Wiping Robots and Floors: STM32duino Cleans up

Ever find yourself with nineteen nameless robot vacuums lying around? No? Well, [Aaron Christophel] likes to live a different life, filled with zebra print robots (translated). After tearing a couple down, only ten vacuums remain — casualties are to be expected. Through their sacrifice, he found a STM32F101VBT6 processor acting as the brains for the survivors. Coincidentally, there’s a project called STM32duino designed to get those processors working with the Arduino IDE we either love or hate. [Aaron Christophel] quickly added a variant board through the project and buckled down.

Of course, he simply had to get BLINK up and running, using the back-light of the LCD screen on top of the robots. From there, the STM32 processors gave him a whole 80 GPIO pins to play with. With a considerable amount of tinkering, he had every sensor, motor, and light under his control. Considering how each of them came with a remote control, several infra-red sensors, and wheels, [Aaron Christophel] now has a small robotic fleet at his beck and call. His workshop must be immaculate by now. Maybe he’ll add a way for the vacuums to communicate with each other next. One robot gets the job done, but a whole team gets the job done in style, especially with a zebra print cleaner at the forefront.

If you want to see more of his work, he has quite a few videos on his website demonstrating the before and after of the project — just make sure to bring a translator. He even has a handy pinout for those looking to replicate his work. If you want to dive right in to STM32 programming, we have a nice article on how to get it up and debugged. Otherwise, enjoy [Aaron Christophel]’s demonstration of the eight infra-red range sensors and the custom firmware running them.

Roomba-Riding Beer Butlers Will Serve Us All

[Josh] isn’t one to refuse a challenge, especially when robots are involved. The latest dare from friends and family? Build a beer robot that can bring beverages at everyone’s beck and call.

The build consists of two main parts: the refrigerated cooler and the butler part, which comes courtesy of a Roomba Discovery from a fellow roboticist. [Josh] is basing the design on double-walled and insulated restaurant coolers. He built the refrigerated beverage hold from two stainless steel trash cans, sized an inch or so apart in diameter, and filled the gap with expanding foam insulation. He then cut away several inches from the bottom of the liner can to make room for the cooling unit, reinstalled the drip tray, and made a [airflow-allowing platform] by drilling a bunch of holes in an antimicrobial plastic cutting board.

At first, he tried a Peltier unit from an electric Igloo cooler, but that doesn’t work as well as [Josh] hoped, so he’s redesigning the can to use a mini fridge compressor. This meant making custom evaporator and condenser coils from copper tubing to match the compressor’s load spec. Go through [Josh]’s build logs over on IO and you’ll get a free mini-course on expanding foam and refrigeration.

[Josh] is currently working on some different butler modes for this robot. These run the gamut from simply sitting nearby with cold beverages and opening with the wave of a hand to doing voice-triggered beverage butler-ing at everyone’s beck and call. We applaud his efforts thus far and will be following this one with great thirst interest to see how he handles navigation and voice control.

This 3D-Printed Robotic Vacuum Sucks

After you’ve taken a moment to ponder the turn of phrase used in the title, take a look at this scratch-built robotic vacuum created by [theking3737]. The entire body of the vacuum was 3D printed, and all of the internal electronics are off-the-shelf modular components. We can’t say how well it stacks up against the commercial equivalents from iRobot and the like, but it doesn’t look like it would be too hard to build one yourself to find out.

The body of this rather concerned-looking robot was printed on a DMS DP5 printer, which is a neat trick as it only has a build platform of 200 mm x 200 mm. Once all the pieces were printed, a 3D pen was used to “weld” the sections together. The final result looks a bit rough, but should give a bond that’s just as strong as the printed parts themselves.

The robot has four sets of ultrasonic range finders to detect walls and obstacles, though probably not in the positions you would expect. The right side of the robot has two sets of sensors, while the left side only gets one. We aren’t sure the reasoning behind the asymmetrical layout, but presumably the machine prefers making right turns.

Control is provided by an Arduino Mega and the ever-reliable HC-05 Bluetooth module. A companion Android application was written which allows configuring the robot without having to plug into the Arduino every time you want to tweak a setting.

We can’t say we’ve seen that many DIY robotic vacuums here at Hackaday, but we’ve certainly featured our fair share of hacks for the commercially available models.

34C3: The First Day is a Doozy

It’s 5 pm, the sun is slowly setting on the Leipzig conference center, and although we’re only halfway through the first day, there’s a ton that you should see. We’ll report some more on the culture of the con later — for now here’s just the hacks. Continue reading “34C3: The First Day is a Doozy”

Bringing MATLAB to a Vacuum Near You

The essence of hacking is modifying something to do a different function. Many of us learned as kids, though, that turning the family TV into an oscilloscope often got you into trouble.

These days, TVs are flat and don’t have high voltage inside, but there’s always the family robot, often known as a Roomba. Besides providing feline transportation, these little pancake-shaped robots also clean floors.

If you don’t want to evict the cat and still get a robust domestic robot platform for experimentation, about $200 will get you a Roomba made to be hacked — the iRobot Create 2. [Gstatum] has a tutorial for using a Raspberry Pi and MATLAB to get one quickly running and even doing basic object recognition using the Pi’s camera.

The code even interfaces with Twitter. The impressive part is the code fits on about a page. This isn’t, however, completely autonomous. It uses a connected phone’s sensor’s so that the phone’s orientation controls the robot’s motion, but the robot does use sensors to prevent driving into walls or falling off a cliff. It also can detect being picked up and uses the Pi’s camera to detect a green flag.

Continue reading “Bringing MATLAB to a Vacuum Near You”

LCaaS – Lawn Care as a Service?

As often happens while engaged in a mundane task, my mind wandered while I was mowing my small suburban plot of green this weekend. “Why, in 2017, am I still mowing the lawn?” In a lot of ways we’re living in the future  — we walk around with fantastically powerful computers in our pockets, some of us have semi-autonomous cars, and almost anything can be purchased at the touch of a finger and delivered the next day or sooner. We even have robots that can vacuum the floor, so why not a robot lawnmower?

It turns out we do have robotic lawnmowers, but unfortunately, they kind of suck: Continue reading “LCaaS – Lawn Care as a Service?”

Robot Lives in Your Garden and Eats the Weeds

You can’t deny the appeal of gardening. Whether it’s a productive patch of vegetables or a flower bed to delight the senses, the effort put into gardening is amply rewarded. Nobody seems to like the weeding, though — well, almost nobody; I find it quite relaxing. But if you’re not willing to get down and dirty with the weeds, you might consider deploying a weed-eating garden robot to do the job for you.

Dubbed the Tertill, and still very much a prototype, the garden robot is the brainchild of some former iRobot employees. That’s a pretty solid pedigree, and you can see the Roomba-esque navigation scheme in action — when it bumps into something it turns away, eventually covering the whole garden. Weed discrimination is dead simple: short plants bad, tall plants good. Seedlings are protected by a collar until they’re big enough not to get zapped by the solar-powered robot’s line trimmer.

It’s a pretty good idea, but the devil will be in the details. Will it be able to tend the understory of gardens where weeds tend to gather as the plants get taller? Can it handle steep-sided raised beds or deeply mulched gardens? Perhaps there are lessons to be learned from this Australian weed-bot.

Continue reading “Robot Lives in Your Garden and Eats the Weeds”