All posts by Liz Upton

Video: Five Years of Pi

Post Syndicated from Liz Upton original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/video-five-years-of-pi/

Matthew “Raspberry Pi Guy” Timmons-Brown puts together a video of what the Raspberry Pi community has achieved every year. He’s just published 2017’s update, and it’s a doozy: have a look, and see how many of these projects and people you recognise!

What is Raspberry Pi? – Five years of Pi!

Half a decade. 12 million Raspberry Pis. On the 28th February 2017, Raspberry Pi will be five years old. As with previous years, I thought that I would make a video to commemorate this historic landmark and to show everyone just what Raspberry Pi is about.

We’re going to be celebrating the community that comes up with this amazing stuff all this weekend at our fifth Big Birthday Weekend, here in Cambridge. Tickets (£5 for over-16s, free for people under 16) are sold out for Saturday, but there are still some left for Sunday: grab them while they’re hot! You’ll see some of the projects featured in this video, discover some completely new ones, have the chance to attend drop-in sessions on digital making, robotics and more, meet with hundreds of like-minded Pi fans, and hang out with the team that makes your Raspberry Pi.

There will also be cake. See you there!

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Fake cases for your Raspberry Pi – make sure you don’t end up with one!

Post Syndicated from Liz Upton original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/fake-cases-raspberry-pi-make-sure-dont-end-one/

If you’re a Pi fan, you’ll recognise our official case, designed by Kinneir Dufort. We’re rather proud of it, and if sales are anything to go by, you seem to like it a lot as well.

Raspberry Pi case design sketches

Unfortunately, some scammers in China have also spotted that Pi owners like the case a lot, so they’ve been cloning it and trying to sell it in third-party stores.

We managed to get our hands on a sample through a proxy pretending to be a Pi shop, and we have some pictures so you can see what the differences are and ensure that you have the genuine article. The fake cases are not as well-made as the real thing, and they also deprive us of some much-needed charitable income. As you probably know, the Raspberry Pi Foundation is a charity. All the money we make from selling computers, cases, cameras, and other products goes straight into our charitable fund to train teachers, provide free learning resources, teach kids, help build the foundations of digital making in schools, and much more.

Let’s do a bit of spot-the-difference.

Fake case. Notice the poor fit, the extra light pipes (the Chinese cloner decided not to make different cases for Pi2 and Pi3), and the sunken ovals above them.

Real case. Only one set of light pipes (this case is for a Pi3), no ovals, and the whole thing fits together much more neatly. There’s no lip in the middle piece under the lid.

There are some other telltale signs: have a close look at the area around the logo on the white lid.

This one’s the fake. At about the 7 o’clock position, the plastic around the logo is uneven and ripply – the effect’s even more pronounced in real life. 

This is what a real case looks like. The logo is much more crisp and cleanly embossed, and there are no telltale lumps and bumps around it.

The underside’s a bit off as well:

The cloners are using a cheaper, translucent non-slip foot on the fake case, and the feet don’t fit well in the lugs which house them. Again, you can see that the general fit is quite bad.

Real case. Near-transparent non-slip feet, centred in their housing, and with no shreds of escaping glue. There’s no rectangular tooling marks on the bottom. The SD card slot is a different shape.

Please let us know if you find any of these fake cases in the wild. And be extra-vigilant if you’re buying somewhere like eBay to make sure that you’re purchasing the real thing. We also make a black and grey version of the case, although the pink and white is much more popular. We haven’t seen these cloned yet, but if you spot one we’d like to know about it, as we can then discuss them with the resellers. It’s more than possible that retailers won’t realise they’re buying fakes, but it damages our reputation when something shonky comes on the market and it looks like we’ve made it. It damages the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s pockets too, which means we can’t do the important work in education we were set up to do.

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Robocod

Post Syndicated from Liz Upton original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/robocod/

Fishbowl existence is tough. There you are, bobbing up and down in the same dull old environment, day in, day out; your view unchanging, your breakfast boringly identical every morning; that clam thing in the bottom of the tank opening and closing monotonously – goldfish can live for up to 20 years. That’s a hell of a long time to watch a clam thing for.

fishbowl on wheels

Two fish are in a tank. One says “How do you drive this thing?”

