Meet Eli’s WeatherClock, a digital–analogue timepiece that displays the weather at each hour of the day as well as the time. Here’s an example: every day at 3pm, instead of the hour hand just pointing to a number three on the clock’s face, it also points to a visual representation of what the weather is doing. Obviously, Eli’s WeatherClock still tells the time using the standard positions of the hour and minute hands, but it does two jobs in one, and it looks much more interesting than a regular clock.
You can also press on every hour position of the watch’s touchscreen display to see more detailed meteorological information, such as temperature and the likelihood of rain. Then once you’ve gotten all the detail you need, you return to the simple analogue resting face to by pressing the centre of the touchscreen.
Under the hood
The device uses the openWeatherMap API to fetch weather data for your location. It’s a simple build powered by Raspberry Pi Zero W with a Pimoroni 4″ HyperPixel Hi-Res Display providing the user interface. And its slim, pocket-sized design means you can take it with you on your travels.
We found this creation on The Digital Vagrant‘s YouTube channel. A friend named Eli gave them the idea so the maker named the project after him. The Digital Vagrant liked the idea of being able to quickly check the weather before leaving the house — no need to check a computer or get your phone out of your bag.
This Raspberry Pi-powered weather station is a vital tool for Nepalese farmers, who work in remote, changeable conditions, and rely heavily on monitoring the environment.
It’s hard to forecast the weather in Nepal. Conditions can vary a lot within a small area as the country is so mountainous. Plus, there is no national weather service. This makes life even harder for farmers working in remote villages, but there were a few essentials elements any solution had to have:
Low-cost to build
Reliable and easy to maintain
Solar power operated
Could also run on readily available motorcycle batteries when the solar panels don’t get enough sun
How was it made?
The battery-backed solar powered weather station was built by a team lead by Prabesh Sapkota and Binod Kandel from the Robotics Association of Nepal. And they were able to complete the project affordably using Raspberry Pi. Prabesh and his team wrote the software and created a display dashboard in Raspbian Jessie.
However, one of the issues they faced was being able to reliably power the Raspberry Pi and Arduino, and that’s where the BitScope Blade Uno came in to play (more on that later).
Weather station sensors measure temperature, barometric pressure, humidity, wind direction and speed, and all of the sensors are connected to the Arduino which records the data and send it to the Raspberry Pi to display on the dashboard.
BitScope Blade Uno (directly powers Raspberry Pi and Arduino)
GPS Module (NEO-6M-0-001)
Pressure sensor (BMP180)
Humidity sensor (DHT11)
12V Lead Acid Battery
20 Watt Solar Panel
Hall Effect Sensor (anemometer to measure wind speed)
Reed Switches (to sense wind direction)
The team is working with an Australian sponsor to run workshops on basic electronics in the hopes of building more of these affordable weather stations for rural schools and remote areas.
What is Bitscope Blade?
This weather station is an inspiring application of element 14’s BitScope Blade. These power and mounting solutions were developed for those working in challenging conditions, making them perfect for remote areas of Nepal without access to reliable power.
Bitscope Blade is a “robust power and mounting solution for the industrial deployment of Raspberry Pi.” You can choose from three editions based upon the number of Raspberry Pi you’ll be using:
BitScope Blade Uno (above far left) is a flexible power and mounting solution for one Raspberry Pi and optional HAT. It’s recommended for makers, students and engineers.
BitScope Blade Duo (above centre) is a mountable solution for a pair of Raspberry Pi and is ideal for building a stand-alone desktop and server system.
BitScope Blade Quattro (above far right) works with four Raspberry Pi and can support the creation of compute clusters, private clouds or build farms.
Safely catching mice is a better way of fixing a problem, and using Raspberry Pi means it needs less supervision. In the new issue of The MagPi magazine, Rob Zwetsloot takes a look with the maker, Andrew Taylor.
With some IoT projects, it’s the little things that help. For example, take Andrew Taylor, who did the good thing of setting up a humane mousetrap. However, checking it to see if any mice had been caught in it, while necessary, was getting a little boring.
“If a mouse had gone in and I did not check it, the mouse would quickly run out of food and water!” Andrew tells us. “Having been interested in Raspberry Pi for a couple of years and having recently begun learning Python using the Enviro+ environment sensors, I figured a Raspberry Pi with a motion sensor would be an ideal way to check.”
It’s a fairly simple setup, one commonly used in CCTV builds and some fun ‘parent detectors’ on the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s projects site.
“I came across a couple of automated mousetraps that people had made from scratch, but wanting to keep it simple and cheap,” Andrew explains. “I wanted to use off-the-shelf parts where possible and keep costs down. The Pi Hut had a tutorial for a DIY burglar alarm utilising a PIR sensor, IFTTT, and Pushbullet, which seemed like an ideal starting point.”
IFTTT – If This Then That – is an online service popular with IoT folks. It’s great for small things like cross-posting images on social media services, or sending a push notification when motion is detected in a mousetrap.
