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.

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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.

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The Ultimate FPV Cleans House

With much of the world in the doldrums of the winter, hackers are getting a bit stir crazy. [Notamed Closed] would much rather be outside flying his First Person View (FPV) quadcopters. Sure there are indoor drones, but [Notamed] wanted to keep grounded. He grabbed his R/C equipment, his Roomba, and of course an Arduino to build the ultimate FPV experience.

There aren’t many details on this build, but it’s not too hard to deduce what [Notamed] has done. He’s using a standard R/C transmitter and receiver. Instead of driving servos, the receiver plugs into an Arduino Uno. The Uno translates the PPM R/C signals to serial commands. Most Roomba’s include a serial port made especially for hackers. [Notamed] simply sends the proper iRobot Serial Command Interface (SCI) messages, and the robot is his to control.

The FPV side of things is a bog standard FPV camera and transmitter, sending standard definition video to his goggles. A GoPro is along for the ride to capture high-quality video.

Sure this is a quick hacked together build. All the parts are taped on to the Roomba. We’re sure this is on purpose. When the weather warms up, the R/C equipment goes back in the air, and the Roomba becomes just another vacuuming robot – once again a danger to pet messes everywhere.

Check out the video after the break.

Continue reading “The Ultimate FPV Cleans House”

Racing Roomba Packs the Power to Pop Wheelies

This is just good, clean fun. Well, maybe not clean since this souped-up racing Roomba appears to move too fast to actually clean anything anymore. But did they ever really clean very well in the first place?

W6yAwJ[Roland Saekow] doesn’t offer much in the way of build details, but the starting point was a 10-year old Roomba Discovery. The stock motors were replaced with 600RPM planetary drive motors and a whopping 12A motor controller. The whole thing is powered off the standard Roomba 14.4V battery pack, but we suspect not for long. Those motors have got to suck down the juice pretty fast to be able to pop wheelies and pull hole shots like it does in the video below.

No word either on how it’s being controlled; our guess is RC, since it looks like the collision sensor grazes a chair leg slightly around the 0:33 mark, but doesn’t seem to change direction. It’d be cool if it could operate autonomously, though. We wonder how it would deal with the Virtual Walls at those speeds.

File this one under “Just for Fun” and maybe think about the possibilities for your defunct Roomba. If speed-vacuuming isn’t your thing, there are plenty of other Roomba hacks around here.

Continue reading “Racing Roomba Packs the Power to Pop Wheelies”

Roomba Now Able to Hunt Arnold Schwarzenegger

Ever since the Roomba was invented, humanity has been one step closer to a Jetsons-style future with robots performing all of our tedious tasks for us. The platform is so ubiquitous and popular with the hardware hacking community that almost anything that could be put on a Roomba has been done already, with one major exception: a Roomba with heat vision. Thanks to [marcelvarallo], though, there’s now a Roomba with almost all of the capabilities of the Predator.

The Roomba isn’t just sporting an infrared camera, though. This Roomba comes fully equipped with a Raspberry Pi for wireless connectivity, audio in and out, video streaming from a webcam (and the FLiR infrared camera), and control over the motors. Everything is wired to the internal battery which allows for automatic recharging, but the impressive part of this build is that it’s all done in a non-destructive way so that the Roomba can be reverted back to a normal vacuum cleaner if the need arises.

If sweeping a just the right time the heat camera might be the key to the messy problem we discussed on Wednesday.

The only thing stopping this from hunting humans is the addition of some sort of weapons. Perhaps this sentry gun or maybe some exploding rope. And, if you don’t want your vacuum cleaner to turn into a weapon of mass destruction, maybe you could just turn yours into a DJ.