Indeed, fishbowl existence is so tough that several countries have banned the boring round bowls altogether. (There’s a reason that your childhood goldfish didn’t live for 20 years. You put it in an environment that bored it to death.) So this build comes with a caveat – we are worried that this particular fish is being driven from understimulus to overstimulus and back again, and that she might be prevented from making it to the full 20 years as a result. Please be kind to your fish.

What’s going on here? Over in Pittsburgh, at Carnegie Mellon University, Alex Kent and friends have widened the goldfish’s horizons, by giving it wheels. Meet the free-range fish.

Just Keep Swimming

Build18 @CMU . . . . . . . . . . . . * Jukin Media Verified * Find this video and others like it by visiting https://www.jukinmedia.com/licensing/view/949380 For licensing / permission to use, please email licensing(at)jukinmedia(dot)com.

Alex K, negligent fishparent, says that the speed and direction of the build is determined by the position of the fish relative to the centre of the tank. The battery lasts for five hours, and by all accounts the fish is still alive. Things are a bit jerky in this prototype build. Alex explains:

The jerking is actually caused by the Computer Vision algorithm losing track of the fish because of the reflection off of the lid, condensation on the lid, water ripples, etc.

Alex and co: before you look at more expensive solutions, try fixing a polarising filter to the camera you’re using.

All the code you’ll need to torture your own fish is available at GitHub.

Of course, Far Side fans will observe that there is nothing new under the sun.

Fishbowl on wheels by Gary Larson

Image from Gary Larson, The Far Side.

If you’ve got any good fish puns, let minnow in the comments.

 

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CD Tea

Post Syndicated from Liz Upton original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/cd-tea/

Caffeination is an important cornerstone of Raspberry Pi development. Gordon in particular drinks so much tea in any given day that we are concerned for the sustainability of Sri Lanka’s plantations, not to mention the colour of his insides. (Conversation at 10.30 this morning: “Gordon, how many cups of tea would you estimate you drink in a day?” “Em…fifteen? I’ve already had five this morning, I drink it through the day and I usually have at least one in bed at night.”)

In an act of one-upmanship, Carrie Anne, James and the other people who write our educational resources have been showing us the state of their mugs this morning too.

Because we love you and want to make you happy, we are not illustrating this post with a picture of Gordon’s insides.

We like to make sure that Gordon, Carrie and the rest of the office tea-drinkers are doing as much work as possible, and are undistracted by the need to steep yet another bag. So we were delighted to happen upon this project from Andrey Chilikin. This is what happens when you are innovative enough to turn one of those antique computer-cup-holders on its end and add that standby of makers everywhere, the trusty lollipop stick. Hook it up to the Raspberry Pi’s GPIO pins, and Bob’s your uncle.

tea bag

If you’d like to automate your own tea habit with old hardware, you’ll find all the code you need and a wiring schematic at Andrey’s GitHub. Thanks Andrey!

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Fly AI

Post Syndicated from Liz Upton original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/fly_ai/

Happy 2017, everybody! We’re back in the office (for values of “we” equal to me and a cup of coffee – the rest of your friendly Comms team is still on vacation). I hope your New Year’s resolutions are still unbroken. Mine involves that coffee, which doesn’t have any sugar in it and is making January feel much bleaker than necessary. I’ll be fascinated to see how long I can keep it up.

On to the Pi stuff.

I spotted this magnificently creepy art installation from David Bowen just before Christmas, and have been looking forward to showing it to you, because I like to know I’m not the only person having specific nightmares. In this project, a Raspberry Pi AI is mothering a colony of flies: whenever if spots and correctly identifies a fly, it releases a dose of nutrients and water.

flyAI

flyAI creates a situation where the fate of a colony of living houseflies is determined by the accuracy of artificial intelligence software. The installation uses the TensorFlow machine learning image recognition library to classify images of live houseflies. As the flies fly and land in front of a camera, their image is captured.