“I have only had one mouse since, but it worked!” Andrew says. “I was averaging about 800 detections a day and suddenly got well over a 1000. Sure enough, there was a mouse in the trap which I released shortly afterwards. I do tend to notice that the values fluctuate a bit, so it is always worth checking over the previous day’s results to see if it is notably higher.”
You might think that 800 push notifications a day is far worse than just occasionally checking your garage, and you’d be right, so Andrew tweaked the code a bit: “The code examples I found sent a notification for each movement detection – which I knew would be rather annoying, considering how randomly PIR sensors sometimes seem to trigger. My script instead logs any hits at a max of 1 per 30 seconds and then triggers a notification once every 24 hours, meaning I just get one notification a day.”
Beat a path
There’s always room for improvement, as Andrew explains: “I intend to improve the code so that it can record running averages and give an indication as to whether it believes there has been a significant spike that might necessitate me checking it out.”
Whilst the aim of the project was to keep costs down, Andrew is tempted to experiment by adding a camera, and possibly a light, so he can have a peek remotely when there has been a spike in the readings and to see if it is a false alarm. Which, as he admits, is “a new height in laziness!”
The MagPi #108 out NOW!
You can grab the brand-new issue right now from the Raspberry Pi Press store, or via our app on Android or iOS. You can also pick it up from supermarkets and newsagents. There’s also a free PDF you can download.
Befinitiv has built a custom film cartridge, using a Raspberry Pi Zero W, that turned their gorgeous old analogue camera into a digital one, and enabled it to take digital photos, videos, and even wirelessly live stream to the Internet.
The analogue camera they used in the build was considered state-of-the-art around fifty years ago, but it lives on to capture another day, all thanks to a tiny computer we made just a few years ago.
The maker replaced the old-fashioned camera film roll with a digital cartridge housing a tiny Raspberry Pi camera — with the lens removed — and a Raspberry Pi Zero W. The housing was designed to fit in the back of the camera where original photographers would have clipped the film roll in, and then spooled it over.
Along with the camera and the Raspberry Pi Zero W, the custom-built cartridge also houses a LiPo battery and a DC to DC converter, used to boost the power supply to the Raspberry Pi up to +5V.
The whole project took just two hours to complete from start to finish, everything worked first time. Befinitiv had wanted to use the Raspberry Pi High Quality Camera, but space inside the housing was just too tight. Maybe next time? Perhaps they can use one of those giant ancient cameras, where the photographer had to flip a blanket over their head, all while holding a stick in the air with the flash.
More retro projects from the maker
Fancy more where this retrofit goodness came from? The maker has also upgraded a flip phone from the year 2000. Oh! I just realised the year 2000 was more than 20 years ago. Watch the build video while I go and burn all of my skater boy jeans and slogan t-shirts…
They also did something weird but cool sounding with this noisy teletype machine. Is it a teletype machine? What’s a teletype machine? I saw a fax machine once..?
When we saw Alex Glow’s name in the latest issue of HackSpace magazine, we just had to share their project. HackSpace #45 celebrates the best Raspberry Pi builds of all time, and we remembered spotting Alex’s wearable robotic owl familiar back in the day. For those of you yet to have had the pleasure, meet Archimedes…
An updated model, Archie 2, using Raspberry Pi 3B, ESP32-powered Matrix Voice, and an SG90 micro-servo motor saw the personable owl familiar toughen up – Alex says the 3D-printed case is far more durable – as well as having better voice interaction options using Matrix HAL (for which installer packages are provided for Raspberry Pi and Python), plus Mycroft and Snips.ai voice assistant software.
Other refinements included incorporating compact discs into the owl’s wings to provide an iridescent sheen. Slots in the case allowed Alex to feed through cable ties to attach Archie’s wings, which she says now “provide a lively bounce to the wings, in tune with his active movements (as well as my own).”
Forget Beanie Babies as McDonald’s Happy Meal toys, or U2’s new album magically appearing on everyone’s iTunes list: the collaboration of the century is here. Estefannie Explains it All answered a call from LOOK MUM NO COMPUTER (aka Sam) who was looking for a coding genius to bring his cryptocurrency-measuring musical machine to life.
Sam wanted to use the up-and-down nature of cryptocurrency value to generate voltages that would power synthesisers and generate sounds. He’s good at music, but middlingly bad at the coding side of things, and so he roped in Estefannie’s smarts to devise a solution.
The Raspberry Pi bit
Estefannie‘s plan involved a Raspberry Pi and some pulse-width modulation signals, which can be filtered down into analogue voltages.
She marked this all out on a breadboard, with ten LEDs connected to Raspberry Pi standing in for ten cryptocurrencies. The Raspberry Pi pins send voltages to the LEDs that correlate with the real-time percentage of change the cryptocurrency values experience.
