Roomba 5xx Series Lighthouse and Virtual Wall Information

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Roomba 5xx Series Lighthouse and Virtual Wall Information

Postby Fraggboy » January 11th, 2009, 5:42 am

This post is VERY informative in understanding how the Virtual Wall Lighthouses work with the 5xx Series Roomba. Member RobotMechanic on iRobot's forum created this information. I just brought his information over here so our members can easily access/search it.

This post is meant to clarify how the Roomba 500 series Virtual Wall Lighthouse (lighthouses) works.

There are 6 main components in this post:

1. Robot / Lighthouse pairing
2. Differences between Lighthouse mode and Virtual Wall mode
3. Lighthouse traversing
4. Docking / robot behavior when lighthouses are used
5. Differences between Virtual Wall Lighthouses and Virtual Walls
6. Placement and usage tips for lighthouses and virtual walls



Robot / Lighthouse pairing
When you replace the batteries in a lighthouse, it loses its memory of what robot it is paired with. Also, if you reset the robot or remove its battery the robot loses its memory of what lighthouses it was paired with.

When a lighthouse is not paired and it senses the signal of any Roomba, the lighthouse wakes up and waits to be discovered.

When the robot starts a mission, it sends a message to all previously paired or unpaired lighthouses and waits for the lighthouses to respond and keeps track of how many of them respond so it knows how many it should expect to encounter during its mission. It keeps checking for lighthouses throughout the mission.

When a robot encounters a lighthouse that it detects with its infrared (IR) sensors, the robot will "ping" the lighthouses via radio frequency (RF) and it looks for a response via IR. (If you have ever seen a robot pause in front of a lighthouse, this is what it is doing.) Once the robot can associate an RF signal with a particular lighthouse the robot will enumerate that lighthouse and this is how the robot starts to build a “guidebook” of what room it is in and how many rooms it will have to clean and how many lighthouses it will have to pass in order to make it back to the dock. The robot repeats this procedure for every LH that it meets (even if the lighthouse is in virtual wall mode). Once the robot has made this association the lighthouses and the robot are paired and the lighthouses will not turn on for any other robot until the lighthouse's batteries are removed and replaced.

The room enumeration process starts from scratch at the beginning of each new mission. So if you need to change the location of a lighthouse and you do it while the robot is off, the robot will adapt to this change automatically. (Please note that if you move a lighthouse *during* a mission, the robot will not adapt to the change, and your robot might get stuck in a room or be unable to find its dock.)

The image below shows what happens during the paring process. The purple circles represent the RF communications between the robot and the lighthouse and the red area represents the halo and fence beams, which are infrared light.

Image

Differences between Lighthouse mode and Virtual Wall mode
In lighthouse mode, the lighthouse acts like a virtual door, which opens when the robot asks it to. Most of the time the lighthouse has its halo and fence beam turned on, which prevents the robot from going past the lighthouse. Once the robot has finished cleaning the current room, it “asks the lighthouse to open the door” and the robot traverses the lighthouse. Traversing is explained in detail below.

In virtual wall mode, the lighthouse turns on automatically, but the robot will never cross the fence beam (the invisible barrier).

Lighthouse traversing
When the robot decides that it is time to move from one room to the next, it performs an act that we call traversing, which simply means that the robot uses a lighthouse to go from one room into another.

There are 5 steps in the traversing process:

1. The robot decides that it is finished cleaning the current room.
2. The robot asks the lighthouse to turn on its infrared (IR) “tractor beams” (shown in green and blue below) using radio frequency (RF) communication (represented by the purple circles below).
3. The robot continues to clean until it locates the tractor beam and then follows the tractor beam until it reaches the lighthouse’s halo (shown in red below).
4. The robot follows the lighthouse’s halo until it reaches the tractor beam (shown in blue below) on the other side of the fence beam (shown in red below), in the other room.
5. The robot uses RF to tell the lighthouse to turn off the tractor beams to save battery power in the lighthouses.

