My DIY Robot Army

It’s no secret to most of the people that know me that I love gadgets (in fact, I am practically looking out the window every day now waiting for my Oculus Rift Dev Kit 2, but that’s a different post). After putting down hardwood floors, I decided that I didn’t want to see them get dirty… and I also didn’t want to have to clean them. Which, of course, presented a problem.

At first, I tried to convince my wife to do it, but that didn’t work out so well (apparently, house chores should be “shared work” or something). So, being lazy like I am, I tried to figure out a patsy to pass the work off to. Liberty, our dog, sometimes did a good job of sweeping the floor with her tail, but only infrequently and usually only in spots. Our cats contributed to the problem more than they helped. I was really stuck. Who could I possibly pawn this work off on?

Then it hit me. Why not create an army of mindless, floor cleaning automatons to do my dirty work every day? They could do it without complaint, without direction, and best of all, I WOULDN’T HAVE TO DO IT MYSELF. Right? Lets keep our eye on the ball here!

Hence, my robot army. The two white ones I bought secondhand. I purchased fresh batteries and AeroVac Upgrade Kits, and then got to work disassembling them, cleaning them inside and out, installing batteries and brushes, replacing worn wheels, and then turning them loose good as new.

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The two black ones were purchased re-manufactured. The dark black one is a Pet Series, which has special brushes and a cleaning cage that prevents pet hair from getting tangled inside.

So now that I had a robot army, I had to figure out exactly how to deploy them. This presented my first challenge. The two white ones were older 500 series units (535 to be precise), and they didn’t work with my clever hidden system of “virtual walls”, the cool little devices that tell the robots “Clean to here, and no farther!”

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They are really essential to my plan: The robots have to clean every day, they have to go back to their charging stations when they are done, by themselves, and they cant leave the designated “Zone” I have assigned them.


In case you are curious about just how nerdy I got with this, here is my house floorplan with each zone: Zone 1 is hardwood/carpet and includes the front foyer, guest bath, and both offices. Zone 2 is our bedroom with master bath and closet. Zone 3 is the living, dining, and kitchen areas. Zone 4 is the former garage now converted into an air conditioned and fully stocked home gym (see previous project post for that adventure).

To solve my problem, I had to access the firmware of the robot and change it to a newer version that would allow the robots IR sensors to recognize the newer virtual walls. A phone call to iRobot got me an interface device that I was able to use to fix everything up perfectly.

The next problem was where to put the robots. I mean, they are robots. Who wants to look at those all day? No one, that’s who. Know what would be much cooler? A hidden army of floor cleaning robots that would emerge from their secret hiding spots when no one was come and clean the house spotless like a bunch of little forest elves!

I mean, come on people. This is cool. Admit it.

So I installed some electrical outlets in some strategic, out of the way places and tucked my little robot army safely out of sight (for the most part. Here’s some photos of one such hiding spot.

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Now the only thing I have to worry about is maintaining my robots army. They are robots after all, and robots are machines, and machines require maintenance. So here’s all I have to do: every week, I visit my little robots in their hiding places, take their little Aerovac Bins, and empty them in the garbage. And they are full, let me tell you. I was shocked the first time I saw all the junk they picked up. Next, every month, I take the robots over to my table, line them up, flip them over, and clean their brushes. Easy peasy.  Takes about 30 secs per robot for step 1, and about 2 mins per robot for step 2. In return, I get to come home to a house with freshly vacuumed carpet every day.

Here’s some additional pictures of the cleaning process, as well as my stash of robot maintenance accessories.

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Now you may be asking yourself something like “Steve, isn’t all this more work and expense that just vacuuming the house?”

<long pause>

To those people I shake my head sadly and say “You just don’t get it. You sound like my mom when I was 6, and she asked my to clean my Lincoln Logs up, and so I built an awesome electric train system to deliver the logs from their messy corner to their bin in the closet. All I had to do was load on one end and unload on the other. It was genius.”

And if you still don’t get it, you might want to just stay quiet. I do, after all, have a robot army at my command.


emusteveMy DIY Robot Army