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June 22, 2011

Autonomous Vacuum Cleans Carpets, Tweets About its Day

Ever get fed up with not knowing what your autonomous vacuum is up to when you are out of the house? No, me neither, but a 15-year-old computer and electronics enthusiast apparently was, and he went on a programming binge to stay up-to-date on all things vacuuming.

A teenage Instructables member who goes by the name of Matchlighter has programmed his iRobot Roomba vacuum to fire out public tweets about its day, including when it is charging, when someone picks it up or if it tumbles down the stairs, according to Hack a Day.

The homemade hack involved slapping together an interface cable, a voltage regulator, a low power PNP transistor and a Sparkfun WiFly Arduino shield, among some other circuitry and software. After doing some soldering, coding and gluing, Matchlighter created a Twitter account and sent the robotic vacuum loose.

As one might expect, the first week of the Roomba's new virtual life has been someone routine. The most common tweets include “Ahh! Dock Sweet Dock,” “I Don't Like Being Picked Up,” and “Whoa! Just About Fell Off a Cliff!”

In addition, Matchlighter was able to program the vacuum so that it can take commands from the Web. “He created a simple interface using a handy library he found online and was sending cleaning commands to the Roomba in short order,” says Mike Nathan at Hack a Day.

Electronics enthusiasts who share Matchlighter's preoccupation with their Roomba can head over to Instructables for a step-by-step coding and engineering tutorial. Those looking to fill out their Twitter account can click here to track the trials and tribulations of Matchlighter's autonomous vacuum.

The Roomba is a commonly utilized tool for niche robotic projects. Just last month, a group of Museum of Fine Art students in Boston used iRobot's iconic vacuum to build pieces of furniture called Emoti-Bots. The robotic chairs are capable of reacting to the presence of humans and simulating emotion, according to Tecca.com.

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Beecher Tuttle is a TMCnet contributor. He has extensive experience writing and editing for print publications and online news websites. He has specialized in a variety of industries, including health care technology, politics and education. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.

Edited by Jennifer Russell


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