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Roomba + Tablet PC = ? 116

ptorrone writes "Using "off the shelf parts" I have constructed another pretty good mobile robot for my home. A Tablet PC is the brain and the Roomba robot vac is the locomotion. I'm currently working on sending the IR commands from the pc to the Roomba and having the robot "do a tour" and post photos / video automatically to the "roblog" (my robot photo blog). So yah, the Tablet PC sucks ;-]"
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Roomba + Tablet PC = ?

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  • by dj28 ( 212815 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @12:53PM (#8422959)
    Also, here [] is a list of other home-built robot projects on the web. They are interesting, however many of them are not as complex as this person's robot.

    Some interesting projects include: OmniPede [] and TuteBot [].
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 29, 2004 @12:53PM (#8422964)
    This shouldn't get posted until there are detailed instructions on how to build :)
    • Come now... Aiming a large caliber weapon at a WEBSITE's head and pulling the trigger is bad enough. You don't want to slashdot Radioshack, now do you?

      Might get us classed as terrorists :-)
  • by chrisopherpace ( 756918 ) <cpace&hnsg,net> on Sunday February 29, 2004 @12:53PM (#8422965) Homepage
    hope that robot can double as a webserver!
  • cost (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 29, 2004 @12:55PM (#8422975)
    this is all great if you're rich, but people like me just don't have $2000 dollars (and let's face it, a tablet pc costs significantly more than a desktop) to more or less throw away (and if you do I have some land in florida to sell you), this is useless. this is one of those rare moments where you're better off buying stuff in the store instead of assembling it yourself.
    • Re:cost (Score:5, Insightful)

      by toesate ( 652111 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @01:16PM (#8423080) Homepage Journal
      On a similar note on cost..

      Maybe I am thick here, but why use a tablet?

      Wouldn't a cheaper notebook, or trashware with LCD panel serve similar purpose?

      The upfront economics do not make sense. If someone could elaborate..
      • Re:cost (Score:1, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward
        The tablet PC is useless. Just possibly a bad purchase.
      • Re:cost (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward
        Why use a tablet? Maybe because he had one lying around. Seems pretty obvious to me. Anybody smart enough to put together a simple robot like this would know that a tablet PC is really overkill for this and wouldn't go and buy one specifically for the purpose. I'm sure that if he had an old laptop he wasn't using he'd have used that instead.
      • Re:cost (Score:4, Insightful)

        by ericspinder ( 146776 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @02:54PM (#8423622) Journal
        The upfront economics do not make sense. If someone could elaborate.
        You must be new here...
        because it's cool. Many "hack" projects are created not to save money, but to do something orginal, or difficult. If you want to do your "roombot" a little cheaper with an old notebook, more power to you, it might even be a better hack.

        I also doubt if he purchased the tablet with this application in mind. He probally just got "tired" of each of those toys. The Roomba, itself isn't all that practical. My Mother has one, and it doesn't suck well, is a tripping hazard when operating, and can't get dirt next to item (like couches, walls, etc.). Also, most people here seem to have little respect for the tablet as well.

        • does she have a "real" roomba or an imitation/knockoff as seen on TV one... I'd bet the latter...


          • entire post quoted... does she have a "real" roomba or an imitation/knockoff as seen on TV one... I'd bet the latter...

            (entire "argument" quoted)

            So, what, are you now resorting to "yor mama" jokes. The Roomba is crap, a toy, a conversational item, what it isn't is a useful household appliance. BTW, she does have a "real" Roomba (TM)

            If you want to be useful, maybe you should tell me why I am wrong. Does the "real" Roomba(TM) emit a loud buzzing sound when someone comes too close, so tha

            • Re:cost (Score:3, Informative)

              by JCMay ( 158033 )
              As a happy Roomba owner (had mine over a year now), I will rebut.
              • No, the Roomba doesn't have a loud buzzer to warn people of its presence. Why? It's freakin' LOUD! If you don't here the Roomba running, you wouldn't hear the buzzer!
              • Does the "real" Roomba(TM) carefully trace around furniture legs.(sic) Sure it does, provided they're large enough. I've got a four footed pedistal table in the dining room. It goes under there and around its feet just fine.
              • Does it "remember" to go around the couch. NO,
              • Finally an happy Roomba owner, willing to defend the capibilities of his unit with more than an one-lined insult, or a single "I'm happy" statement.