The music bit
In order to make the monotone output of Estefannie’s creation sound more musical, Sam needed more than one cryptocurrency to be heard at a time, and to be able to alter the chords. So he built ten analogue circuits on perf boards. These slow down the changes in the cryptocurrency values, altering the audio output. And ten separate oscillators allow each board to interact with each other. Sam explains it much better, so check out his build video.
Transatlantic collaboration videos
This is a cool mash-up of a project, with each maker producing brilliant videos focusing on the separate expertise they brought to the build.
If you want to dig deep into the marathon coding session Estefannie performed to create this musical machine, check out her project video:
And if you’re interested in the analog musical side of things, check out Sam’s:
Hour-long cryptocurrency concert
If you actually trade cryptocurrency, this would be a whimsical way to keep an eye ear on market changes. If you don’t trade cryptocurrency and you also don’t have the skills to build something like this, then you can just pretend.
Sam has produced an hour-long ‘performance’ video of the machine doing its thing. So stick it on in the background next time you’re doing busy work at your desk and pretend you’re also a crypto-trading coding artist.
Holy cyberdecks! Redditor Holistech (aka Sören Gebbert) really leaned in to the “more is more” idiom when building this big orange cyberdeck using three Raspberry Pis. Why use just one screen to manipulate enemy cyberware and take down your cyberpunk foes, when you can have six?
From four to six
We first came across Sören’s work on hackster.io and we were impressed with what we found, which was this four‑screen creation running Linux Mint on a dual Raspberry Pi setup:
So imagine our surprise when we clicked through to check out Holistech on reddit, only to be confronted with this six‑screen monstrosity of brilliance:
He’s only gone and levelled up his original creation already. And before we even had the chance to properly swoon over the original.
Under the hood
Originally, Sören wanted to use Raspberry Pi Zero because they’re tiny and easily hidden away inside projects. He needed more power though, so he went with Raspberry Pi 4 instead.
Sören 3D-printed the distinctive orange frame. On the back of the rig are openings for a fan for active cooling and a mini control display that shows the CPU temperature and the fan speed.
Six 5.5″ HD resolution screens are the eyes of the project. And everything is powered by hefty 26,000 mAh battery power banks.
And it gets even better: this whole multi-screen thing is portable. Yes, portable. You can fold it up, pack it away in its suitably steampunk metal box, and carry it with you.
There are plenty more photos. Head to Instagram to take a closer look at how Sören’s genius design folds in on itself to enable portability.
Want to dabble in the Internet of Things but don’t know where to start? Well, our friends at Microsoft have developed something fun and free just for you. Here’s Senior Cloud Advocate Jim Bennett to tell you all about their brand new online curriculum for IoT beginners.
IoT — the Internet of Things — is one of the biggest growth areas in technology, and one that, to me, is very exciting. You start with a device like a Raspberry Pi, sprinkle some sensors, dust with code, mix in some cloud services and poof! You have smart cities, self-driving cars, automated farming, robotic supermarkets, or devices that can clean your toilet after you shout at Alexa for the third time.
It feels like every week there is another survey out on what tech skills will be in demand in the next five years, and IoT always appears somewhere near the top. This is why loads of folks are interested in learning all about it.
In my day job at Microsoft, I work a lot with students and lecturers, and I’m often asked for help with content to get started with IoT. Not just how to use whatever cool-named IoT services come from your cloud provider of choice to enable digital whatnots to add customer value via thingamabobs, but real beginner content that goes back to the basics.
This is why a few of us have spent the last few months locked away building IoT for Beginners. It’s a free, open source, 24-lesson university-level IoT curriculum designed for teachers and students, and built by IoT experts, education experts and students.
What will you learn?
The lessons are grouped into projects that you can build with a Raspberry Pi so that you can deep-dive into use cases of IoT, following the journey of food from farm to table.
You’ll build projects as you learn the concepts of IoT devices, sensors, actuators, and the cloud, including:
An automated watering system, controlling a relay via a soil moisture sensor. This starts off running just on your device, then moves to a free MQTT broker to add cloud control. It then moves on again to cloud-based IoT services to add features like security to stop Farmer Giles from hacking your watering system.
A GPS-based vehicle tracker plotting the route taken on a map. You get alerts when a vehicle full of food arrives at a location by using cloud-based mapping services and serverless code.
AI-based fruit quality checking using a camera on your device. You train AI models that can detect if fruit is ripe or not. These start off running in the cloud, then you move them to the edge running directly on your Raspberry Pi.
Smart stock checking so you can see when you need to restack the shelves, again powered by AI services.
A voice-controlled smart timer so you have more devices to shout at when cooking your food! This one uses AI services to understand what you say into your IoT device. It gives spoken feedback and even works in many different languages, translating on the fly.
It’s the worst feeling in the world: waking up and realising you forgot to put your electric car on charge overnight. What do you do now? Dig a bike out of the shed? Wait four hours until there’s enough juice in the battery to get you where you need to be? Neither option works if you’re running late. If only there were a way to automate the process, so that when you park up, the charger find its way to the charging port on its own. That would make life so much easier.
