Hacking Roomba

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Hooking a Roomba 562 & 532 up to Arduino

Josh did a great writeup on how to wire an Arduino to a late-model Roomba 532 or Roomba 562.

He did it to change the scheduling info programmatically. Cool stuff!

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New RoombaComm 0.96, support for new Roombas, bug fixes

Paul Bouchier has kindly spent time and updated the Java RoombaComm library. Not only did he add support for the newer 5xx series Roombas, but he fixed a lot of bugs, added new features, made things work easier under Windows, and generally cleaned up the mess of code I had created.

Check out the Changelog for a list of the changes. And try out the new version of RoombaComm!

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iRobot Create Robot Review

I did a quick review of the iRobot Create, iRobot’s robotics hacking-oriented robot that is basically a Roomba in disguise.

Short version: All the Roomba hacks here work on the Create, and the Create offers several advantages to the serious robotics experimenter. However, it’s not as cost-effective if you’re on a budget.

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Roomba Hacking at Maker Faire

Come see many of the Roomba hacks on this site and in the book! Roombas will be singing, dancing, making art and generally making a nuisance of themselves.

Maker Faire is “a two-day, family-friendly event that celebrates arts, crafts, engineering, science projects and the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) mindset. It’s for creative, resourceful folks who like to tinker and love to make things. We call them Makers.”

It’ll be a lot of fun, come join us!

Where: Maker Faire, San Mateo Fairgrounds.
When: May 19 & 20

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JWZ in the future with Roombas

jwz osmo
My favorite snarky hacker / dotcom millionaire / nightclub owner Jamie Zawinkski has a Roomba and recently had some problems with it. But everything was sorted out because iRobot shipped him an OSMO firmware upgrader to “fix” what sounds like a malfunctioning odometer sensor on one of the wheels.

As he says in his blog post:

But let me rephrase that story:
* My personal cleaning robot has malfunctioning hardware.
* The manufacturer sent me a piece of hardware to update the software.
* That software fixed the hardware.
I just felt a bit like I was living in the future for a minute there. I got a little chill.

Once again iRobot shows itself to be not only a leader in domestic robotics but also one that understands the proper way to interact with customers that makes them so happy they become advocates.

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Roomba + Wii + Perl

As reported on Slashdot, a hacker named Chris Hughes has used the Roomba Tilt code from this site and the DarwiinRemote software to make a Wiimote controlled Roomba. So very awesome.

Details and software available at spazout.com/roomba/.

His video demonstrating it working:

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Roombas Go Caroling

The Roomba family was out caroling. They stopped by and sang a few songs. I caught a few on tape. I think they were a little tipsy on mulled 30W or something.

(revver link)

This was a demo of RoombaMidi2, a Mac OS X program to turn your Roomba into a MIDI instrument. Click the link to find out how and get the source code (and find out why they were so drunk).

Happy Holidays from HackingRoomba.com!

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Roomba Tilt Control with MacBook & Perl

If you’ve got a MacBook and a Roomba, try out this way of using the MacBook’s built-in tilt sensors and Perl to control your Roomba

(revver link)

Full details available on the project page.


DIY Robotics with Roomba Holiday Buying Guide

The Roomba is already a standard holiday gift for gadget freaks worldwide. Get a Roomba for your favorite gadget person and they’ll thank you. By itself the Roomba is a mesmerizing device. It’s fun to watch. And while it can’t replace a normal vacuum cleaner, it’s great for ferreting out dust bunnies under the bed and other hard-to-reach places.

And now the Roomba is a doubly useful present because it can be turned into a reprogrammable robot to do ones bidding. You can control it from your computer, program new cleaning algorithms, and make it sing and dance.

It’s not often a gift can serve two entirely different purposes. The Roomba is one of those gifts.

Finding Low-Cost Roombas

Most people think Roombas cost several hundred dollars. And then they get discouraged, believing they can’t afford one of these amazing little robots. It turns out you can easily get Roombas for under $100. On either the iRobot store or on Amazon the key phrase to look for is “Remanufactered Roomba”. These are Roombas that have been returned by people who thought they could take the place of a full vacuum. Their loss is our gain. iRobot takes the returns and updates them to function exactly as brand new ones.
From Amazon, you can get a Roomba Red for $89:

roomba red

You can get the same Remanufactured Roomba Red from IRobot for $109 and free shipping.

These Remanufactured Roomba Reds all work great as a robotics hacking platform, and work with all the hacks presented on this site. I’d even say they work better because in the unlikely event you break it, you’re out $90 instead of $350 for the top Roomba model.

A great resource to keep up-to-date with the lowest price Roombas is the Robot Stock News Roomba Buyer’s Guide. Right now he notes that you can get two Roombas for $155. That’s $77 per Roomba.

Brand New Roombas

If you prefer a brand new Roomba, iRobot has recently released the Dirt Dog workshop robot. It’s sort of a robotic shop vac and has stiffer bristles, can pick up nuts and blots, and has a bigger dust bin:

dirt dog

It’s only $129 brand new direct from iRobot. It’s not called a “Roomba” by iRobot, but it still works with all Roomba hacks.

Roombas are really pretty affordable now.

Roomba Interfaces

Once you have a Roomba, you need a way to talk to its ROI (Roomba Open Interface) port. You (or your gift recipient) can either build or buy an interface. If you go with a wired tether interface, you can build a serial tether for about $20. To get running quickly you can buy a $29 RooStick serial adapter from RoombaDevTools.com.


You’ll also need their $17 Mini DIN cable.

A serial tether is extremely useful when you’re first starting out, but the real fun comes when you go wireless. The easiest wireless interface for the Roomba uses Bluetooth. You can either build a Bluetooth adapter for about $70, or buy a fully-assembled RooTooth Bluetooth adapter from RoombaDevTools.com.


The RooTooth sells for $99. You can get an additional 10% off any RoombaDevTools order if you join the RoombaReview forums and use the coupon they have there.

If RoombaDevTools is out of stock, try out SparkFun. Besides having an entire Roomba development section containing primarily RoombaDevTool products, they also have tons of other fun parts for robotics hacking.

Start Hacking!

That’s it, that’s all you need. Just a Roomba and a Roomba interface and you’re good to go. Get them for your favorite gadget nut this holiday season and they’ll be occupied with making their Roomba do crazy things for several months. To see an example of some of the fun possible, see the Projects listed on this site. For more projects ideas, check out the book or poke around the RoombaReview forums.

Of course, if besides the functional changes, you’d like to get some cute costumes from MyRoomBud.com for your Roomba gift, there are many fun ones to be had, like:


Happy Holidays!


iRobot Create: Roomba as robotics platform

Engadget has a nice little article based on FCC docs about how iRobot is coming out with a specially-configured Roomba targeted at the robotics hobbyist.


This is great news. One of the problems covered in the book in many places is the difficulty in attaching add-ons (non-destructively) to the Roomba. With the 6-32 mounting holes and the cargo bay, this new Roomba will be perfect for the more serious robotics hobbyist. The Roomba is a wonderful robot base, it’s nice to see iRobot publicly acknowledge that.

This new Roomba variant is no longer a true Roomba because they’ve removed the vacuum capability. I’m a big fan of alternative uses for things, so for most people I’d recommend getting a normal Roomba and a Bluetooth adapter.


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