                I suspect a Roomba may operate well in a room with all the furiniture placed against the wall with nothing in the middle that it couldn't go under. Also, getting arount plant stands, wine racks, assororted nit-kacks and square corners are outside of the capabilities of a machine about a foot in diameter(quess). I am interested in how it does with the chairs t

            • If you want to be useful, maybe you should tell me why I am wrong

              Personally, I don't give a crap about being useful but I will be happy to tell everyone why you are wrong.

              Does the "real" Roomba emit a buzzing sound when someone comes too close, so that one will not trip over it.

              Pretty clear you don't have one and have never seen one work. Roombas aren't stealthy, they make noise the entire time they are running. You would have to be blind and deaf to trip over one.

              Does the "real" Roomba(TM) carefu
              • The real irony here is that my original input into this thread was a "you must be new here" response to someone questioning the costs associated with a Roomba/ tablet combo, I quessed that the person had purchased each of them separtly and didn't find either of them sufficently useful for him. That post recieved (at least at this time) two responses from Roomba owners (interesting none from tablet owners), the first of the two was basicly an insult, I responed with a list of my concerns (which this poste
        • Interesting, my roomba works very well. We've had it for almost a year and are looking at purchasing another one. One for upstairs and one for downstairs.
    • Re:cost (Score:5, Funny)

      by koreth ( 409849 ) * on Sunday February 29, 2004 @01:56PM (#8423325)
      Yeah, heaven forbid someone should spend $2000 on a hobby. What a moron.
  • by ixplodestuff8 ( 699898 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @12:55PM (#8422977)
    I for one Welcome our new unstable likely to crash and overated tablet overlords
  • Function? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by KingDaveRa ( 620784 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @12:55PM (#8422981) Homepage
    Just wondering quite what it's meant to do? Its got a tablet PC stuck on top, with a webcam. So where's the story behind it?
  • ...then this should serve to counter those doubts. If they can be made of a tablet PC and a Roomba in the home, then surely it is only a matter of time before they proliferate.
  • Infa-Red? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ianoo ( 711633 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @12:58PM (#8422991) Journal
    ...IR commands from the pc to the Roomba...
    Doesn't the tablet have Wi-Fi? Why not use this as your communication medium instead? You wouldn't need to have a line of sight or even write special software (just ssh into the robot and type commands at the console ;)).

    Using a suitable video application (streaming server?) it would be possible to look through the webcam and steer around the house. The advantage of using a standard x86 tablet PC are that all of the things you need are already available, and there's very little to "work on".

    Very nice idea, though.
    • Re:Infa-Red? (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I think they might mean from the tablet to the Roomba, as the Roomba uses IR to tell where walls are and the like (at least thats what the brochure for it seems to say). Although from the pictures it looks like it doesn't have the top on and they might be controlling some of the internals directly.
    • Re:Infa-Red? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by rebelcool ( 247749 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @01:58PM (#8423339)
      Using a suitable video application (streaming server?) it would be possible to look through the webcam and steer around the house

      For real autonomous steering you're going to need a couple of cams for stereoscopic vision, plus some badass software to handle it, of your own creation.

      stereoscopic navigation is still fairly new, even in the research world..i don't think there are any software packages out there you can go grab to work with. a quick google seems to support this since "stereoscopic robot navigation" returns mostly research papers..

      • You can do stereo vision using successive images from a single camera. Granted, this only works if the robot is working at the time, the change in camera position and orientation between images must be known. The Roomba probably doesn't have motion sensors, but there are ways to calculate view parameters using only the images - they're just very computationally complex and not necessarily deterministic. (Usually you get one reasonable set of matrices and a few ones that may not even be physically possibl
    • Re:Infa-Red? (Score:2, Insightful)

      by jspraul ( 146079 )
      maybe because the actual roomba is the one receiving ir commands from the tablet pc? (not that i read the article either)
  • by BobTheLawyer ( 692026 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @01:00PM (#8423003)
    finally someone's discovered a use for a Tablet PC
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 29, 2004 @01:01PM (#8423006)
    1. Roomba
    2. Tablet PC
    3. ???
    4. Profit!
  • by Aliencow ( 653119 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @01:01PM (#8423007) Homepage Journal
    Maybe with a wide 50inch plasma HDTV you could have it walk around with an animation of a human on it...kind of like in that crappy time travel movie with the guy in the library.. Then some porn company would probably buy you out..
  • by caino59 ( 313096 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @01:02PM (#8423012) Homepage
    johnny dep! []

  • by xanthines-R-yummy ( 635710 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @01:05PM (#8423021) Homepage Journal
    I'll be the first to admit I'm not an engineer or know anything about robotics, but how is this a significant robot again? I used to build RC cars/trucks and those were controlled by simple electronics which I'm sure could easily be controlled by a computer like a Palm pilot. The tablet PC is pretty cool-looking, but beyond that it doesn't seem to actually do very much. Why does the robot need a big diplay itself? Since it's on a vacuum you'd have to bend over pretty far to see anything on the screen. Or at least I would, because I'm over 6ft tall (183cm)!

