Successful wifi mod of the Botvac?

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Successful wifi mod of the Botvac?

Postby amund7 » February 24th, 2015, 5:28 pm

Hi,

My brain has been hard at work since I found my Botvac 85's USB port the other day, plus found the NeatoControl program.
Very fascinated by the technology of it since day one, and finally seeing the LIDAR map in NeatoControl is awesome. But of course I can't clean the house with a USB cable stuck in it.
So I had the idea to wireless it. After several days of programming my Arduino and Xbee and realizing the complexity of the USB standard, I've been trawling this forum.

Lots of good posts here, but all Neato wireless mod threads seems to either end without a conclusion, or contain completely reprogrammed Linux distros in dead links. I'm a programmer, but not a Linux guy, I don't want to go that route on my own. I can solder wires, but my electronic skills stop there.

What I've tried so far that doesn't seem to work:

- Xbee Explorer USB + OTG/USB host cable in the middle: Doesn't work, because USB 'slave' in both ends

- Arduino MEGA 2560 + Xbee Wifi shield + OTG/USB Host cable in the middle. Doesn't work, same reason as above, and/or because Arduino doesn't really implement USB, just Windows driver does.

What I've read in here:

- Different tiny USB wifi dongles. Needs custom ROM/Linux provided through dead links. I also can't believe they can work because of the USB host/slave problem. Unless they have USB host, and really why should they? To plug in USB 3g modem -> wifi ?

- Arduino Nano + USB host shield - sounds great, but how can you get to WIFI?

- Arduino Mega or Uno + USB host shield + xbee wifi shield - could work, but big, and I'm betting both shields need pins 0-3?

- Spark Core - ships in May!? Doesn't have USB host?

- BeagleBone, Raspberry Pi - has USB host but no Wifi? And again, I'm not a linux guy. Plus, expensive and big.


If either solution above should prove to work, I still can't vacuum, because you can't close the filter with a USB plugged in.

Can we get to the serial port before the USB conversion, and will that mean we can talk to it directly with Arduino or something else? Which baud rate? What about power for my device? Any plans, or is stuff printed on the mainboard?

Can someone report something that actually works? Where did you connect everything?
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Re: Successful wifi mod of the Botvac?

Postby vic7767 » February 24th, 2015, 7:16 pm

I use a device made by air console which is a WiFi to UART/TTL unit. You can read about it here:

http://www.get-console.com/shop/en/16-airconsole

I have been able to establish a connection from my PC to the air console IP address and port reserved for serial communication using several serial terminal programs like Realterm, Tera Term, and Putty and access the Botvac and Neato commands via the USB port.

I have used the NeatoControl program provided by rr member heX via a USB A to Micro USB cable for the Botvac and use a PC com port to access the Botvac. A USB A to Mini USB cable can be used to access the Neato.

I have attempted to use a free software package that creates a virtual serial port to IP address and point the air console IP to a PC com port. When trying to access the NeatoControl program the system times out and a connection is not established. I emailed heX and we worked a few days to attempt a connection but nothing worked. WiFi to NeatoControl is still up in the air for now without a solution.
Roomba and Neato Mods, come visit: http://www.vic7767.com/

http://www.Robot-Doc.com/
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Re: Successful wifi mod of the Botvac?

Postby glnc222 » February 24th, 2015, 8:10 pm

Supposedly the little laptop routers are converted to Host interfaces using alternate firmware in openwrt.org for certain models.
The WiFi host shields for Arduino are made for larger Arduino's handling high speed WiFi with a big processor. The little routers are smaller.
I doubt there is any serial port behind the USB on the system board the way those things are made. cpu's go directly to USB specialized IC's or do it themselves. The interface is more complicated, for higher speed whole-packet processing, than simple serial interfaces. Protocols built into the chips. They negotiate transfer rates with each other etc. IC's on each side of the link.
The PC side should first be handled in text terminal emulators, as what is in Neato Control can involve some additional requirements. One layer at a time.
I could not get a port mapper to work with any standard device, keyboard etc., much less Neato. Not sure how to use them.
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Re: Successful wifi mod of the Botvac?

