Tag Archives: iRobot

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.


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.


“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.”


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.

iRobot Create 2 is bringing DIY to Roomba robots

If there’s one thing we love about Roombas, it’s those hilarious cat-riding videos, right? Well good news cat lovers, your furry friend just got a sweet new ride! Oh, and you have a new toy to tinker with just in time to put on your holiday wish list, too!


That’s because iRobot has announced the newest member of its family, a doppelganger to its household Roomba vacuum cleaner. However, instead of sucking up dirt and removing those dust bunnies, the $200 Create 2 is actually a research “tool” for Makers and engineers alike.


Create 2 bots are comprised of the same remanufactured iRobot platforms, which bring the full collection of LEDs and sensors from the Roomba 600 series to DIYers’ fingertips. While it may be fun to create the next slick vehicle for your cats, the system was developed with students — particularly those exploring STEM fields — in mind. In fact, the system will fit right in at any lab, Makerspace or even living room, as it appeals to hackers of all levels — from beginner to even the most well-seasoned engineer.


Its Open Interface enables users to control the robot if a computer or microcontroller is tethered to the robot’s serial port. Meaning, a Maker can run now run commands from a computer or even an [Atmel based] Arduino or Raspberry Pi embedded in the robot’s bin. The Create 2 is also equipped with built-in modes that allow users to manually control it while connected, use a semi-manual mode that prevents it from falling downstairs, or simply read data from its sensors.

If you recall seven years ago, the iRobot unveiled the first version of Create. The DIY-friendly bot’s hardware was relatively simple, while the addition of its Command Module enabled endless possibilities. The Command Module was based on an ATmega168, featuring 16Kbytes of flash with about 2Kbytes used by the bootloader. The latter was also compatible with Atmel’s STK500 version 1 protocol.


What’s great is that the newest iRobot family member is a modular system, which not only lets Makers add on ‘duino units, but remotes, Bluetooth, and other accessories as well. The Create 2 will come with a range of projects, including a pair of examples to get started: a light painting tutorial to create LED-based images (“Light Bot”) and a roaming, robotic DJ that allows for easy control of music through a Bluetooth-enabled device (“DJ Create 2”).


For a decade, hackers have enjoyed rigging the vacuuming devices into multi-functional robots, ranging from [ATmega328P drivenair quality measuring contraptions to real-life games of Pac-Man. So, it’s no surprise that Makers have already taken quite the liking to the robot. According to The Boston Globe, one lab is currently developing a better way to sense and avoid objects, while another is creating robot arms that’ll allow to Create 2 serve as the basis for its “Franken-bot.”

Furthermore, the iRobot Create 2 unit will be even released with a number of 3D printer-friendly files that will give users the opportunity to create and attach at will. In other words, if you find yourself in need a part or a new project, in true open source style, the Create 2 lets you print ‘em out!

Think the Create 2 will make for a great holiday gift or a simple addition to your Makerspace? Head over to iRobot’s official page here.