Robotic Vacuums Get Torn-down For Design Showdown.

Fictiv runs a 3D printing shop. They have a nice interface and an easy to understand pricing scheme. As community service, or just for fun, they decided to tear-down two robot vacuums and critique their construction while taking really nice pictures.

The first to go is the iRobot 650 model. For anyone who’s ever taken apart an iRobot product, you’ll be happy to know that it’s the same thousand-screws-and-bits-of-plastic ordeal that it always was. However, rather than continue their plague of the worst wire routing imaginable, they’ve switched to a hybrid of awfulness and a clever card edge system to connect the bits and pieces.

The other bot is the Neato XV-11. It has way fewer screws and plastic parts, and they even tear down the laser rangefinder module that’s captured many a hacker’s attention. The wire routing inside the Neato is very well done and nicely terminated in hard-to-confuse JST connectors. Every key failure point on the Neato, aside from the rangefinder, can be replaced without disassembling the whole robot. Interestingly, the wheels on both appear to be nearly identical.

In the end they rate the Neato a better robot, but the iRobot better engineered. Though this prize was given mostly for the cleverness of the card edge connectors.

Hacklet 87 – Roomba Projects

First introduced in 2002, The iRobot Roomba was conceived as a robotic vacuum cleaner. Just about every hacker, maker, and engineer out there immediately wanted one. The Roomba proved to be more than just a vacuum though; it was the perfect base for any household robotics project. Before long Roombas were being hacked to do way more than sweep your floor. iRobot recognized this, and added a hacker friendly serial port to later model Roombas. They even released a vacuumless version called the iRobot Create. Thousands of projects have literally ridden on the wheels of the Roomba. This week’s Hacklet is all about Roomba projects.

roomba1We start with [fuzzie360] and Poor Man’s Raspberry Pi Turtlebot. [Fuzzie360] has their Roomba running Robot Operating System (ROS). ROS actually is running on an on-board Raspberry Pi. While Willow Garage may be out of business, ROS lives on as an open source project run by Unbounded Robotics. Installing it can be a chore though. While [Fuzzie360] hasn’t given a full tutorial, they have offered to give advice if and when you get stuck.

A Raspberry Pi would be overkill for the simple suite of sensors built into the Roomba, but it’s perfect for [fuzzie3680’s] modified setup with a Microsoft Kinect. [Fuzzie360’s] goal is to have a robot that can vacuum the hostile territory of a university apartment.

 

roomba2Next up is [Sircut] who upgraded his Roomba’s power cell. Early Roombas were designed to use Nickle Metal Hydride (NiMH) batteries. The individual cells are built into a proprietary iRobot battery pack. NiMH can’t hold a candle to Lithium Ion batteries though. Lithium Ion cells are very common these days in devices like cell phones and laptops. In fact, [Sircut] used 18650 sized laptop cells for this upgrade. [Sircut] also added the essential LiIon battery protection circuit to make sure those cells stay happy. A voltmeter provides a visual reference that the batteries aren’t becoming overcharged. An upgrade like this will likely double the Roomba’s runtime, but it does come at a cost. Roomba’s original charge dock can no longer be used as the on-board charge circuitry isn’t designed for LiIon battery charge algorithms.

roomba3Next is [Marcel Varallo] with Robot Wars for the Commuter. How does the IT department blow off steam? Fighting robots of course! Unfortunately, [Marcel’s] coworkers aren’t all programming mavens. Hopefully some programming is in the cards for them down the road. For now though, [Marcel] has created a robot fighting league using nearly stock Roomba robots. Each bot gets a set of 3 balloons and 3 pins. A balloon represents a life. Once your lives are all popped, you’re dead! [Marcel] also created an upgrade system where winning ‘bots can move on to stronger weapons like flamethrowers. During his research, [Marcel] found out that the brushes in his Roomba are powerful enough to sweep dust and debris up without the vacuum enabled. So he’s disabled the vacuums for longer cleaning battle times.

roomba4Finally we have [Fredrik Markström] and ESP8266 controlled Roomba. [Fredrick] is hacking an ESP8266 module to be the main computer of this little Robot. Of course, a ‘8266 means it will be carrying WiFi, so this robot needs to have a web interface. [Fredrik’s] first problem was powering the ESP8266. The Roomba’s battery runs around 15 volts, which is definitely not friendly to the 3.3 volt ESP8266. A switching DC to DC converter was in order, and [Fredrik] found the perfect candidate on eBay. The ‘8266 will control the Roomba through the serial interface included on all the current models. [Fredrik] has big plans for this ‘bot, including navigation and advanced vacuuming algorithms.