Of course, this is all conjecture, because I drive a car made in the same year I started university. Not even the windows go up and down automatically. But I can dream, and I still love this automatic Tesla charger built with Raspberry Pi.
Wait, don’t Tesla make those already?
Back in 2015 Tesla released a video of their own prototype which can automatically charge their cars. But things have gone quiet, and nothing seems to be coming to market any time soon – nothing directly from Tesla, anyway. And while we like the slightly odd snake-charmer vibes the Tesla prototype gives off, we really like Pat’s commitment to spending hours tinkering in order to automate a 20-second manual job. It’s how we do things around here.
Electric vehicle enthusiast Andrew Erickson has been keeping up with the prototype’s whereabouts, and discussed it on YouTube in 2020.
How did Pat build his home-made charger?
Tired of waiting on Tesla, Pat took matters into his own hands and developed a home-made solution with Raspberry Pi 4. Our tiny computer is the “brains of everything”, and is mounted to a carriage on Pat’s garage wall.
There’s a big servo at the end of the carriage, which rotates the charging arm out when it’s needed. And an ultrasonic distance sensor ensures none of the home-made apparatus hits the car.
How does the charger find the charging port?
A Raspberry Pi Camera Module takes photos and sends them back to a machine learning model (Pat used TensorFlow Lite) running on his Raspberry Pi 4. This is how the charging arm finds its way to the port. You can watch the model in action from this point in the build video.
Top stuff, Pat. Now I just need to acquire a Tesla from somewhere so I can build one for my own garage. Wait, I don’t have a garage either…
Raspberry Pi 400 hasn’t even celebrated its first birthday yet (remember the launch in November?), but at only 249 days old, it already has ten variants to choose from.
At launch, users could choose between English (UK and US), French, Italian, German, and Spanish keyboard layouts, and the new variants support Portuguese, Danish, Swedish and Norwegian. With a variant for Japan coming soon, Raspberry Pi 400 will soon be available with the same range of layouts as our official keyboard.
Can we see?
Here are the keyboard layouts of the four new variants, so you can take a closer look.
During lockdown, Stuart (aka JamHamster) wanted to keep busy whilst between jobs, and ended up building a mini empire of rescued retro systems. Cassette tapes, Game Boys, and floppy disks were all among the treasures he reclaimed.
Cassette tape starter
Stuart got started by fitting a TZXDuino tape loader into a cassette tape shell. Remember those? This allows him to load software onto a ZX Spectrum by inserting a tape into the tape deck, just as Nature intended. He has since improved the design (check out V2 on YouTube) and carefully documented it on GitHub, so people can build their own.
With that first project in the bag and getting attention on a Facebook group (Spectrum for Everyone), Stuart went forth and sourced more retro tech to revive with tiny pieces of new technology.
Enter Raspberry Pi
Then Stuart discovered our tiny computer and realised there was heaps of scope for hiding them inside older tech. Although we can’t quite officially endorse Stuart’s method of “carefully” removing a port on his Raspberry Pi – it’ll void your warranty – we will say that we like people who go about intentionally voiding their warranties. It’s a cool video.
He has since created loads of retrofit projects with Raspberry Pi. Let’s take a quick look at a few of them.
Raspberry Pi 3 Game Boy build
First up is a Game Boy build with a Raspberry Pi 3 Model A+. Stuart built an aluminium chassis from scrap, and this sandwiches the Raspberry Pi to hold it in place inside the Game Boy enclosure, as well as acting as a heatsink. There’s a grille in the cartridge and he also added four rear buttons. The hardest part of this build, apparently, was soldering the custom HDMI cable.
Better-than-real CRT screen
Stuart liked the look of an old-fashioned CRT (cathode-ray tube) screen for playing retro games on, but they chew through energy and aren’t that portable. So he had the idea to make a space-efficient LCD system that sits on a desktop and just looks like a retro TV.
This project features a 3.5-inch screen of the type that’s usually found on a car dashboard to help the driver to reverse. Stuart converted it to 5V, and added a cut-down Raspberry Pi 3 and a custom-machined chassis. A custom-ground curved lens makes it look like a real CRT, and he added ports on the back for two Atari joysticks, as well as an external composite input and USB.
Stuart’s sister gave him her Game Gear to fix, but the batteries leaked and killed it so he converted it to a Raspberry Pi 3B portable gaming system. And because it was for his sister, he went all out, spending six weeks refining it.
He also ended up rewriting elements of the Arduino Joystick library for responsiveness and ease of configuration. Here’s the Github link for those interested in that part of the build.
Stuart’s latest cassette build features a Raspberry Pi Zero running RetroPie. He wanted to make one with a transparent case, so he encased the Raspberry Pi in a heatsink sandwich to hide the wiring. He added a full-size USB port and a 3.5 mm media connector for sound and visuals. Here are some shots of the inside.