    Still, it has a pretty high geek-cool factor!

    • by Kierthos ( 225954 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @01:13PM (#8423069) Homepage
      What I want to know is how is this so different from doing the same thing with Lego Mindstorms? I mean, for the price of the tablet PC and the Roomba, I can buy a lot of Mindstorms kits, and make a Lego-bot that can traverse a house... heck, Lego even had a cheap web cam with one of the kits...

      Oh wait, it can't vacuum. That must be it.

      • Better yet, for about the price of a Roomba, you can get an ER1 [] with a camera and robotics-oriented software. An ER1 would make a much better platform for a tablet-PC based robot, since that's basically what it and its software are designed for.
    • In order to conveniently control RC servos, you need a dedicated microcontroller. They depend on control of pulse timing and/or width for control. There are kits and complete boards you can buy which provide servo control, it's easily done with a PIC for example.
      • Yeah, I was referring to those actually (The speed control for the motor and the servo control all fit into a nice little package small than any MP3 player could be). I'm sure a competent engineer could modify that thing to accept command from a Palm/iPaq/tablet/whatever. In fact, they are all radio-controlled so someone really clever could probably find a way to use 802.11a/b/g operate the thing.

        If I knew anything about physics, engineering, science, or computers, I might have given it a try!

        • Radio controlled stuff uses assorted low-frequency (much, much lower than WiFi) AM or FM (or, lately, PCM) signals. In order to use WiFi you would have to have a little computer in there to speak to the ethernet interface.
          • The key word is 'little' computer. Very little. Probably only an IC or two. They crammed a controller for various USB antennas into a Slimp3 (among other things) so I can't imagine this would be prohibitive for a Roomba sized device.
            • It's not a matter of size, it's a matter of cost. It's quite doable. However you made it sound like you wouldn't need additional hardware, and that was my only complaint. Nonetheless unless it needs to be fully autonomous it may not be necessary to store the computer on the device.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 29, 2004 @01:07PM (#8423036)
    A device that simultaneously sucks and blows.
  • great! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 29, 2004 @01:08PM (#8423040)
    i've always wanted to find a way to scare my cat, take pictures of it, and clean my room all at the same time.

    anybody else think he looks kind of like the killer boyfriend in scream 1?
    • Re:great! (Score:1, Funny)

      by Anonymous Coward
      "anybody else think he looks kind of like the killer boyfriend in scream 1?"

      thanks for ruining the plot for me. how bout a spoiler warning next time??!
  • Ok, as soon as you mentioned tablet PC, that pretty much sums up spare parts.

    What's the cheapest tPC nowadays... $2000? Maybe $1999 after discount.
  • by Dark Lord Seth ( 584963 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @01:08PM (#8423043) Journal

    Just add this [] to it!

  • by Digitus1337 ( 671442 ) <> on Sunday February 29, 2004 @01:12PM (#8423060) Homepage
    Open the screen door HAL. HAL, do you read me HAL? Open the screen door.
  • Can't you do this with a Pocket PC? Exactly what does this gain you?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 29, 2004 @01:14PM (#8423074)
    the sticker quite clearly says, its designed for Windows(TM) not floors !

  • by vjlen ( 187941 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @01:25PM (#8423130) Homepage
    I seem to remember a number of Palm robot projects out there. Add a Palm to a Roomba? Could be fun AND cheap.
    • Especially in this particular use: some Palms I've seen have infrared (for yelling at the Roomba), and the newer ones apparently have Wi-Fi (for being yelled at by the main PC). Can anyone confirm/deny that the new ones have IR too? I don't really care enough about having the next overrated gadget to look at a new Palm yet.
  • Linux On TabletPCs (Score:5, Informative)

    by wehe ( 135130 ) <wehe&tuxmobil,org> on Sunday February 29, 2004 @01:26PM (#8423135) Homepage Journal
    Hey, just in case you are looking for Linux on TabletPCs [] to get your robot running with a free OS.
  • Maybe he already had the Tablet PC sitting around the house and didn't want to waste a palm?
  • Something similar (Score:3, Interesting)