David says: “The system is setup to run indefinitely with an indeterminate outcome.”

Which means there’s potential for an awful lot of tiny corpses.

It all sounds simple enough, but there’s something about the build – the choice of AI voice, the achingly slow process of enunciating everything it believes it might have seen before it feeds its wards…the fact that the horrible space-helmet-bubble thing is full of flies – that makes for the most unsettling project we’ve seen in a long time.

Fly AI

If you are inspired by this arthropod chamber of horrors, you can read about more of David’s projects on his blog. You’ll be delighted to learn than this is not the only one employing house-fly labourers. More power to all six of your elbows, David.

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Fireside romance at your command

Post Syndicated from Liz Upton original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/fireside-romance-at-your-command/

Redditor Hovee has a sense of romance firmly cemented in 1975. With a Google Home device, a Raspberry Pi, a gas fire and the pants-removing tones of Marvin Gaye, he’s rigged up his sitting room for seduction.

The setup does not yet open a box of chocolates and a bottle of red wine, or unfurl a rug made out of something fluffy and dead, but we’re sure that with some iteration it’ll start doing just that.

Ok, Google turn on my FirePlace!

Instructions here on reddit: https://www.reddit.com/r/homeautomation/comments/5doqs8/ok_google_turn_on_my_fireplace/da6h33o/ I connected my google home to ifttt which does an API call to my raspberry pi running home-assistant controlling my global cache itach which is wired up to my gas logs.

Whats going on here? Hovee’s Google Voice is talking to the Raspberry Pi, which has Google’s Home Assistant installed on it. The fireplace (which is some newfangled thing that does things my fireplace doesn’t) has three positions: on, off and remote control. By switching the fireplace to remote and adding a switch (a nice long way away from the hot fire), the Pi can control both the flames and the music. Hovee has documented what he’s done on Reddit.

It was felt by most people at Pi Towers that it would be inappropriate to illustrate this post with that picture of Burt Reynolds on a bearskin rug, however well it captures the mood, so we’ve edited it slightly for delicate sensibilities.

A photo Burt Reynolds turning on the Raspberry Pi romance

We like projects that involve setting things on fire. Got your own? Drop us a line and you might see it featured here.

 

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The Raspberry Pi-powered loom

Post Syndicated from Liz Upton original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/the-raspberry-pi-powered-loom/

We’re a small organisation full of makers, and I think at least two of us own a hand loom for weaving textiles. (One of the reasons I enjoy the TV show Vikings so much is the casual looming that’s going on as backdrop in many of the indoor scenes – the textile sort, not the impending-doom sort, although there’s plenty of that too.)

siggy laergatha loom

Siggy and Laergatha (personal role model) get down to a spot of light weaving before commencing to crush skulls and pillage.

Here in the 21st century, Lorna and I use hand looms because powered looms are very expensive. They’re also usually pretty enormous, being meant for enterprise rather than home use. This is pesky, because there’s a lot of repetitive action involved, which can be hell on the carpal tunnels; weaving can be slow, tough work.

loom

Suspicious automation

Enter the Raspberry Pi.

Fred Hoefler has taken a desktop loom and added a Raspberry Pi to automate it. (Your computer’s fine: this video has no sound.)

Loom Operation

The general sequence of events for running my Raspberry Pi controlled loom. The project was really a proof of concept idea rather than an actual production model. This video is intended to supplement my blog at www.photographic-perspectives.com Sorry, there is not audio with this.

Fred wrote about the project on his website, explaining that he came up with the idea for very personal reasons. His wife Gina has been a weaver for 30 years, but she began to experience difficulties with the physical aspects of using her loom as she grew older. Conversations with other unwillingly retired weavers told Fred that Gina’s situation was not uncommon, and led him to design something to help. His device is intended to help older weavers who have trouble with the hard work of throwing the shuttle and holding down the pedals. Assistive looms cost upwards of $10,000: Fred’s solution comes in at a tidy $150, factoring in loom, Pi, and some motors from Amazon. So this isn’t for hobbyists like me: this loom can be a way for people whose livelihoods depend on being able to weave to continue working long after they might have had to retire.