This process is repeated for each lighthouse that the robot finds during its mission. When the robot has finished its mission it will reverse-traverse, or traverse in the opposite direction, each of the lighthouses using the same method described above.

Please see “Placement and usage tips for lighthouses and virtual walls” at the bottom of this post.

Image


Docking / robot behavior when lighthouses are used
When lighthouses are in use the robot will ignore signals from any and all home bases (docks) unless the robot thinks that it (the robot) is in the same room where the dock is located. The robot decides what room it (the robot) is in based on how many lighthouses it has traversed. This is best explained by example:

Room 1 is where the dock is.
Room 2 is between lighthouse 1 and lighthouse 2.
Room 3 is after lighthouse 2.


If the robot traverses lighthouse 1 and is in room 2 and you manually carry the robot back into room 1 to clean it and then set it down in front of the dock, the robot will think that it is still in room 2 and it will ignore the dock because it thinks that it has to find lighthouse 1 and traverse it before it is able to dock.

The same is true if the robot is in room 3. The robot thinks that it has to go past 2 lighthouses before it can successfully dock.

When the robot is taken from room 2 or room 3, you must manually, physically return the robot (carry it) to the room that you took it from if you want to use the dock button.

If you do not want to carry the robot back to the room that you took it from then you must manually place the robot on the dock. If you place the robot on the dock manually then the mission is canceled and the robot will start charging. When the robot starts its next mission, the room counter is reset and it will work normally.

In general if you manually move the robot (i.e. carry it) from one room to another the robot will be confused by its apparent ability to teleport from room to room

It is not immediately intuitive to most people why the robot would ignore its dock when it can see it, but here is one case that highlights a problem, which this behavior is designed to solve:

Let’s assume that the robot is able to see the docking beams of the home base, but there is a virtual wall or other impassible obstacle between the robot and the home base. If the robot attempts to follow the docking beams it will follow them until it reaches the impassible object and then abort its approach and try again, thinking it has found the home base. The robot could end up getting stuck or at least significantly delayed by trying over and over to follow those docking beams, only to get part-way there and encounter the impassible object. On the other hand, if the robot ignores signals from the home base, until it knows that it is in a room where the home base has been previously, successfully acquired then the robot knows that it can follow the docking beams to a successful docking event.

We constantly strive to improve our robots and make them smart, adaptive and robust so they can operate in a completely random world with an infinite number and variety of room configurations and accessory placements. This behavior is one that is designed to make docking reliable in as many environments as possible.



Differences between Virtual Wall Lighthouses and Virtual Walls
The 500 Series Virtual Wall is (from the user perspective) the same as the virtual walls that came with the 4xxx series robots and Scooba. You have to turn them on manually, and they turn off automatically. FYI The difference between the 5xx series VW and the 4xxx series VW is some complicated stuff related to the way the VW communicates to the robot via infrared (IR).

The Virtual Wall Lighthouse is (from the user perspective) quite different from the VW. The robot communicates with the Lighthouse (LH) via radio frequency (RF) and via infrared (IR) and the robot turns on the LH automatically when the robot starts a mission. It is worth noting that when using the lighthouse, you can cause the robot to do different things in response to the lighthouse, based on whether you have the lighthouse in "virtual wall mode" or "lighthouse mode". In lighthouse mode, the lighthouse acts like a virtual door, which opens when the robot asks it to. In virtual wall mode, the lighthouse turns on automatically, but the robot will never cross the fence beam (the invisible barrier).




Placement and usage tips for lighthouses and virtual walls

Virtual Wall Mode:
Place in passageways where Roomba is not to cross.
Orient with the back to a wall or door frame such that the invisible fence beam is blocking the passageway thoroughly.

Image


Lighthouse Mode:
Orient with the back of the lighthouse to a wall or door frame such that the invisible fence beam is blocking the passageway thoroughly.

Make sure that there are no obstructions within 1 meter (3 feet) of the front side of the lighthouse.

Make sure that there are no obstructions to the sides of the lighthouse. The robot must be able to find and follow the tractor beams and also find and follow the halo.

