The Roombaphone

It might not be the most over-engineered way to make low-quality 8-bit sounds ever, but I think it’s in the running. This is what comes of allowing a 10-year-old access to the basement.

My mother-in-law got a Roomba for christmas about 10 years ago and never had a use for it, so it’s been waiting about half that time for me to turn it into a base for a mobile robot. It’s the kind that has a serial port on the side especially for hackers, because that was the way iRobot worked back then. Also in the basement: a bluetooth-to-Roomba dongle from Sparkfun, acquired back when they were clearing out the last of their stock.

There’s a mac app (explains the 10-year-old) for controlling the Roomba. It can make the oversized puck turn on and off, go forward, turn, activate its cleaning tools — and play the notes that the Roomba uses to tell its owner that it’s stuck somewhere. The app even has a little onscreen keyboard that you can use to play tunes.

But wait. That’s not obfuscated enough. Instead he had to plug in a two-octave usb/midi keyboard and select the Roomba as his instrument. So to review: Korg Micro plugged into a macbook’s USB port. Macbook bluetooth link to Roomba bluetooth dongle. Roomba bluetooth dongle to Roomba serial port to tinny little Roomba speaker.

Ain’t technology grand.

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