One of the most satisfying things about the Raspberry Pi for me is its power to drive cost out of devices like this, and to change the way we work. This is a simple build, but it has so much potential to keep someone’s income flowing: we hope to see more as Fred develops the project.

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30kmph Bluetooth skateboard from the Raspberry Pi Guy

Post Syndicated from Liz Upton original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/30kmph-bluetooth-skateboard-raspberry-pi-guy/

We are immensely fond of tutorial-maker extraordinaire Matt Timmons-Brown, who you may know as The Raspberry Pi Guy, and we treasure his widdle brain. Matt, please wear a helmet consistently next time you use this skateboard monster thing.

DIY 30KM/H ELECTRIC SKATEBOARD – RASPBERRY PI POWERED

Over the summer, I made my own electric skateboard using a £4 Raspberry Pi Zero. Controlled with a Nintendo Wiimote, capable of going 30km/h, and with a range of over 10km, this project has been pretty darn fun. In this video, you see me racing around Cambridge and I explain the ins and outs of this project.

This is a beautiful build, with a Bluetooth-connected Raspberry Pi Zero controlling the speed of the brushless motor that drives the board. Matt’s using a Wiimote to control the speed, and terrifying the residents of Cambridge into the bargain.

The metal boxes underneath the skateboard that Matt’s made to house the battery and electronics are, in a way, the most important part of the build. When you’re tooling along at 30kmph, the last thing you want to do is to grate your lithium-ion battery on the tarmac at speed.

Matt visited Pi Towers to show us what he’d made, and Gordon had a go. You’ll want to turn the sound on.

Sk8r Pi ft. The Raspberry Pi Guy… and Gordon

The Raspberry Pi Guy popped into Pi Towers to show off his new creation. While skating up and down the office on his Pi-powered skateboard, our Director of Software Engineering, Gordon Hollingworth, decided to have a go.

Beautiful build, Matt – thanks for sharing!

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Ten things you (probably) didn’t know about Ada Lovelace

Post Syndicated from Liz Upton original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/ten-things-probably-didnt-know-ada-lovelace/

Today it’s Ada Lovelace Day, when we celebrate the achievements of women in science, technology, engineering and maths.

screen-shot-2015-10-01-at-14-38-14

Start Ada Lovelace Day with this poetry generator Scratch project from Code Club.

Once you’ve done that, have a little ponder. A quick poll of Pi Towers revealed that while we think we all know all about Ada Lovelace herself, the sum of knowledge of most of us appears to be “Um…First computer programmer. Analytical engine. Yeah?”

We’ve made a list of Ada Lovelace Facts to fill in your blanks.

  1. Although she was Lord Byron’s (yes, that Lord Byron) daughter, Ada Lovelace had no relationship with him. He left her and Lady Byron to go and pursue an actress before little Ada was a month old, and she never saw him again – he died when she was eight years old.Ada Lovelace
  2. Lady Byron herself was no slouch when it came to what we now call STEM. She was particularly interested in astronomy and mathematics: Byron called her his “Princess of Parallelograms”.
  3. Lady Byron was worried that some of Lord Byron’s famously lascivious behaviour might rub off on her little daughter, so she made the decision to build a maths and science curriculum for Ada to follow from the age of 4 to distract her from more worldly concerns – vanishingly unusual for a 19th century English noblewoman.miniature_of_ada_byron
  4. At the age of 17, Lovelace met Charles Babbage, and saw a demo of a model portion of his proposed Difference Engine. Her work with the Difference Engine and Analytical Engine (neither the Difference Engine nor the Analytical Engine was ever built in Babbage’s or Lovelace’s lifetimes) are what we primarily remember her for.
  5. Ada also had an important female mentor: Mary Somerville, a Scottish mathematician and astronomer, who, elected at the same time as Caroline Herschel, was one of the first two women to be made a member of the Royal Astronomical Society.
  6. When she was 28, Ada Lovelace translated an Italian paper on Babbage’s Analytical Engine into English – and added enough original material to it to increase its length three times over. Her additions to that paper showed how Babbage’s Analytical Engine could be coded to calculate Bernoulli numbers: the first machine algorithm, and the first computer program.1210-ada-lovelace-charles-babbage
  7. Ada Lovelace was a musician as well as a scientist, and worked on musical compositions based on numbers, an application which she intended for the Analytical Engine.
  8. Lovelace came up with a method for the Analytical Engine to repeat a series of instructions: the first documented loop in computing.
  9. She attempted to use her mathematical and analytical skills to give her the upper hand in gambling, particularly on horses. It wasn’t a great success, despite the development of complicated mathematical schemes: she had to pawn the family jewels, and on one occasion lost a staggering £3,200 on one horse race.ada-lovelace2
  10. After her death, Ada Lovelace’s contributions to science were forgotten – until 1953, when her notes were published by B.V. in Faster Than Thought: A Symposium on Digital Computing Machines. Since then she’s had a programming language (Ada) named after her, many books written about her – and we celebrate her, and other women in STEM, every year.

