Hylas Homepage

Do the Roomba ...

[IntroPic Roomba]

In March 2010 I got myself a Roomba 520, a vacuum cleaning robot by iRobot.
The 520 is the smallest of Roomba's 5th generation of cleaning robots. It has somehow limited capabilities, for example it cannot be programmed.
The first few days I used it for vacuuming my room (just imagine that, how distasteful ;) ) but then I started experimenting on it: The Roomba has a serial connector which can be used to control and/or supervise several features like the speed of the motors or the readings of sensors.
That makes it 'highly hackable', especially since iRobot has generously published the protocol they are using.

First thing I did was to add a wireless control to it (as soon as I had found the serial port which is hidden under the grey-blueish top cover). As usual I wanted to use one of my XBEE modules. First thing I had to learn: No, the default baudrate with the Roomba 5xx robots is not 57600 but 115200. The next lesson I learned was that the XBEEs do not work at 115200 Baud reliably. Fortunately, I found out how to change a Roomba's baudrate by using a fast direct serial line and luckily, the Roomba remembers this new rate when he restarts again.
I intended to use a variation of one of my USBiXBEE modules but unfortunately the voltage regulator I used for them cannot operate with Roomba's 14 or so volts.
So, instead I used one of the PCBs I have for my Minisumo robots, which features a socket for an XBEE and a switching regulator and a socket for an Atmel micro.
Right now there's no microcontroller in the game but that would be the next step: let the Roomba be controlled by an Atmel ATMega88 (or something like it) and thereby make it totally programmable.

[Roomba /w XBEE]

Right now, I can control the Roomba by one of the various applications that exist for that purpose:


Roombastatus, as downloaded from Robot Reviews, a robotics and Roomba forum.
Below: a view at Microsoft's Robotics Studio:

Roomba with MSRS

That is going to be one of my goals with this project: To dive a little deeper into Microsoft's Robotics Studio...

- 'Hacking Roomba' by Tod E.Kurt from Wiley Publishing's 'ExtremTech' series. ISBN-13: 978-0-470-07271-4
- iRobot Roomba Open Interface (ROI) Specification from iRobot's website.