Postby glnc222 » February 24th, 2015, 8:30 pm

Part of the usb problem is Neato's odd method of tacking single-character packets onto an old serial port, in the driver supplied and the bot firmware. There used to be an independent driver on the web since removed, and lost my copy.
Installing that interfered with Neato firmware updates verifying Neato's driver, so maybe removed for that. It would do the USB commands but not updating, which would look at the driver apparently, for error detection etc. needed especially when burning firmware.
Not code, just configuration of Microsoft's script programmable universal driver facility in Windows. Plus Neato's driver creates a virtual port of some kind already? Confusing mappers?
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Re: Successful wifi mod of the Botvac?

Postby glnc222 » February 25th, 2015, 1:52 am

Successful XV Neato WiFi (at least telnet) with TP-Link wr703n mini router in hacking section Hacking http://www.robotreviews.com/chat/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=18262
Botvac's no different except the plug is under the dust bin side, needs a replacement dust bin to modify or made from scratch. The cable might be run out the top bin tab slot at the back which seems to access the interior (if not adding a hole in the case). Or solder onto the micro usb jack on the system board. Pass under the dustbin. For an outside attachment, slots in the speaker grill.
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Re: Successful wifi mod of the Botvac?

Postby glnc222 » February 25th, 2015, 2:13 am

The PC side problem could be the WiFi receiver is not a COM port, which is for a serial device; WiFi is a packet device like USB or ethernet. Neato's driver creates a virtual COM port from the USB. You need a WiFi driver to do the same. You probably cannot just map the WiFi device to a virtual com port, just regular com ports. A special driver is needed (but not code, just configuration of that Windows internal thing -- books on it). Not an expert in these Windows internals, but I notice these aspects.
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Re: Successful wifi mod of the Botvac?

Postby amund7 » February 25th, 2015, 5:21 am

glnc222 wrote:Successful XV Neato WiFi (at least telnet) with TP-Link wr703n mini router in hacking section Hacking http://www.robotreviews.com/chat/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=18262
Botvac's no different except the plug is under the dust bin side, needs a replacement dust bin to modify or made from scratch. The cable might be run out the top bin tab slot at the back which seems to access the interior (if not adding a hole in the case). Or solder onto the micro usb jack on the system board. Pass under the dustbin. For an outside attachment, slots in the speaker grill.



Thanks! Finally a good thread. Feel free to update it, if you have more info since then.

On the PC/Windows side, I've written a short program that works like a terminal, it's tested and communicates both ways with both the Arduino and the XBee Explorer. My plan is to modify the NeatoControl program, or maybe write my own, once I get the communication up and running.

Just ordered a WR703N!

Any pictures of how you connected it? I'm thinking I can pull the USB plug inside the Neato, and stuff the wifi box in there somewhere. But where does it get power?
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Re: Successful wifi mod of the Botvac?

Postby rearden » March 12th, 2015, 5:39 pm

Has anyone tried RC telemetry radios? I use a 900mhz FHSS (or 433) serial radio with a usb input as a connection to my pixhawk and mission planner. The link itself seems to Just Work. I think it has a micro usb and i2c connection and can be found cheaply on ebay or rc sites.
https://store.3drobotics.com/products/3dr-radio
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Re: Successful wifi mod of the Botvac?

Postby glnc222 » March 13th, 2015, 5:32 pm

One obvious difference is a separate receiver instead of an existing WiFi network so more expensive. Another is the antenna shown. 100ma transmitter power. For use outdoors away from networks -- drones? Yet none of the methods is especially convenient. If you have one already, another application for it.
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Re: Successful wifi mod of the Botvac?

Postby mfortuna » March 13th, 2015, 6:16 pm

900mhz cordless phones and 2.4Ghz Spread Spectrum RC radios don't interfere with Wifi or Bluetooth, nor do they receive interference. The TX power on most RC transmitters is 200mW.
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Re: Successful wifi mod of the Botvac?

Postby lurch » March 29th, 2015, 4:33 pm

I was first playing around with a Raspberry Pi B+ which worked great, after connecting it to the botvac it right out of the box recognized it and mounted the serial interface to /dev/ttyACM0.

The problem as mentioned by the thread starter was the size, I couldn't find any place within the botvac where it would even almost fit - it is just way too large with its 4 USB connectors etc. .

So I looked for something smaller but less complicate to configure than those tiny routers that required openWRT or something else, I also couldn't find a source where I could get those suitable routers at a reasonable price without having to wait months for delivery from China.