 

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Bloomberg Business visits Raspberry Pi

Post Syndicated from Liz Upton original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/bloomberg-business-visits-raspberry-pi/

Last month, Bloomberg Business’s Hello World show sent reporter Ashlee Vance to the UK to cover the Raspberry Pi story. We thought you might get as much of a kick out of the final segment as we did: there’s some great insight here into the wider Raspberry Pi community, as well as some great footage from here in Cambridge, where Ashlee does some punting, “which is like canoeing, but dumber and more frustrating,” with Eben and visits Pi Towers.

This Tiny Device Is All You Need to Build Your Own Robot

In this segment of ‘Hello World: United Kingdom,’ Bloomberg’s Ashlee Vance takes a trip to Gloucester to meet the creator of 4 Bot, a little robot which might be the world’s best Connect Four player. Then he travels to Cambridge to meet Eben Upton, the inventor of the Raspberry Pi computer, and learns a lot about computer science…

(We still can’t believe Ashlee went there with the last line of the segment. You’ll have to watch it to see what I’m talking about.)

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World’s smallest working MAME cabinet

Post Syndicated from Liz Upton original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/worlds-smallest-working-mame-cabinet/

We are confident that nobody out there has built a working MAME cabinet that’s any smaller than this. Adafruit’s Phillip Burgess posted this project on Twitter last week, and you guys went absolutely nuts for it. So he’s produced a video, and a quick and dirty explainer so you can make your own.

Miniature MAME cabinet

Your eyes aren’t deceiving you: that backplate is a Pi Zero. You’re going to need tiny elf fingers for this one.

Really: it’s teeny. That OLED screen is only 0.96″.

Phillip’s at pains to point out that their walkthrough is not a complete, step-by-step tutorial of the sort that Adafruit usually provide:

It’s lessons learned during an impromptu weekend hacking session which, to be honest, was a lot of trouble to build and only marginally fun to play, aside from the incredible “gee whiz that’s tiny!” factor. But it may provide insights for others looking to build small gadgets…

You may not enjoy playing it, Phillip, but I’m sure any mice haunting the Adafruit factory will be having a field day.

World’s Smallest MAME Arcade Cabinet @adafruit #adafruit @raspberry_pi

Tempest in a Teacup https://learn.adafruit.com/worlds-smallest-mame-arcade-cabinet —————————————– Visit the Adafruit shop online – http://www.adafruit.com Subscribe to Adafruit on YouTube: http://adafru.it/subscribe Join our weekly Show & Tell on G+ Hangouts On Air: http://adafru.it/showtell Watch our latest project videos: http://adafru.it/latest New tutorials on the Adafruit Learning System: http://learn.adafruit.com/ Music by bartlebeats: http://soundcloud.com/bartlebeats —————————————–

You can find a writeup for what has to be the coolest MAME cabinet build I’ve seen this year at Adafruit. Thanks gang!

