Tom Sepe: The Man Behind the Bot

Get to know Tom Sepe, the Oregon-based artist and creator of Omega Mart’s Dramcorp robots. 

Inside Omega Mart, beyond the store into the Dramcorp offices sits our beloved Herman Resources, the keeper of all of Dramcorp’s secrets, but lesser known about him is that he is actually a robot, born from the mind of multimedia artist, Tom Sepe.

a male-presenting person in all black leaning over a desk to manage two robots
Tom Sepe programming animatronic robots at Meow Wolf’s CAT in Santa Fe. Photo by Kate Russell

Back in 2017, when Omega Mart was still but a dream, Sepe was tapped to create the two animatronic robots found upstairs in the Dramcorp offices, Herman Resources and the Reception Bot. When arriving at Omega Mart, participants are offered “boop cards” that can unlock more information about Omega Mart, its parent company, Dramcorp, and the dark secrets behind how their products are made. While exploring the Dramcorp offices on the second level, participants encounter two robots, Herman Resources and the Reception Bot, that can aid them in their search for the truth. When asked the right questions, they have all the answers.

a robot at a reception desk
Dramcorp Reception Office, Photo by Kate Russell

While not the first robotic system he’s created, Sepe began this three year project and quickly realized that to make robots that would answer all your questions 7 days a week and nearly year round, he’d need stronger materials and longer lasting hardware. Previously, the projects he’d worked on had been sculptures like the Steampunk Treehouse featured at the Burning Man Festival (now permanently housed at Dogfish Brewery in Delaware) or fully functional art like the Raygun Rover Art Car.

Steampunk Treehouse, first displayed at the Burning Man Art Festival in Nevada in 2007. Photo from Tom Sepe

“But I chose robots for Meow Wolf because I wanted a challenge,” said Sepe, however, the design wasn’t the only challenge he would encounter. Just as he’d mastered that part of the project, the pandemic hit and he had to transport the robots to Vegas because inter-state travel was no longer permitted. So from hundreds of miles away, he faced his next big obstacle: how to program robots remotely from his computer.

To assist him, he approached a few close friends to help him stay organized and on track. Eleanor Buell worked each week to help create the robots, Rosy Wolfie was responsible for the integrity check and Clay McCabe to help package and transport the robots.

Despite the difficulties of creating these bots, Sepe considers the true hardest part to be working with Meow Wolf at a time when close collaboration just wasn’t possible. “Once I did make it to Vegas, the saddest part was that there wasn’t much socializing. This was a big project but to keep everyone safe, there were no chances to meet the other artists. I would’ve loved to have met more people as part of this project.” Even still, Sepe considers this one of his favorite projects to date.