Try new things, expect failure, enjoy the process
There were far too many cracking retro builds for us to list here, so follow Stuart on Twitter @RealJamHamster and subscribe to JamHamster on YouTube to properly check everything out.
Makers, tinkerers, and crafters don’t always have a practical reason for embarking on projects, and Stuart is no different. Here’s what he had to say about why projects like this make him happy:
“I will be happy to admit that I have no clue what I’m doing most of the time, and I am by no means an expert, but I believe everyone should try new things as you never know what you’ll be good at. 9 out of 10 of my ideas don’t work but that tenth one is generally pretty good. I’ve been between roles during lockdown so I am building these out of scrap metal and whatever I have lying around, which is an extra challenge. My philosophy is to try new things, expect failure, learn to enjoy the process and that it’ll be done when it’s done.”
Has your fitness suffered during locked down? Have you been able to keep up diligently with your usual running routine? Maybe you found it easy to recreate you regular gym classes in your lounge with YouTube coaches. Or maybe, like a lot of us, you’ve not felt able to do very much at all, and needed a really big push to keep moving.
Maker James Wong took to Raspberry Pi to develop something that would hold him accountable for his daily HIIT workouts, and hopefully keep his workouts on track while alone in lockdown.
What is a HIIT workout?
HIIT is the best kind of exercise, in that it doesn’t last long and it’s effective. You do short bursts of high-intensity physical movement between short, regular rest periods. HIIT stands for High Intensity Interval Training.
James was attracted to HIIT during lockdown as it didn’t require any gym visits or expensive exercise equipment. He had access to endless online training sessions, but felt he needed that extra level of accountability to make sure he kept up with his at-home fitness regime. Hence, HIIT Pi.
So what does HIIT Pi actually do?
HIIT Pi is a web app that uses machine learning on Raspberry Pi to help track your workout in real time. Users can interact with the app via any web browser running on the same local network as the Raspberry Pi, be that on a laptop, tablet, or smartphone.
HIIT Pi is simple in that it only does two things:
Uses computer vision to automatically capture and track detected poses and movement
Scores them according to a set of rules and standards
So, essentially, you’ve got a digital personal trainer in the room monitoring your movements and letting you know whether they’re up to standard and whether you’re likely to achieve your fitness goals.
James calls HIIT Pi an “electronic referee”, and we agree that if we had one of those in the room while muddling through a Yoga With Adriene session on YouTube, we would try a LOT harder.
How does it work?
A Raspberry Pi camera module streams raw image data from the sensor roughly at 30 frames per second. James devised a custom recording stream handler that works off this pose estimation model and takes frames from the video stream, spitting out pose confidence scores using pre-set keypoint position coordinates.
James’s original project post details the inner workings. You can also grab the code needed to create your own at-home Raspberry Pi personal trainer.
Our friends over at RealVNC are having a whale of a time with Raspberry Pi, so they decided to write this guest blog for us. Here’s what they had to say about what their VNC Connect software can do, and how Raspberry Pi can be integrated into industry. Plus, hear about a real-life commercial example.
What is VNC Connect?
RealVNC’s VNC Connect is a secure way for you to control your Raspberry Pi from anywhere, as if you were sat in front of it. This is particularly useful for Raspberry Pis which are running ‘headless’ without monitor connected. The desktop can instead be presented in the VNC Connect Viewer app on, say, a wirelessly-connected iPad, from which you have full graphical control of the Raspberry Pi. The two devices do not even have to be on the same local network, so you can take remote control over the Internet. Which is great for roaming robots.
You can read more about RealVNC for Raspberry Pi here. It’s free to get started for non-commercial use.
RealVNC have seen an increase in the use of Raspberry Pi in business, not just at home and in education. Raspberry Pi, combined with VNC Connect, is helping businesses both to charge for a service that they couldn’t previously provide, and to improve/automate a service they already offer.
For example, Raspberry Pi is a useful, as well as a cost effective, “edge device” in complex hardware environments that require monitoring – a real IoT use case! Add VNC Connect, and the businesses which perform these hardware installations can provide monitoring and support services on a subscription basis to customers, building repeat revenue and adding value.
With VNC Connect being offered at an affordable price (less than the price of a cup of coffee per month for a single device), it doesn’t take these businesses long to make a healthy return.
A commercial example: monitoring solar panels
Centurion Solar provides monitoring software for home solar panels. Each installation is hooked up via USB to a Raspberry Pi-powered monitoring system, and access is provided both to the customer and to Centurion Solar, who run a paid monitoring and support service.
Having every new system leave the factory pre-installed with VNC Connect allows Centurion Solar to provide assistance quickly and easily for customers, no matter where they are, or how tech-savvy they are (or aren’t).
The software is currently being used in over 15,000 systems across 27 countries, with more new users every week.
“We’ve gone from being in limp mode to overdrive in one easy step, using RealVNC as the driving force to get us there.”
