Remotely control a Roomba with your laptop


Maker hacks his robotic vacuum cleaner with an Arduino Pro Mini and wireless transceiver to control it remotely. 


Like many of us, “Boredman” is the owner of a robotic vacuum cleaner. Despite their convenience, there’s just something about a Roomba that makes us want to tear it down and begin tinkering. So to no surprise, that’s exactly what the Maker decided to do with the help of an Arduino.

Roomba_ctrl

Using the seven-pin connector located beneath the Roomba 880’s handle, Boredman was able to take complete remote control over the robotic device with an Arduino Pro Mini (ATmega328) and a wireless transceiver.

“Naturally, my goal was to make a controlling hardware as small as possible, ideally invisible, fitting under this handle. Got to keep in mind the wife acceptance factor,” he jokingly explains.

Though his Pro Mini was 5V, he needed a 3V board in order to interface with the 3V radio module. Fortunately, the ATmega328 can take any voltage by itself, with restrictions of maximum clock speed. He removed the linear regulator and disconnected LED resistor to save some energy. As a result, the Arduino was able to receive power directly from the 3.3V VCC connection.

MCU

“Theoretically, running at 16MHz at 3.3V is outside the specs and is not guarantied. However, I read that other people successfully did it, and it seems to show no problems here,” the Maker admits admits.

Boredman created a small, efficient switch-mode supply based on an LMR14006 regulator IC to power the Arduino. The Maker notes that the Roomba battery voltage can be as high as 20V and that he required a stable 3.3V for controller, while maximizing efficiency.

“The logic level shifter between 5V TTL signals of Roomba and 3.3V levels of Arduino is built based on this application note,” Boredman explains. “I opted for a modular design, where DC-DC power supply and serial port level shifted are built on a separate small board, connecting to Arduino Mini through a six-pin header connector.”

connector_ctrl

When completed, he was able to use the keyboard of his laptop to remotely control the gadget’s movements. For instance, the shift button allowed him to select between commands, while the left/right arrows dictate direction and up/down adjust its speed. With a little soldering, the circuitry was also able to fit nicely right under the Roomba’s handle. Maker tested, wife approved!

Thinking about hacking your vacuum? Head over to the project’s page here.

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