I finally got one Acmesystems Arietta G25. Although it didn't recognize the botvac right out of the box, the missing kernel driver (cdc_acm) could easily be added just by following the very good tutorial from Acmesystems on how to re-compile a kernel from scratch.
I got the arietta with a wifi-module that I could just solder ontop of it. The only issue with that wifi module was that if requires an external wifi antenna and the only one they had on-stock (with a suitable picktail adapter) was _huge_.
However, I managed to find a place within the botvac to stuff everything into it, as well as for a simple DC/DC step-down regulator to get the 5V for the arietta from the 12V batteries.
I gripped off the battery power from the battery switch so I can switch both the botvac and the arietta off if required. Connecting the module to the battery poses the risk of deep-discharging the battery if the botvac one day should not find its way back to the charging station. But I don't find that as likely to happen so I took that risk - in the worst case I have to order a new battery pack...

I attached some pictures to show where I placed the module, the voltage regulator and that huge antenna - one might want to use a smaller alternative but hey it works ;-)

The biggest issue I had was that usb connector within the dust bin bay. I finally modified a standard Micro-USB-B plug by cutting away everything directly behind the part that will disappear once plugged in and soldering the cable directly to those contacts.
Since the cables insulation was so thick, I also cut-away that and covered it with some capton tape which made it much thinner. I found some neat and flat USB cables that would be even better but I didn't like to wait for them to be shipped from the US.
Between the botvacs USB connector and the case there is a little gap where I managed to stuff the cable through so I did not have to modify the case. When the dust bin is inserted, it just fits in without touching the connector.

Now I enjoy being able to start a clean run from whereever I am on the planet :-) I might also add a usb camera but for now I am happy that I didn't break anything and it works as expected.
If someone has questions, let me know.
Attachments
botvac_arietta_wifi_power.jpg
This is where I gripped the power off
botvac_arietta_wifi_power.jpg (47.4 KiB) Viewed 10813 times
botvac_arietta_wifi_implant.jpg
Placement inside botvac
botvac_arietta_wifi.jpg
Before stuffing everything into the botvac
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Re: Successful wifi mod of the Botvac?

Postby Hydra » March 30th, 2015, 6:15 am

Hi lurch,

I'm very interested in your project. Would it be possible to get a close-up picture of your modified microusb plug? Which flat micro usb cables did you mean? Something like this http://www.amazon.de/LogiLink-CU0089-Ka ... ro+usb+0.2 ?
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Re: Successful wifi mod of the Botvac?

Postby lurch » March 30th, 2015, 6:30 am

Hi Hydra,

That one might be good, although I thought about a foil-shielded flat cable I found at mouser.com, they also have quite short Micro-usb b connectors for soldering that might fit without manual manipulation, I can send links as well as a close-up picture in the evening.

Martin
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Re: Successful wifi mod of the Botvac?

Postby lurch » March 30th, 2015, 1:49 pm

I admit the modified plug is ugly but I re-arranged it a couple of times and only had white hot glue at hand to stabilize it. It is hard to tell from the pictures but it just fits without being touched by the dust bin.

One day I will probably try it with one of those plugs (plus this shielding), soldered to this cable - although not specifically a USB cable, it is shielded, thin and good for those roughly 5cm.
I might also try this antenna. You will find those items at any large electronics dealer, the links provided are just an example.
Attachments
botvac_usb_3.jpg
usb plug
botvac_usb_2.jpg
usb plug
botvac_usb.jpg
usb plug plugged in
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Re: Successful wifi mod of the Botvac?

Postby glnc222 » March 30th, 2015, 4:42 pm

I do not think any manufactured plug will fit. They are sold on ebay, where the big distributors have competition for small orders now. Cable manufacture needs a sufficient contact fastening space for cable termination. You have to cut them down. Even the right-angle fittings are the same.

At some time replacement dust bins may be available and a small notch cut in it for the cable.
What about soldering to the jack attachment to the system board? Surface mount...
(You could always take off the jack...as long as warranties are of no account).

The more durable is the machine the less likely spare parts will be found from discarded units. Catch 22.
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Re: Successful wifi mod of the Botvac?

Postby lurch » March 31st, 2015, 1:51 pm

glnc222 wrote:At some time replacement dust bins may be available and a small notch cut in it for the cable.