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Face-tracking fan

Post Syndicated from Liz Upton original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/face-tracking-fan/

Today’s downpour notwithstanding, the UK has just experienced its hottest September day since 1911. Here at Pi Towers, we were acutely aware of this. The office roared with the noise from sixty-odd CPU fans at full tilt. The air conditioning conked out. And things got especially bad when we realised that it was buy-one-get-one-free day at the local noodle place, which meant we were also trying to justify the eating of hot food in an office that was feeling a lot like one of those spa steam rooms, but stinkier.

nerd-sweat

Artist’s rendering of the general situation at Pi Towers for much of this week

Sensible people would have engineered their way out of this mess, like DevinL9 (please let us know your real name in the comments if you’d like us to use it here). DevinL9 is the possessor of an internet statistic: he reckons that a full-sized human can produce between two and four litres of sweat in an hour.

This is disgusting, so DevinL9 has come up with a nice little OpenCV hack to evaporate as much of it as possible. This is a “use what you have” hack: it’s not beautiful, but it’s effective, and if your desk is anything like mine you’ve probably got almost everything you need for the build in a drawer. Meet the fan that recognises your face, and swivels to track it.

f0vlf4ciscbemgc-large

Meet FanBot. Devin L9 says:

Welcome FanBot, the personal desktop fan that follows your face and keeps you cool when things are getting a little too spicy!

This is more of a proof of concept than a finished beautified product. It is for a intermediate developer. However, I wouldn’t write yourself off if you’re a beginner, it’ll just be a little more difficult. That being said, this project will get you a working version of openCV 3.0.0 on the Raspberry Pi 2 (RPi). [Liz notes: or any other model of Raspberry Pi! ] It will teach you a little about pulse width modulation (PWM) and how to control a servo with the general purpose input/output (GPIO) pins on the RPi. Let me know if you have problems. I’ll do my best to fix anything. It should be noted that this is not going to be a completely optimized solution in code or execution. The purpose of this project is to get a simple working version of openCV, play around with it by means of face detection, and move a servo so that a small fan can cool you off!

It works, too. There’s a complete build diary and full parts list and instructions, including all the code you’ll need, over at Instructables.

No soldering’s required: just breadboard and superglue for mounting. What are you waiting for?

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Raspberry Pi Chiptune Player

Post Syndicated from Liz Upton original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/raspberry-pi-chiptune-player/

I have been staring at a blank screen for whole minutes. There are no words for just how much I love this project. I’ve already been on eBay to find a General Instrument AY-3-8910 series sound chip so I can play with one myself. Before we get into details, feast your ears.

vmw ay-3-8910 ym player

Raspeberry Pi Driving an AY-3-8910 sound chip It’s playing “intro2.ym” by Surgeon (Aleksy Lutsenko) More details on the setup can be found here: http://www.deater.net/weave/vmwprod/hardware/ay-3-8910/

What’s going on here? The Raspberry Pi is playing chiptunes by serving the files directly on to a AY-3-8910 (brought direct to you from the 1980s), while doing some rather jolly LED visualisation too.

The AY-3-8910 is no longer made: it was a piece of kit you’d find in most arcade machines, games consoles and home computers in the 1980s (if you had a ZX Spectrum, an Amstrad CPC or an Apple II, you’ll be familiar with its gorgeously grungy bleeps and bloops). Nowadays there’s dwindling stock that goes to service old machines, or to make entirely new things that’ll play chiptunes – like this beast.

chiptune player

Vince Weaver, the maker, says:

The AY-3-8910 is fairly straightforward. Three channels of square waves plus various noise and envelope effects. Provide a clock (1MHz in our case) and there are 16 (well, 14) on-chip registers you write to. Just put the address then the 8 bit value on the bus, toggle the 3 bus control pins, and you are set. You’ll want to do this fairly fast. A typical YM music file wants you to write all 14 registers every 50Hz.

I use the Pi’s GPIOs to shift an 8 bit value into a shift register. Then I use a few more to drive the control bus.

