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When I use a standard manual vacuum, I often notice that I have to pass over a spot several times because a single pass does not necessarily catch all the dirt. My eyes/brain can easily perceive this information visually, but I don't know how an autonomous robot vacuum can detect whether a pass over a patch of dirt was successful or not. What kind of sensor/action can I use to determine if the robot vacuum successfully picked up the dirt from a particular patch?

I would prefer to avoid a visual camera if at all possible because it would necessarily have to be mounted above the robot and thereby limit the range of reachable locations. Is there some other low-cost sensor that can accomplish the same task that can be placed low to the ground?

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If you want a robotic vacuum, and are not dead-set on building the base platform, you can always buy a Roomba and hack it. The "Open Interface" of the Create works with any model Roomba.

And yes, the Roomba has piezoelectric-based dirt detection.

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  • $\begingroup$ How does a piezoelectric sensor detect the dirt? Is the dirt thrust upon it by the vacuum? Or does the presence of dirt affect the sensor in some indirect way? $\endgroup$ – Paul Jan 1 '15 at 3:36
  • $\begingroup$ The sensor is in the main brush housing. When the robot sucks up dirt, it hits the sensor. $\endgroup$ – Ben Jan 1 '15 at 15:35
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A low power laser shining across the floor surface at a glancing angle will show a bright glitter of light off of any specks of dirt. A photo-sensor could be arranged to see the sparkle, and order a 'redo' of any area that glittered more than a given threshold...a threshold that would have to be determined experimentally, but should work for most floors. Alternately, the same idea could be applied to the air flow just inside the vacuum nozzle, and the vacuum only moving on after the dirt particle pickup dropped below a certain threshold. This might make for a very slow moving machine, though.

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