Roomba it ain’t, but if you’re either pressed for cash or have a tinkerer’s itch, then you’d probably be more comfortable building your own robotic butler, er, vacuum cleaner. Electronics today has reached a point where it almost too easy to assemble something together in no time flat, whether it be an intruder alarm, face-recognizing security system, or, in this case, makeshift iRobot or Roomba. And really, all you need is a spare vacuum cleaner, the portable kind, an Arduino, a few off the shelf sensors, and a sense of adventure.
OK, you’ll also need some knowledge on how to wire those up all together, but, fortunately, the author of this little project provides detailed instructions and pictures to guide budding makers and hackers.
Any microcontroller or single board computer like the Raspberry Pi would do, but for simplicity and because of all the sensor modules available for it, the Arduino was the chosen one. The robot’s eyes and ears are provided by an ultrasonic sensor and an infrared sensor, both of which can probably be purchased from electronics hobby stores. Or you can also make your own, for that matter.
You’ll also need a handheld vacuum cleaner. They need to be light so as to be mobile, but still strong enough to actually be of any use. A 12 V DC one would suffice. Of course, you’ll also need motors to actually make the thing move and a matching 12 V battery to power the whole contraption.
The Arduino, of course, drives the whole thing, and the code to make the microcontoller smart enough to avoid obstacles is also provided by the author.
So is this Adruino-powered Frankenstein of a robot vacuum cleaner worth it? Probably not if you really wanted to clean the room. But as an educational project that also happens to have practical value? It’s at least worth the shot. Plus, you can dress up the robot anyway you like. It just won’t look like a rolling, flattened, can.