    by lxt ( 724570 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @01:34PM (#8423181) Journal
    I tried something similar once for a student computer competition. It was basically a basterdised 486 laptop with the screen flipped 180, with web cam, set in acrylic with some servos linked to a serial port. The biggest problem was communication (it being a) when Wi-Fi was way too much, and b) this laptop not having a PC card), so in the end I ended up with a hack whereby the robot communicated with a wireless mouse :)
  • magnetic fields? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by NSash ( 711724 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @01:35PM (#8423188) Journal
    I don't know about this Roomba, but IIRC most vacuum cleaners generate a pretty powerful magnetic field. Might not be the best thing to strap a Tablet PC to...
    • I don't know about this Roomba, but IIRC most vacuum cleaners generate a pretty powerful magnetic field. Might not be the best thing to strap a Tablet PC to...

      That's a good, but disproven point. My box is sitting right next to where I keep the vacume and other odds and ends, and I have no problems. Even when I turn the vacume on, like right now, there is no interuPT3@$^@%ATH0H0++[NO CARRIER]

  • A faster way... (Score:4, Informative)

    by peterprior ( 319967 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @02:17PM (#8423438)
    Thinkgeek sell a motorised platform you can attach a laptop to called the ER1 Personal Robot System.
    See more details here []
  • by phoxix ( 161744 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @03:24PM (#8423779)
    ..... I can say it sucks

    We have on in the office, to collect all the random bits of paper and whatnot thats on the carpet. We thought it would be a great idea too, but it really isn't.

    The problem with the Roomba is that the "dirt compartment" is soooo small. So when you do get around to sucking things up, in little to no time is it full. Additionally because there is no warning, it can go on for a while, just collection, and disposing dirt elsewhere. After a while the garbage on the carpet is worse than what it started out as. (Mind you we're pretty much you standard office)

    Great idea, but bad product design

    Sunny Dubey
    • by koreth ( 409849 ) * on Sunday February 29, 2004 @03:33PM (#8423826)
      I have a Roomba too and I've noticed the same thing -- but only when I go a while between cleanings. If I use it every couple of days, after a week or so it gets rid of enough accumulated dirt that subsequent runs don't fill up the compartment any more. If for whatever reason you can't use it that frequently, then yeah, it's probably not the right vacuum for you. I fire it up when I leave for the day, so it's no big deal to use it nearly daily.
    • I suppose if you have a lot of big physical debris this could be a problem. I think most people just have dirt, dog hair, etc...

      The directions do say to empty the compartment every time you do a room. Its hard to imagine a room with so much debris that the compartment would fill in one session. Although, I admit I did fill it once like that when it got under the x-mas tree and started sucking up all the pine needles...

      I agree fundamentally that a bigger compartment would be nice, but on the other hand, it
    • Wait until Dyson comes out with their robot vacuum.
    • We have on in the office, to collect all the random bits of paper and whatnot thats on the carpet. We thought it would be a great idea too, but it really isn't.

      On a carpeted office floor it would not be a good choice, as you discovered. For a home it works fine. When I first used mine I thought the collection bin was way too small, but after the Roomba has cleaned a room once the amount of dirt drops way down (duh!). The more often you clean the less dirt there is to pick up so the bin never fills up any
  • by Heathkit ( 470499 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @05:13PM (#8424385)

    A friend and I did the exact same thing a while ago, but using a hacked virgin webplayer. It's an internet appliance you can get for about $50 off of eBay. We just ran it off of NiMH batteries and woila, instant robot.

    The details are here []. We wrote up all of our notes, including the pinout of the roomba board in case anyone else wants to do this.

    • Also, I don't think he's actually controlling the Roomba here. There's only one control board and, judging from the pictures, there's no connection between the tablet pc and the roomba.

      We use our system as a cheap and convenient way to play with robotic vision projects. The idea is, we can create control programs, upload them to the roomba, then try them out. Better algorithms can be implemented on real embedded systems.
  • by colmore ( 56499 ) on Sunday February 29, 2004 @07:24PM (#8425083) Journal
    Not enough info to tell if his robot is something special or not. But I can say this guy is trying waaaaay too hard to look like Johnny Depp. Nice hat.
  • For anyone who wasn't already aware PT's awesome "roblog" is powered by []

    Yes, I know, everyone was very aware of this already... but with the massive traffic jump from this thread, IT talked to CEO who talked to the founder who now has the COO making changes to our "required" links system... all of this on MY "lazy" Sunday afternoon! [yawn]
  • A crappy TPC with legs and fleas.... get over it. I can put a PDA on a roller skate and do the same thing...big deal.

"So why don't you make like a tree, and get outta here." -- Biff in "Back to the Future"