AprilTags and Halloween Animatronics

It’s October and many teams are building Halloween animatronics to put on display in their schools and communities. These are a great way to raise awareness of the robotics team which helps with fundraising and recruiting.

Most animatronics have basic motion sensing technology to trigger behavior. With the announcement that FRC is moving to AprilTags, this is a great opportunity to enhance the behaviors of the animatronics.

Keep the simple motion sensing trigger for a basic motion. Everyone expects this. In a busy school hallway, you can put a semi-random delay between triggers so it isn’t going crazy as everyone heads to class between periods.

Then build some more advanced behaviors, or at least something a little different. Have these triggered of different AprilTags from the same series that FRC uses. Each Team Member can carry one or two of these AprilTags with them. When a Team Member passes by, they can display the AprilTag to the animatronic and it will do something different, even unexpected. The folks in the area will be taken off guard by this change in behavior.

Like a magic trick, non-Team Members will be amazed with the capabilities of the team. It will draw interest and help with both recruiting and fundraising.

For the team, this gives them experience with AprilTags. They will learn how to program for them. They will also learn more about how lighting and reflections affect the tag detection abilities. This type of real world experience will only help when designing and building their competition robot.


Not quite the same, but we’re planning on using AprilTags to help the odometry on the dancing swerve demo (shown here in teleop testing)


The real benefit of AprilTags is not in the unique IDs but in the position estimation. It could be really cool for an animatronic that tracks to the person holding the tag, like a talking skeleton or something.

I love it. How creepy would it be to have a skeleton or a ghoul in a display case turn and follow you as you walk around it?

If you’re doing a haunted house, guides could have an AprilTag with them so things stare at a group as they move along corridors.

Halloween & animiatronic Related (add your own apriltag support if you like):

I’ve been doing some simple and fun animatronic spiders with the super cheap


Stepper Housing & spool:



I create a Tunnel of Terror with tons of “Radioactive” spiders.

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Just getting started, but with blacklight reflective PETG filament these are super spooky.

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What if you had a table with spooky objects that were tagged on bottom. But the camera saw them when someone picked them up. And that was your trigger.

Or what about having to correctly place objects in order to move on in the haunted house. It isn’t quite a playing a bone organ.

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