Tag Archives: Roomba

This Roomba sucks up dirt to the Jaws theme song

Maker Marcel Varallo doesn’t just vacuum, he goes to war against the dust mite.

Lucky for those who hate sweeping and vacuuming floors, there are robotic devices that can take care of these tedious tasks for us. And although Roombas do a fairly decent job in cleaning our homes, like with most things, it could do better. This is why Marcel Varallo decided to upgrade his iRobot 530 Series into a dust mite-battling vehicle that he calls Doomba.


Ever since the Roomba made its debut, hackers have loved getting their hands on the bots and modifying them to suit other purposes. Initially, Varallo simply wanted to “jazz up the default speed” of his roving gadget, but why stop there? He proceeded to make a few more modifications, such as mounting a webcam to the front and adding a UE Boombox that emits the iconic Jaws theme and the Flight of the Valkyries as it sucks up its prey.

A Raspberry Pi with Wi-Fi enables webcam hosting, remote triggering of tasks and schedule management, while wireless control is handled through a PS2 receiver dongle and an Arduino Nano (ATmega328). Varallo even included a capacitor bank to prevent brownouts from the Doomba’s SPI port.

“By the end of all this it had blown out to something much bigger than I intended and was more work than I would have liked,” the Maker admits. Those wishing to mod their own robotic vacuum should check out Varallo’s detailed project page.



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.

This robot wants to add AI to everyday household objects

Sure, robotic concepts are dime a dozen these days. The question is, however, how close are we to an era of ubiquitous multi-function droids? According to Flower Robotics, soon. The company is envisioning a future where everyday household items, such as lamps and plants, come to life and move freely about our homes. In an effort to lower the barriers for development and adoption of in-house robots, the Tokyo-based design studio recently launched its futuristic device, Patin.


Patin, which is a French word for “skate,” is an open-source platform equipped with an interface that connects service units on an autonomously movable body through artificial intelligence. The robot’s AI is capable of navigating areas through observation and making real-time decisions based on its environment. By mounting existing products on Patin, the team believes a new lifestyle can be created, one in which human movement is coordinated with concepts such as lighting and planting.


Need an extra hand to carry your groceries? A little more light? A reminder to water your plants? To turn up the tunes? Each of these tasks (and more) can be accomplished by the bot.


Unlike other task-specific gadgets, i.e. the iRobot Roomba, Patin is comprised of a mobile base with an upper deck to which you can attach different modules, meaning homeowners will only need one device and the necessary attachments for new functionalities, such as moving a lamp closer to an individual reading, caring for a plant in need of nutrients, or blasting tunes from nearby speakers.

At the moment, Flower Robotics is still working on the prototype which boasts a set of Omni wheels, and is controlled by NVIDIA’s Jetson TK1 CPU and an [Atmel basedArduino board. To navigate and detect nearby objects, the device is equipped with an assortment of cameras — including a depth-sensitive camera developed by ASUS — as well as several contact and proximity sensors.


Patin’s core structure is built around four parts: a main body, an application (the service unit), Pit (charging and communication unit) and a cloud. New functions can be added through a space perception sensor like a 3D camera, a Patin unit with AI autonomous function, and other service units with expandable functions. As its team notes, not only is it responsible for charging the main body, but the Pit unit transmits information to and from the cloud via Wi-Fi. The cloud then monitors and tracks the robot’s behavior and other pertinent information from each Patin, and distributes updated information accordingly.


Wait, it gets better. Patin will also include an Android-based SDK for developers, enabling them to design their own peripherals for the prototype. By providing third parties with technical support like SDK and simulators, designers and Makers alike will have the opportunity to partake in the its ongoing development. Embracing an open community model, individuals can contribute to and collaborate on the promotion and dissemination of this next-gen home robot, thereby lowering the its barrier of entry into the market.

“From now on, thirds parties will be able to develop their own ideas to build robots using our open source platform to provide platformatize tool based on open source idea, interface for service unit connection as an AI robot development platform for assuming the third parties will be joining service unit development.”

“For example, by teaming up with technology developers, manufacturers of existing products such as electrical appliances, furniture, and interior design could add a robotic element to their products,” the team writes.

Flower Robotics is currently working on its Atmel powered prototype and plans to commercialize Patin by 2016. Will you be welcoming one into your household?

9 cats who love riding Roombas

Are you a cat lover? Well, you’re in luck because October 29th is National Cat Day! The day began in 2005 as a simple way to raise awareness around the number of cats that are rescued annually and to encourage cat lovers to celebrate the feline friends in their lives. And, that’s exactly what we’re going to do!

So we figured what better way to pay homage to the feline rulers of our homes, laps, and of course social media, than by sharing some of the best cats… on Roombas!

From its earliest models on, Makers have creatively hacked Roomba vacuum cleaning robots to extend their functionality, using a range of Atmel microcontrollers as well as Arduino boards. While the first adaptions were based primarily on an MCU directly connected to the motor drivers and sensors, later versions (manufactured after October 2005) are now equipped with an electronic and software interface that enables Makers to easily control or modify behavior and remotely monitor its sensors.

Turns out, not only do we love the robotic cleaners… but for some reason, so do cats! Fun to hack, even more fun to ride!

I can show you the world…


Watch out for Paws!


Put ’em up, put ’em up!


Bye babe, off to work I go!


Oh you know, we’re just kitten around!


Is it me or is the room spinning?


Tank you very much!


Special delivery!


Onward, contraption, to glory!


12 year old CEO shows off Atmel powered robots

Meet Quin, CEO and founder of QTechKnow. Unlike most CEOs, Quin is just 12 years old, but that hasn’t stopped him from running a wildly successful electronics blog, his own YouTube channel and amassing a ton of loyal friends and fans on Twitter. The mini maker has a major passion for electronics and especially Arduino, having racked up a plethora of advanced projects and even making his own PCBs.


Atmel caught up with Quin at Maker Faire in San Mateo last weekend to examine a couple of his creations, the Fuzzbot and the Android DiceBot.

Fuzzbot is an awesome, fast, fully autonomous small Arduino robot which uses the compact Pololu ZumoBot Chassis kit for a great drive system, and uses a Parallax Ping sensor to sense proximity, to make it fully autonomous.


Quin says he likes to think of the Fuzzbot as a cheap and hackable “mini Roomba” because it uses a Swiffer Duster on the back to pick up any unwanted dirt off of the floor.

Quin programmed the Arduino code using the simple Pololu ZumoBot library, and used the Ping library to interface with the Ping sensor.  The FuzzBot also has a pan/tilt servo for the Ping sensor, and can be used with the Servo Arduino library. You can check out the parts Quin used in the picture below:


DiceBot, on the other hand, is an electronic dice that fits into an Android figurine.  It has a 7-Segment display, a 74HC595 shift register, an accelerometer, and an ATmega328p (the Arduino microcontroller).


Quin said he used his Pineapple library to drive the 7-Segment LED with the 74HC595, his Quasi-duino core for the ATmega328p without the clock, and the free Arduino IDE to program the ATmega328p.

Here are the parts Quin used when putting together Dicebot: