Inside Tankbot

Desk Pet Tankbots are small rechargable 'bots that can operate in 3 modes- Obstacle Detection (best for maze running), Light and Sound, or Controlled. The first two modes are autonomous, with Tankbot roving around and avoiding obstacles, or moving randomly and emitting various sounds. In Controlled mode, a smartphone can be used (with the included IR transmitter attached to the audio out) to drive the Tankbot. Each color of Tankbot is controlled on a separate channel, so up to four can be controlled individually in the same arena. The Deskpet app is available for iPhone or Android, and can also be used to control additional Deskpets such as Skitterbot and Trekbot.

In this article we'll open up Tankbots from the current ToysRUs version and the Battle-enabled Brookstone version (currently available in Red and Blue only).

For some images from the Tankbot production line, see Desk Pet's Facebook album.

green tankbot


Part 1. Inside Green ToysRUs Tankbot

To open the Tankbot, you'll need a 3-blade screwdriver. I got mine on Amazon, the better one was under $5. These babies are also good for opening Wiis and other Nintendo devices, should you get the urge!

Remove the two bottom screws, and the two longer screws holding the front roller on. You should also take off the treads- a trivial task. Now push in the two tabs just under Tankbot's chin- the upper half should separate easily from the lower. You'll see a bunch of colored wires connecting the upper and lower parts. You can also see the gear drives, speaker, and LiPO rechargable battery in the lower part. Inside the head you can see one side of the PCB- (see the gallery images).

Unfortunately the two halfs of the upper structure appear to be glued together by two rods, one hidden by the PCB and difficult to get to. However, you may not even need to go further- look for jumper pads near the black epoxy pad labeled 'OP1' through 'OP4'. In the gallery pictures, my Green ToysRUs Tankbot had a solder blob on OP4. I'll be building a complete table of the meanings of these- 'options'?

Bottom of PCB

Note in the image above, an unpopulated set of pads in the lower right labeled 'VR1'. This is the same region where Rev:01 boards have a set of through holes labeled 'D8'. Hm, the mystery thickens- is there maybe a version with a photoresistor or a pot there?

Upper side of PCB

For now, just take note of your Tankbot color and which of these have solder blobs on them. Note that there are also two on the upper side of the PCB- labeled OP3 and OP4 most likely. None of ours have any solder on the upper pads, and you'll need to shine a flashlight through the dark plastic to see what yours has.

Part 2. Inside Brookstone's Red and Blue Tankbots

We opened up the Brookstone Red Tankbot to check the board- in contrast to the ToysRUs versions, there is an additional LED (IR most likely) on the underside of the board. Also, the Red has only OP2 populated with a solder blob. This board is labeled Rev:01 in the upper left corner (not visible in this image).

Brookstone Red Tankbot

I tested this on my Green ToysRUs version (board Rev:00), removing the OP4 blob and adding the OP2. Sure enough, now Green only responds after choosing Red Tankbot on the control software, and pressing the Fire button results in the shooting action and sound (swinging side to side 3 times and going 'pow pow pow'). So, it appears the boards all share the same programming although there are some physical differences between boards.

Next I opened up the Brookstone Blue Tankbot, and noting this is also a Rev:01 board, find that both OP2 and OP3 are populated here. Also has the D8 present, the IR led for battling.

Brookstone Blue Tankbot

Finally I opened the ToysRUs Blue- this was also a Rev:01 board and has empty solder through holes where the IR led should be mounted. Only the OP3 position is populated in this version. Theory: populating OP2 will enable the 'Fire' animation/sound sequence and adding an IR led will make this a full battle compatible Tankbot!

ToysRUs Tankbot


Part 3. Table of OP codes

Version OP1 OP2 OP3 OP4 Code
Brookstone Red    +     1870
Brookstone Blue    +  +   1880
ToysRUs Blue      +   1044
ToysRUs Green        + 1043
ToysRUs Orange          
ToysRUs Gold          

I have only looked into 4 of the available tankbots; the gold is sold in a package with a gold TrekBot at ToysRUs, and I believe there is also an orange available there. I haven't yet found a gray, but by trying more permutions of the OP positions and trying the various colors in the control software, we should be able to work it out.


RobotFreak's picture

great article. I own an orange TankBot. Code is 1042. Rev00 board. OP1..4 no solder blobs.
Greatings RobotFreak

ProBro_NL's picture

is there an posibility to make it radio cortolled and not infrared?