 1990’s for such diverse clients as SIGGRAPH, AOL, Microsoft (Paul Allen), Silicon Graphics, NTT, Thomas Dolby, VR pioneer Char Davies, and science fiction writers Alan Dean Foster & Neal Stephenson.

Combining analog video, circuit bending, Apple's Quartz Composer, and modular synthesis univac creates real-time audio-reactive visuals for live performances.

He hails from California, and has written articles on the art of circuit bending for low-brow, high-shelf art mag Hi-Fructose; sound engineered for cutup culture-jammers Negativland, spoke and performed about circuit bending at the first (2006) Maker Faire in San Mateo, performed at the 2007 Electronic Music Festival in San Francisco along with countless other performances since the late 80’s, and is a co-conspirator of: Big City Orchestra, Daevid Allen (Gong, Soft Machine), Wobbly, Thomas DiMuzio, Evolution Control Committee, Edward Ka-Spel, The Silverman, The Legendary Pink Dots and currently a member of the Southern California art-nerd super-group SynthLab Collective.

Connect with univac
How I can help you:
I do limited commissions of circuit bent instruments and circuit bent experimental visuals.
How you can help me:
Follow me on Instagram, check out my YouTubes, spread the word, give your favorite pet some love.