There are many more industry sectors which could be considering Raspberry Pi as a lightweight and convenient monitoring/edge compute solution, just like Centurion Solar do. For example:
Critical National Infrastructure
The possibilities are only limited by imagination, and the folks down the road at RealVNC are happy to discuss how using Raspberry Pi in your environment could be transformative. You can reach us here.
I speak English. Super well. And I can read the rough, overall vibe of writing in French. I can also order beer and taxis in Spanish. Alas, my dog can do none of these things, and we are left in communication limbo. I try asking them (in English) why they’re so mean to that one Cockapoo who lives across the road, or why they don’t understand the importance of the eyedrops the vet insists I have to hold their eyelids open to administer. They just respond with a variety of noises that I cannot translate. We need to fix this, and thankfully NerdStroke has harnessed Raspberry Pi to build a solution.
How does it work?
The dog wears a harness with a microphone that picks up its barks. The barks get processed through a device that determines what the dog is saying and then outputs it through speakers.
Raspberry Pi Zero is the affordable brain powering NerdStroke’s solution to this age-old human-and-pup problem. But writing code that could translate the multitude of frequencies coming out of a dog’s mouth when it barks was a trickier problem. NerdStroke tried to work it through on Twitch with fellow hobbyists, but alas, the original dream had to be modified.
Spoiler alert: fast Fourier transforms did not work. You would need a clear, pure tone for that to work in a project like this, but as we said above, dogs bark in a rainbow of tones, pitches, and all the rest.
So what’s the solution?
Because of this, a time-based model was devised to predict what a dog is likely to be barking about at any given time of day. For example, if it’s early morning, they probably want to go out to pee. But if it’s mid-morning, they’re probably letting you know the postman has arrived and is trying to challenge your territory by pushing thin paper squares through the flap in your front door. It’s a dangerous world out there, and dogs just want to protect us.
Nerdstroke had his good friend record some appropriate soundbites to go with each bark, depending on what time of day it happened. And now, Nugget the dog can tell you “I want to cuddle” or “Why aren’t you feeding me?”
While the final project couldn’t quite translate the actual thoughts of a dog, we love the humour behind this halfway solution. And we reckon the product name, Holler Collar, would definitely sell.
Follow NerdStroke’s future projects
NerdStroke is all over the socials, so follow them on your platform of choice:
Machine learning can sound daunting even for experienced Raspberry Pi hobbyists, but Microsoft and Adafruit Industries are determined to make it easier for everyone to have a go. Microsoft’s Lobe tool takes the stress out of training machine learning models, and Adafruit have developed an entire kit around their BrainCraft HAT, featuring Raspberry Pi 4 and a Raspberry Pi Camera, to get your own machine learning project off to a flying start.
Adafruit’s BrainCraft HAT
Adafruit’s BrainCraft HAT fits on top of Raspberry Pi 4 and makes it really easy to connect hardware and debug machine learning projects. The 240 x 240 colour display screen also lets you see what the camera sees. Two microphones allow for audio input, and access to the GPIO means you can connect things likes relays and servos, depending on your project.
Microsoft Lobe is a free tool for creating and training machine learning models that you can deploy almost anywhere. The hardest part of machine learning is arguably creating and training a new model, so this tool is a great way for newbies to get stuck in, as well as being a fantastic time-saver for people who have more experience.
Lady Ada demonstrated Bakery: a machine learning model that uses an Adafruit BrainCraft HAT, a Raspberry Pi camera, and Microsoft Lobe. Watch how easy it is to train a new machine learning model in Microsoft Lobe from this point in the Microsoft Build Keynote video.
Bakery identifies different baked goods based on images taken by the Raspberry Pi camera, then automatically identifies and prices them, in the absence of barcodes or price tags. You can’t stick a price tag on a croissant. There’d be flakes everywhere.
Running this project on Raspberry Pi means that Lady Ada was able to hook up lots of other useful tools. In addition to the Raspberry Pi camera and the HAT, she is using:
Three LEDs that glow green when an object is detected
A speaker and some text-to-speech code that announces which object is detected
A receipt printer that prints out the product name and the price
All of this running on Raspberry Pi, and made super easy with Microsoft Lobe and Adafruit’s BrainCraft HAT. Adafruit’s Microsoft Machine Learning Kit for Lobe contains everything you need to get started.
Watch the Microsoft Build keynote
And finally, watch Microsoft CTO Kevin Scott introduce Limor Fried, aka Lady Ada, owner of Adafruit Industries. Lady Ada joins remotely from the Adafruit factory in Manhattan, NY, to show how the BrainCraft HAT and Lobe work to make machine learning accessible.
Maker keanuDav was always forgetting to turn on his bike lights when riding out in the dark. He also never knew how fast he was going, or how long his rides were. So he created a shareable smart bike that automatically turns the lights on or off and keeps track of where you’ve ridden. The project uses a RFID scanner so somebody else can use the bike without messing with Keanu’s personal ride data.