Visualization is done with some i2c LED displays.

The amplifier is an LM386 design from the AY-3-8910 datasheet.

Vince has plans to make some improvements (adding stereo, printing a PCB, swapping out for a better amplifier, using SPI to drive the shift register instead of GPIO and refining the software), but even in this prototype version, this is a piece of kit I’d love to have on my desk. Fortunately, we can replicate the project: everything you need is on Vince’s website and on GitHub. Thanks Vince!

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Now with added cucumbers

Post Syndicated from Liz Upton original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/now-added-cucumbers/

Working here at Pi Towers, I’m always a little frustrated by not being able to share the huge number of commercial businesses’ embedded projects that use Raspberry Pis. (About a third of the Pis we sell go to businesses.) We don’t get to feature many of them on the blog; many organisations don’t want their work replicated by competitors, or aren’t prepared for customers and competitors to see how inexpensively they’re able to automate tasks. Every now and then, though, a company is happy to share what they’re using Pis for.

cucumber-farmer-3

Makoto Koike, centre, with his parents on the family cucumber farm

Here’s a great example: a cucumber farm in Japan, which is using a Raspberry Pi to sort thorny cucumbers, saving the farmer eight to nine hours’ manual work a day.

Makoto Koike is the son of farmers, who works as an embedded systems designer for the Japanese car industry. He started helping out at his parents’ cucumber farm (which he will be taking over when they retire), and spotted a process that was ripe for automation.

cucumber-farmer-7

Cucumbers from the Makotos’ farm

At the Makotos’ farm, cucumbers are graded into nine categories: the straightest, thickest, freshest, most vivid cucumbers (which must have plenty of characteristic spurs) are the best, and can be sold at the highest price. Makoto-san’s mother was in charge of sorting the cucumbers every day, which took eight hours at the peak of the harvest. Makoto-san had an epiphany after reading about Google’s AlphaGo beating the world number one professional Go player. He realised that machine learning and deep learning meant the sorting process could be automated, so he built a process using Google’s open-source machine learning library, TensorFlow, and some machinery to process the cucumbers into graded batches.

cucumber-farmer-10

Sorting in action

cucumber-farmer-6

Camera interface

Google have put together a diagram showing how the system works:

cucumber-farmer-14

There are difficulties in building this sort of system, not least the 7000 cucumbers, pre-graded by his mother, that Makoto-san had to photograph and label over a period of three months to give the model material to train with. He says:

“When I did a validation with the test images, the recognition accuracy exceeded 95%. But if you apply the system with real use cases, the accuracy drops down to about 70%. I suspect the neural network model has the issue of “overfitting” (the phenomenon in neural networks where the model is trained to fit only the small training dataset) because of the insufficient number of training images.”

Still, it’s an impressive feat, and a real-world >95% accuracy rate is not unfeasible with a big enough data set. We’d be interested to see how the setup progresses, especially as more automation is added; right now, cucumbers are added to the processing hopper by hand, and a human has to interact with the touchscreen grading panel. Here’s the system at work:

TensorFlow powered cucumber sorter by Makoto Koike

Uploaded by Kazunori Sato on 2016-08-05.

We’re hoping to see some updates from the Makoto family as the system evolves. And in the meantime, if you have an embedded project you’d like to share with us, let us know in the comments!

 

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Raspberry Shake – your personal seismograph

Post Syndicated from Liz Upton original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/raspberry-shake-personal-seismograph/

There are some applications for the Raspberry Pi that were a very long way from our minds back in 2009, when we were trying to come up with a computer to get kids programming again. I think it’s fair to say that we did not think we were building a personal seismograph.

Raspberry Shake has blown past its Kickstarter target of $7,000 to raise ten times that amount, and it’s still got a couple of days to go.

Raspberry Shake is sensitive enough to detect earthquakes of magnitude 2 and higher at a distance of 50 miles, and earthquakes of magnitude 4 or greater from 300 miles away. Angel Rodriguez, the maker, says:

It will also record earthquakes of larger magnitudes farther away but it will miss some of the subtleties. Raspberry Shake can detect and record short period (0.5 – 15 Hz) earthquakes; the farther away an earthquake, the less of that range of frequencies can be recorded.

