Building Fonzie, FAZA’s Robotic Mascot

FAZA now has a mascot! It’s an autonomous animatronic robot dressed up to look like one of the extraterrestrial aliens from the game. She comes with us to board game conventions and interacts with people.

Here’s a quick montage from creation to convention:

Fonzie was built with:

  • An Arduino Uno to control the servos and read the potentiometers from the gearboxes.
  • A Raspberry Pi 2 B to take webcam images and process them in realtime to detect motion and translate the motion it sees to servo locations and eye movements.
  • OpenCV and Python on the Raspberry Pi to process the images and translate them into servo movements.
  • A Raspberry Pi Touchscreen to display her three eyes, which also blink!
  • A webcam to see what’s in front of her.
  • 2 speakers located in her head, so she will say things like “exterminate!” and “resistance is futile” and occasionally sing daisy bell. She is voiced by my wife and comes with 50 cheeky sound bites.
  • 6 Continuous Rotation Servos to power the shoulders and neck.
  • 6 Servo Gearboxes geared at 5:1 to amplify the torque from each of the continuous rotation servos. These gearboxes also unload all shear and loading forces onto the gearbox so the servo won’t experience these forces.
  • Aluminum Frame to provide a skeletal structure to the robot.
  • Chicken wire mesh wrapped around the aluminum frame to give the body and appendages volume.
  • Orange fabric hand sown to make a costume for the robot.
  • Quilt batting between the chicken wire mesh and the orange fabric to give it a soft look under the skin.
  • A homemade 3s 12p Lithium Ion Battery providing 126 Amp Hours at voltages ranging from 10V to 12.6V. This battery also includes a 3s battery management system that keeps the Li-ion batteries safe while charging and discharging. The battery was sized to allow Fonzie to operate for a 4 day convention (about 8-10 hours a day) without having to be recharged. I used a battery kit from Vruzend, since it didn’t require any spot welding.
  • Lots of wires, solder, thread, and love 🙂

To help with traveling and transport, she comes apart at the hips. So the lower and upper body can be split to easily store her in my apartment and transport her to board game conventions.

The Best Hobby Game

On September 29, 2018 my brother and I went to Boston Festival of Indie Games to showcase FAZA. The day was intense, it was non-stop demos from 9 to 5.

The booth we set up included an animatronic FAZA alien, dubbed Fonzie, which would do motion tracking. It would turn its head to look at people as they walked by and its arms would move up and down when people walked up to it.

Here’s a brief video condensing the entire day into 45 seconds.

Around 5:30 they closed down the tabletop booths and reorganized the space for the awards ceremony where they recognized both digital and tabletop games.

Since games come in all shapes and sizes, games were grouped and judged based on different categories. For tabletop games, the categories included: Best in Show, Audience Choice, Most Dynamic Game, Most Innovative Game, Best Hobby Game, Best Family Game, and Best Game in Progress. You can see the list of games garnering awards for each category on Boston FIG’s site.

Going into this, I didn’t expect FAZA would be recognized for any of these categories since there were so many great games accepted into the showcase. To have FAZA selected as the best hobby game of 2018 blew my mind. I’m immensely grateful to have all the hard work that’s gone into this game be recognized by the community.


What’s next for FAZA? Kickstarter coming in early 2019!

Thank you for reading the article and making your way here. We’re preparing for kickstarter and will be launching ours very soon. Send us your info and we’ll get in touch when it’s ready.