Here in Cambridge, if you forget to take your clip-on lights off your bike when you lock it up, chances are they won’t be there when you go back. We reckon this Raspberry Pi-powered solution could work for us here in the UK’s leading cycling city too, since there’s nothing to easily unclip and walk away with.
Keanu totted up the total price of the build, including wood and the light, at around €145.
How does it all fit together?
We’re not going to lie: the smart bike looks tricky to recreate. I mean, that is a lot of wires. And several bits of hardware. But it does perform multiple functions for the rider, so we can put up with a little fiddliness.
And don’t worry, Keanu is a hero and shared this Fritzing diagram on his instructable, which is handily set out in a twelve-step format so you can follow along easily.
How do you collect all the data?
“The RFID scanner is used with the arduino. I read out the data from the scanner with the arduino and send it to the Raspberry Pi with Serial USB.
The GPS module is also using serial communication. The data the GPS sends to the Raspberry Pi is not that well formatted, so I used a library to parse the data and make it a lot easier to use.
The analog values from the LDR are converted using the mcp3008 (an adc), then I transform the value to a percentage.”
Keanu stores the data in a relational database in mySQL. Then the database and a python script run together on the Raspberry Pi. Here’s everything you need on GitHub.
Take a ride
On top of the impressive coding and electrical skills, Keanu is a dab hand at woodwork. You could use a pre-made box in another material if that’s not your thing. It just needs a hole for the LCD screen to show through.
When maker Stéphane (aka HalStar) set about building this self-playing xylophone, their goal was to learn more about robotics, and to get hands-on with some mechanical parts they had never used before, in this case solenoids.
They also wanted to experiment with Raspberry Pi to build something that reflected their love of music. This automated instrument, capable of playing hundreds of MIDI files, fits the brief.
Two factors constrained the design: Stéphane wanted to be able to do it all using parts from the local DIY store, and to use as many regular modules as possible. So, no breadboard or wires everywhere, and no custom PCB. Just something simple to assemble and neat.
These three buttons select the tracks, set the tempo, and set the mode. Choose between playing all loaded tracks or just one. You can also decide whether you want all tracks to play on repeat in a loop, or stop after your selections have played through. A two-inch LCD screen shows you what’s going on.
The right notes
While there are thousands of MIDI files freely available online, very few of them could actually be played by the xylophone. With only 32 notes, the instrument is limited in what it can play without losing any notes. Also, even when a MIDI file uses just 32 consecutive notes, they might not be the same range of 32 notes as the xylophone has, so you need to transpose. Stéphane developed a tool in Python to filter out 32-note tunes from thousands of MIDI files and automatically transpose them so the xylophone can play them. And, yes, everything you need to copy this filtering and transposing function is on GitHub.
Now, Stéphane says that whenever friends or family visit their home, they’re curious and impressed to see this strange instrument play by itself. Sadly, we are not among Stéphane’s family or friends; fortunately, though, this project has an entire YouTube playlist, so we can still have a look and a listen to see it in action up close.
Wait, isn’t that a glockenspiel?
We know it’s technically a glockenspiel. Stéphane acknowledges it is technically a glockenspiel. But we are firm fans of their going down the xylophone route, because way more people know what one of those is. If you’re interested, the difference between a xylophone and the glockenspiel is the material used for the bars. A xylophone has wooden bars, whereas glockenspiel bars are metal.
Diehard Nintendo and Star Wars fan electrouser301 is behind this customised R2D2 Raspberry Pi-powered console. Raspberry Pi 3 Model B is its brain, and a Nintendo GameCube was customised with spray paint and hand-cut stencils.
“When I saw what people were doing with Raspberry Pi and emulation it opened up a new world to me. If you would have shown kid-me that I could play the whole libraries of NES, N64, Arcade games, Genesis, SNES, etc. all on one console that you create yourself, to your own specifications, my mind would have been blown. That’s what this whole project was about, bringing back my inner child. I wanted to create and own something that no one else has.”
Inner workings of R2D2 Cube
Of course, you could just deck out a GameCube case with decals or paint and keep the internals the same if you don’t want to swap a Raspberry Pi in for emulation. But where’s the fun in that?
See the machine’s power circuit plugged into the Raspberry Pi’s micro USB power slot below. The red and green wires are LED wires, and the power switch wires are pink.
And here’s a side view of the guts of the project:
Hand-cut R2D2-inspired paper stencils spray-painted onto the GameCube give it its instantly recognisable style. A unique retro device now adorns electrouser301’s gaming space, and new life has been breathed into one of Nintendo’s finest creations.
Top Star Wars maker projects
Take a look at electromaker’s list of Best Star Wars Maker Projects – it’s where we came across this R2D2 GameCube mashup. Naturally, the list features a fair few homemade lightsabers, so check it out if you’re in the market for an upgrade; however, we wanted to share a few Star Wars-themed builds we hadn’t seen before.