They actually are available, I already bought one (30 Euros), as my first plan was to remove a part of the transparent dust bin to stuff in the computer and voltage regulator in there. But I dropped that idea since it would have been hard to seal the remaining dust bin part at the back, where the filter is.
But, the issue with that USB connector is that it would not be enough to cut in a little notch cut into the dust bin lid, it would have to be cut into that transparent, round shaped part of the dust bin, as that is what would apply pressure on the plug. And that also would have to be sealed inside again, otherwise the air would be sucked from the surface but from the bottom of the botvac.

glnc222 wrote:What about soldering to the jack attachment to the system board? Surface mount...
(You could always take off the jack...as long as warranties are of no account).

I also thought about that but yes, especially that SMD jack is not easy to solder on, also because of other SMD parts close next to those contacts. Definitely possible but I was afraid of damaging something, the lead-free solder stuff they use is a pain to solder. So I ended up fiddling around with that plug and until now it works good, altough it was no fun solderig it.
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Re: Successful wifi mod of the Botvac?

Postby glnc222 » April 7th, 2015, 3:51 am

It is nice to know those micro USB plugs can be modified.
The replacement bins are pricey at 30 Euros. I'd probably make one out of cardboard.

I've fiddled some with modifying dust bins in experiments with alternative batteries, even sticking some extra cells in an XV bin. With some extra plastic bits, glue, even molding epoxy, such things can be altered.
Surprised there is a problem with the rear filter seal, but I have only played with some cardboard bracing of the filter and would have to study it. I did not think the connector area was involved in retaining the bin.
I would think the flat type of USB cable would fit under the bin around the back as there is slight clearance underneath the bin (most commonly found on the wind-up retracting cables). There is a hole into the case where the tab on the rear of the bin fits into a slot. Details, details... All just to preserve the warranty vs cutting the proper opening (which might be just a nick in the upper and lower cover joint)... Eventually irrelevant.

Much of the rear space is taken by those counterweights, and I wonder if replacing them with lead, even rearranged, might make some room.
I notice the remote control with the Vorwerk VR200 is an IR control, not as useful as a radio connection. Easy for the mfg to add IR since the lidar is already a receiver, but users cannot supply the needed firmware.

For reference:
TCP/IP for using the Neato Control Program (thread http://www.robotreviews.com/chat/viewtopic.php?f=20&t=18173&hilit=Neato+Control#p127627) has been added in Beta for communicating with remote USB interfaces to the Neato.
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Re: Successful wifi mod of the Botvac?

Postby amund7 » April 26th, 2015, 1:52 pm

Great work Lurch!

I've played a bit with 2 things, and have the following 'proofs of concepts' working:

1. USB/IP android app, OTG cable, android phone, USB/IP client and NeatoControl on windows.

2. Raspberry Pi 2, USB Over IP, VirtualHere client on windows, NeatoControl.

Both of these work pretty much out of the box. (Without the IP beta version of neatocontrol I read about just now)

But I haven't done the surgery to the Neato yet. And I can see from videos and pictures that there will be nowhere to stuff the Raspberry. Can't put it on top cause it will blind the lidar, can't put it on front or sides, but maybe back corner?

Anyways, problem will still be USB plug vs dust bin.

Looks like Lurch's solution is the best! Only thing that frightens me is that kernel recompile. And also the USB plug mod. If someone could find a USB DIY plug that can be soldered onto would be nice I guess.

Lurch, any more pictures of the USB plug mod would be nice, what did you start with? A standard USB cable?
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Re: Successful wifi mod of the Botvac?

Postby glnc222 » April 26th, 2015, 8:34 pm

Replacement Dirt Bins for modification at RobotShop:
http://www.robotshop.com/en/neato-botvac-dust-bin.html

There are no strong forces to support inside the dust bin so it can easily be rebuilt with a cavity fitting over additional electronics and USB plugs. Even cardboard can be used.
Long time, reliable store in Canada. One of the rare sources of new Neato Robotics parts.
(besides Vic7767.com).

Never try to dry out a washed dustbin with heat, as it will warp the plastic. Unless you like modern sculpture.
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Re: Successful wifi mod of the Botvac?

Postby glnc222 » May 11th, 2015, 11:01 pm

New CHIP Microcomputer Alternative to Raspberry Pi

An inexpensive tiny computer has been developed with successful crowd funding, which may be distributed soon, competing with Raspberry Pi some have used with Neato.
CHIP computer $9 http://www.zdnet.com/article/the-9-dollar-computer-what-do-you-get/
WiFi and USB included, running LInux, so maybe interesting to those experimenting with adding wireless to Neato's.
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