If you want to see more Roomba projects, check out our new Roomba project list! If I missed your project, don’t be shy, just drop me a message on Hackaday.io. That’s it for this week’s Hacklet. As always, see you next week. Same hack time, same hack channel, bringing you the best of Hackaday.io!

iRobot Releases Hackable Roomba — Without The Vacuum

We love forward thinking companies that take a risk and do something different. iRobot, the company behind the iconic Roomba, just released the newest version of their Roomba Create — a programmable Roomba (minus the vacuum) that can be hacked and programmed to do all sorts of things.

The company developed the Create with STEM students in mind — a robotics learning platform. It came out originally back in 2007, and we’ve covered many hacks that have made use of it. Many. Like, a lot. One of our favorites has got to be this data center monitoring robot that makes use of the platform!

Anyway, the newest version of the Create features the typical hardware upgrades you’d expect, and with some special emphasis on 3D printing. In fact, the CEO of iRobot [Colin Angle] thinks that 3D printing is going to make a big difference in a few years:

“Your Roomba could be a software file that you print at home,” he says. He says the Create’s new features are a way for the company to get ready for that day, while also providing a platform that educators and hobbyists can use to tinker.

Kudos to you guys, iRobot! We just wish people would stop giving Roomba’s knives…

[Thanks PSUbj21!]

Roomba becomes data center robot

robot

Running a data center takes a lot of work, and even making sure the ambient temperature for hundreds of boxes is in the proper range is an arduous task. When faced with the prospect of installing hundreds of temperature sensors in an EMC data center, [Vivek] had a better idea: put just a few sensors on a robot and drive around the racks. With the right software, it’s a breeze to automate the process and build a near real-time temperature monitoring solution for a huge data center.

The data center robot is based on a iRobot Create, basically a Roomba without a vacuum. Attached to the robot is a netbook, Arduino, and a PVC mast housing three temperature sensors and a USB webcam.

Using the floor of the data center for navigation, the robot canvasses the racks sending temperature data back to a server via WiFi. From there, the temperatures can be graphed to make sure the racks aren’t too hot or too cold.

You can check out a video of the robot in action after the break.

Continue reading “Roomba becomes data center robot”

Robot cares for grave stones while honoring the dead

This robot was built to care for the graves and honor the dead in the Jewish tradition. It is called “Stoney” and was developed by [Zvika Markfeld] based on a concept by [Itamar Shimshony] who is working toward an MFA degree. The image above shows it in action as part of an installation; to our knowledge it has not been used for actual grave sites. But the concept is not a joke; it’s something that makes the observers think.

The base of the robot is an iRobot Roomba on top of which is built a platform for a robot arm. The arm has easy access to two palettes, one holds small stones, and the other flowers. There is also a small box which holds a rag. It navigates around the grave, placing stones, flowers, and using the rag and a water dispenser to symbolically clean the headstone. All of this is controlled by an Arduino Mega board which controls another Arduino running the arm, as well as the microcontroller in the Roomba.

The details of the ritual, as well as the components of the robot are well explained in the clip after the break.

Continue reading “Robot cares for grave stones while honoring the dead”

Voice controlled robot controlled by an Android phone

[Jeff] sent in a build of a voice controlled robot he just finished based on the Android ADK and an iRobot Create.

The robot is able to obey voice commands telling it where to go. Currently the robot responds to forward, reverse, left, right, stop, and ‘whistle while you work.’ It’s a creative use of the Android ADK with some obvious applications, but this project really shines with the write up on instructables. It’s rare that we’ve seen a project so well documented; it’s a great project for someone who wants to get their feet wet in the world of robotics.

[Jeff]’s write up goes through the steps of hooking up the ADK board to iRobot and providing all the electronic necessities. [Jeff] graciously provided the code for his robot if anyone would like to add to his project.

The ultimate goal [Jeff] is currently working towards is something akin to a TurtleBot, while keeping the voice control of the robot. In all, a very nice project.

Inexpensive robot platform combines mass-produced parts

Meet Bilibot, a modular robot that aims to lower the cost of entry for robotic tinkerers. It combines the Kinect, the iRobot Create, and an Ubuntu box running ROS using some laser cut mounting brackets. These are relatively inexpensive components but the most exciting thing is that there’s already a slew of example out there that use this hardware. For instance, we looked in on ROS body tracking in January that can be directly plucked and used with this hardware. You’ll recognize the base as the iRobot create which was used in video chat robot from last week. The brains of the operation come in a choice of three Linux boxes – two headless and one laptop – which have ROS pre-installed. Watch the open-source autonomy as it tools around the office in the video after the break.

Continue reading “Inexpensive robot platform combines mass-produced parts”