Image


If possible, orient the lighthouse so that the tractor beams point into open spaces.

Image

Image

Original post can be seen Here @ iRobot Forums.
Chris

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Re: Roomba 5xx Series Lighthouse and Virtual Wall Information

Postby rttrek » January 12th, 2009, 6:15 pm

I have a brand new 560 (I think, it's the high-end model Hammacher Schlemmer is now selling), which came with two Lighthouse/VW's. I also have a left-over VW from a scheduler.

Given that the new remote control is RF, and doesn't program the Lighthouses, am I left with a VW that can't be programmed? To use it, I assume it must be turned on manually. Is this correct?
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Re: Roomba 5xx Series Lighthouse and Virtual Wall Information

Postby vic7767 » January 12th, 2009, 6:31 pm

Your older VW can still be scheduled via your old scheduler remote. The issue you will have is that the newer 5XX model Roombas react much more to the IR signal of the older VWs than you would expect. You will have to experiment with how the VW is placed.
Roomba and Neato Mods, come visit: http://www.vic7767.com/

http://www.Robot-Doc.com/
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Re: Roomba 5xx Series Lighthouse and Virtual Wall Information

Postby TSK » January 12th, 2009, 6:41 pm

Thank you VERY much for the very informative information concerning virtual walls and lighthouses. I have a Roomba 570, and recently purchased a used Scooba that only comes with one virtual wall. Can I use the 570 virtual walls if I remove and replace the batteries before using?

Thanks for the help.
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Re: Roomba 5xx Series Lighthouse and Virtual Wall Information

Postby rttrek » January 12th, 2009, 6:51 pm

Well, I could, except that I'm returning it with the Roomba Scheduler as part of my upgrade to a newer, working unit. I bought a third VW as an extra, so I don't need to return it.

I programmed the IR remote's basic functionality into my MX-800, but that won't support programming it.
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Re: Roomba 5xx Series Lighthouse and Virtual Wall Information

Postby Fraggboy » January 13th, 2009, 1:47 am

TSK wrote:Thank you VERY much for the very informative information concerning virtual walls and lighthouses. I have a Roomba 570, and recently purchased a used Scooba that only comes with one virtual wall. Can I use the 570 virtual walls if I remove and replace the batteries before using?

Thanks for the help.


TSK,

Welcome to Robot Reviews!! The Virtual Wall lighthouses turn on automatically via the Roomba sending out an RF signal. The Scooba can't send the signal out, so it can't turn on the lighthouse.
Chris

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Re: Roomba 5xx Series Lighthouse and Virtual Wall Information

Postby SE_machine » January 17th, 2009, 3:52 pm

Very helpful. I had to send my Disco SE back to hammacher for warranty replacement. They are upgrading me to a Roomba 570, so I had no idea how the new 500 series were able to use the lighthouses.
Tim - 3 unmodified Disco SE's since 2005
- Roomba 570 with DIY Rootooth (BlueSmirf Silver) and "Roomba Touch Drive" Android App.
- A used Scooba 5900 as a Christmas gift to my Mom. Fixed with TV remote IRED, OSMO soon.
****- 500 series' owners, Check out my poll at viewtopic.php?f=3&t=11144&start=0&view=viewpoll
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Re: Roomba 5xx Series Lighthouse and Virtual Wall Information

Postby chrisinoz » February 6th, 2009, 6:41 pm

Hi

Is there a mod that can make a 530 see a Virtual Wall lighthouse, in my situation it would be really useful...........but then again one can always "close the door" !
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Re: Roomba 5xx Series Lighthouse and Virtual Wall Information

Postby SE_machine » February 6th, 2009, 6:59 pm

Are you using it for basic virtual wall, or multi-room lighthouse?
Tim - 3 unmodified Disco SE's since 2005
- Roomba 570 with DIY Rootooth (BlueSmirf Silver) and "Roomba Touch Drive" Android App.
- A used Scooba 5900 as a Christmas gift to my Mom. Fixed with TV remote IRED, OSMO soon.
****- 500 series' owners, Check out my poll at viewtopic.php?f=3&t=11144&start=0&view=viewpoll
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Re: Roomba 5xx Series Lighthouse and Virtual Wall Information