First up, an animated Star Wars: The Force Awakens movie poster made with NeoPixel LEDs and an Arduino Mega. Steve from Making at Home coded a built-in motion sensor and customisable brightness settings. Check it out below, because this isn’t just any old poster with a few LEDs taped in the back, oh no.
You know we love wearable tech around here, so this DIY Boba Fett helmet with a built-in LED chaser was definitely going to be a favourite. This is a fairly affordable build too, consisting of a few cheap components like LEDs and resistors, while the helmet itself is made from crafty stuff found around the house. Crazy Couple created this project and you should check out their tutorial-packed YouTube channel.
BB8 occupies a special place in our hearts, so we love this 3D-printed robot, which is controlled by an Arduino Uno over a Bluetooth connection from your smartphone. Watch maker Lewis’s video below and share in his love for this spherical droid.
May the force be with you
Drop some links in the comments to show off your Star Wars-themed builds so we can share in your intergalactic wisdom. Then go be friends with Electromaker on YouTube. Because subscribers of them you should be.
It has been a cold winter for Tom Shaffner, and since he is working from home and leaving the heating on all day, he decided it was finally time to see where his house’s insulation could be improved.
An affordable solution
His first thought was to get a thermal IR (infrared) camera, but he found the price hasn’t yet come down as much as he’d hoped. They range from several thousand dollars down to a few hundred, with a $50 option just to rent one from a hardware store for 24 hours.
When he saw the $50 option, he realised he could just buy the $60 (£54) MLX90640 Thermal Camera from Pimoroni and attach it to a Raspberry Pi. Tom used a Raspberry Pi 4 for this project. Problem affordably solved.
A joint open source effort
Once Tom’s hardware arrived, he took advantage of the opportunity to combine elements of several other projects that had caught his eye into a single, consolidated Python library that can be downloaded via pip and run both locally and as a web server. Tom thanks Валерий Курышев, Joshua Hrisko, and Adrian Rosebrock for their work, on which this solution was partly based.
Tom has also published everything on GitHub for further open source development by any enterprising individuals who are interested in taking this even further.
The big question, though, was whether the image quality would be good enough to be of real use. A few years back, the best cheap thermal IR camera had only an 8×8 resolution – not great. The magic of the MLX90640 Thermal Camera is that for the same price the resolution jumps to 24×32, giving each frame 768 different temperature readings.
Add a bit of interpolation and image enlargement and the end result gets the job done nicely. Stream the video over your local wireless network, and you can hold the camera in one hand and your phone in the other to use as a screen.
Bonus security feature
Bonus: If you leave the web server running when you’re finished thermal imaging, you’ve got yourself an affordable infrared security camera.
Documentation on the setup, installation, and results are all available on Tom’s GitHub, along with more pictures of what you can expect.
We shared Dennis Mellican’s overly effective anti-burglary project last month. Now he’s back with something a whole lot more musical and mini.
Dennis was inspired by other jukebox projects that use Raspberry Pi, NFC readers, and tags to make music play. Particularly this one by Mark Hank, which we shared on the blog last year. The video below shows Dennis’s first attempt at creating an NFC Raspberry Pi music player, similar to Mark’s.
After some poking around, Dennis realised that the LEGO Dimensions toy pad is a three-in-one NFC reader with its own light show. He hooked it up to a Raspberry Pi and developed a Python application to play music when LEGO Dimension Minifigures are placed on the toy pad. So, if an Elvis minifigure is placed on the reader, you’ll hear Elvis’s music.
The Raspberry Pi is hooked up to the LEGO Dimensions toy pad, with Musicfig (Dennis’s name for his creation) playing tracks via Spotify over Bluetooth. The small screen behind the minifigures is displaying the Musicfig web application which, like the Spotify app, displays the album art for the track that’s currently playing.
No Spotify or LEGO? No problem!
Spotify playback is optional, as you can use your own MP3 music file collection instead. You also don’t have to use LEGO Minifigures: most NFC-enabled devices or tags can be used, including Disney Infinity, Nintendo Amiibo, and Skylander toy characters.
Dennis thought Musicfig could be a great marketable LEGO product for kids and grown-ups alike, and and he submitted it to the LEGO Ideas website. Unfortunately, he had tinkered a little too much (we approve) and it wasn’t accepted, due to rules that don’t allow non-LEGO parts or customisations.
Want to build one?
The LEGO Dimensions toy pad was discontinued in 2017, but Dennis has seen some sets on sale at a few department stores, and even more cheaply on second-hand market sites like Bricklink. We’ve spotted them on eBay and Amazon too. Dennis also advises that the toy pad often sells for less than a dedicated NFC reader.
Watch Dennis’s seven-year-old son Benny show you how it all works, from Elvis through to Prodigy via Daft Punk and Queen.
There are some really simple step-by-step instructions for a quick install here, as well as a larger gallery of Musicfig rigs. And Dennis hosts a more detailed walkthrough of the project, plus code examples, here.
You can find all things Dennis-related, including previous Raspberry Pi projects, here.
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