Postby chrisinoz » February 6th, 2009, 8:02 pm

The basic virtual wall that came in the box, the robot made in April 08
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Re: Roomba 5xx Series Lighthouse and Virtual Wall Information

Postby Fraggboy » February 7th, 2009, 1:25 am

I 'think' the 530 can see the Virtual Wall, you just have to turn it on before you start the cleaning mission. Not owning a 530, so I can't be 100% sure. I have a 570, but I run the Lighthouses with it.
Chris

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Re: Roomba 5xx Series Lighthouse and Virtual Wall Information

Postby SE_machine » February 7th, 2009, 2:47 am

If you are using the basic virtual wall that came with it in the box, it should work with the robot. Reading from my 570's instruction book, the virtual wall lighthouse is compatible with models 535 and up. The basic virtual wall is compatible with all roomba's. The 530 is not capable of sending out the signal that turns on the lighthouses, so they don't work. The basic virtual wall that is included with yours, it has a power button on it, yes?
Tim - 3 unmodified Disco SE's since 2005
- Roomba 570 with DIY Rootooth (BlueSmirf Silver) and "Roomba Touch Drive" Android App.
- A used Scooba 5900 as a Christmas gift to my Mom. Fixed with TV remote IRED, OSMO soon.
****- 500 series' owners, Check out my poll at viewtopic.php?f=3&t=11144&start=0&view=viewpoll
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Re: Roomba 5xx Series Lighthouse and Virtual Wall Information

Postby chrisinoz » February 12th, 2009, 11:04 pm

Hi

Yes it works as expected....big suprise I got my 535/5301/5800 yesterday and the Roomba sees the virtual wall that came with it. Sadly the reverse is not true.

Thanks for the contributions. :D

Chris
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Re: Roomba 5xx Series Lighthouse and Virtual Wall Information

Postby tayloch3 » February 24th, 2009, 4:26 pm

I originally purchased a 535 and a couple of extra lighthouses/virtual-walls. I recently purchased a second 535 which included one lighthouse/virtual-wall unit. I now have four lighthouse/virtual-wall units that only "turn on" when the original 535 is activated. Is there a way pair all four lighthouse/virtual-wall units with each 535 (i.e., everything is interchangeable)?
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Re: Roomba 5xx Series Lighthouse and Virtual Wall Information

Postby SE_machine » February 24th, 2009, 4:57 pm

If one 535 turns on the lighthouses, the other one should, too. When did you buy the first one?
Tim - 3 unmodified Disco SE's since 2005
- Roomba 570 with DIY Rootooth (BlueSmirf Silver) and "Roomba Touch Drive" Android App.
- A used Scooba 5900 as a Christmas gift to my Mom. Fixed with TV remote IRED, OSMO soon.
****- 500 series' owners, Check out my poll at viewtopic.php?f=3&t=11144&start=0&view=viewpoll
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Re: Roomba 5xx Series Lighthouse and Virtual Wall Information

Postby tayloch3 » February 25th, 2009, 6:06 pm

I purchased the first one May 2008 and the second one February 2009. Both are 535's from HSN.com. Perhaps, the second 535 is faulty, since the lighthouse/virtual-wall unit that came with the second 535 activates when the first 535 is turned on. So, it sounds like my easiest remedy is to work through the iRobot support group ...
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Re: Roomba 5xx Series Lighthouse and Virtual Wall Information

Postby SE_machine » February 25th, 2009, 6:39 pm

A faulty radio sounds like a probable cause. I would see if you could get a replacement one.
Tim - 3 unmodified Disco SE's since 2005
- Roomba 570 with DIY Rootooth (BlueSmirf Silver) and "Roomba Touch Drive" Android App.
- A used Scooba 5900 as a Christmas gift to my Mom. Fixed with TV remote IRED, OSMO soon.
****- 500 series' owners, Check out my poll at viewtopic.php?f=3&t=11144&start=0&view=viewpoll
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Re: Roomba 5xx Series Lighthouse and Virtual Wall Information

Postby RaelGabriel » March 4th, 2009, 5:03 am

Hi everyone! I live in the UK and have just bought a Roomba 560 complete with two lighthouses. I find this device fascinating, and have read a lot about it, but have 3 questions which currently remain unanswered, and I would welcome some input from this excellent group.

Firstly I am thinking of buying an additional lighthouse, but due to the upstairs layout of my house wonder if it will work:
I understand the basic principle involved in the lighthouses, and in using them downstairs, the robot faithfully goes from the lounge where the docking station is, to the hall, and then to the kitchen, and then back to the dock. In other words there is a straight progression from room to room,using the 2 lighthouses just as in the instruction manual.

Upstairs I envisage a different layout because here the landing serves 3 seperate rooms, each with their own seperate door to the landing. My plan is to buy another lighthouse so that each door is covered, but I am concerned that the Roomba will get confused!

For example: if the docking station is in Room 1, the Roomba will exit that room to the landing, passing Lighthouse 1. Then after cleaning the landing it will enter and exit room 2 passing Lighthouse 2 in the doorway. Now finding itself back on the landing again it will enter and exit room 3, passing lighthouse 3 in the doorway. My question is, at this point will the Roomba try to find Lighthouse 1 and hence Room 1 where it's dock is, or will it try to go back via Room 2 (retracing exactly it's previous route), and get confused?

Of course my upstairs layout is very common, and I am sure that someone will be able to answer my question.

Now in truth there are 4 small rooms opening onto my landing (for the purposes of the above illustration I had one door shut!) I know that the Roomba is supposed to do just 4 rooms in a session, but if I had 4 lighthouses, I would welcome comments on whether there is a chance it would manage to clean all 5 areas (counting the hall as a room) in one go, or would I be wasting my money in buying the fourth lighthouse?

Final question, if the Roomba starts to get a low battery on a mission, I know that it will return to it's docking station to recharge. When recharged, does it automatically go back to the room where it had to abort, and then finish the mission, or upon docking is that the practical end of the mission?

Thank you in advance for any input to these topics ..... Rael
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Re: Roomba 5xx Series Lighthouse and Virtual Wall Information

Postby esk3 » March 4th, 2009, 6:52 pm

I have never tested my 580 with a landing like that, but I know that when it returns to dock that is the end and it will not resume when charged and it will not go back to the room it came from if you press clean or anything like that.

i.e. there is no way to make it resume anything - a mission or a specific room cleaning as part of a mission (w/ lighthouses)
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Re: Roomba 5xx Series Lighthouse and Virtual Wall Information

Postby SE_machine » March 4th, 2009, 7:22 pm

Hello. To answer your first question, your layout probably will not work. The roomba will traverse each lighthouse once on its way to the far room. It then goes through every lighthouse again at the end of the mission or when the battery's low to get back to the dock. It will not pass through the same lighthouse twice in a row, except for the one blocking off the last room. What you can do is put one lighthouse on one side of the middle door and one on the other side so that they divide the roomba's mission into three parts: Room #1 and 1/3 of the landing, Room #2 and another 1/3 of the landing, and Room #3 and the other 1/3 of the landing. The picture attached shows what I mean. To answer your second question, it goes through all lighthouses in the opposite order. And your third question, once it's docked, it stays there until you start it, a scheduled run starts, or it is manually lifted off of the base.
Attachments
drawing (roomba).jpg
Tim - 3 unmodified Disco SE's since 2005
- Roomba 570 with DIY Rootooth (BlueSmirf Silver) and "Roomba Touch Drive" Android App.
- A used Scooba 5900 as a Christmas gift to my Mom. Fixed with TV remote IRED, OSMO soon.
****- 500 series' owners, Check out my poll at viewtopic.php?f=3&t=11144&start=0&view=viewpoll
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