Raspberry Shake seismograph

At the heart of this kit is a geophone: a device that converts movement into voltage. (Think of it as being a bit like a microphone for geology.) Inside the little geophone a coil moves relative to a magnet, creating current. Angel has a nice demonstration of how a geophone works:

What’s inside a Geophone

In order to get data coming from the ground we need a sensor able to detect these data. A geophone is a ground motion transducer that convert ground movement into voltage. Raspberry Shake use a geophone and in this video we are going to show you what’s inside of it.

The little add-on board amplifies and digitises the signal from the geophone, and feeds it to your Raspberry Pi.

The Raspberry Pi time-stamps the data and stores it in a seismic industry standard format and sends it in answer to client requests. Those requests are displayed on your smartphone or computer monitor. The complete system is called a seismograph.

Angel and the other instrument builders behind the Raspberry Shake make seismographs and other equipment for a living. This device is the little brother of a seismograph his team makes for universities and other earthquake observers. It runs the same open-source software that the United States Geological Survey (USGS) uses.

Angel says:

Don’t be fooled by the size and the price. Raspberry Shake is better than many of short-period seismometers in current use by the local networks of the USGS and many developing countries. Several software vendors have, for the first time, provided personal no-cost licenses for this project.

Raspberry Shake will make observatory quality data that can be shared in the worldwide standard SEED format. All modern automated seismology programs used by observatories can use the data from the Raspberry Shake. It’s the Volkswagen of seismometers – yes there are Lamborgini seismographs but both the Lamborghini and the Volkswagen will get you from point A to point B.

To prove it, here’s some data from a Raspberry Shake ($99 if you back the Kickstarter now) against data from a $50,000 professional seismograph. In this image the Raspberry Shake’s data is displayed at the top. Both devices are showing data from the same regional earthquake.

Raspberry Shake (upper) and Nanometric Trillium Compact (lower)

Data from Raspberry Shake (top) and Nanometric Trillium Compact (bottom)

Bringing the affordability of a piece of kit like this down to consumer levels is a real achievement: previously this sort of equipment has only been available to universities, governments and other bodies with the ability to make very big investments. As you’ve probably gathered, we love it: head over to back Raspberry Shake on Kickstarter quickly, before the opportunity’s gone!

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Alexa internet of boat things – anchors aweigh!

Post Syndicated from Liz Upton original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/alexa-internet-boat-things-anchors-aweigh/

Before we get to the meat of today’s post, which involves both Hackster and Alexa, we would be remiss if we didn’t remind you all that Hackster’s Internet of Voice competition to create voice-controlled Raspberry Pi projects is open until August 31 2016. It’s open worldwide – go and check it out!

We’re seeing Raspberry Pi users turn all kinds of things into Internet of Things devices: lorries, cat flaps, beer fridges – and now a boat.

imonaboat

Being able to hook your Raspberry Pi up to Amazon’s Alexa means that it’s increasingly easy to use a voice-trigger to set off a physical task. In Ufuk Arslan’s case, he was interested in automating some of the functions of his boat.

prototype boat

Testing a prototype

Ufuk had a bad habit of leaving lights on when going home for the night, which drained the boat’s batteries overnight. This project was initially intended as a quick and easy way to turn all the lights off at once, but has grown in scope. Ufuk’s now engineering it to work as a disembodied deck hand, and his first step in doing that has been to wire the system up to his anchor winch. A somewhat fiddly task. Ufuk says:

Pay attention to cables, colors and poles. You could easily end up wiring wrong cables and cause short-circuits or always running winches (both of which happened to me).

The results? Easy voice-command control of different systems on the boat. We forgive the portrait format video.

AlexaBoat

AlexaBoat Project https://www.hackster.io/ufuk-arslan/alexaboat-7f1a7e

This is just a start – we’d love to see where Ufuk is going with this project next. There are already lots of other projects out there for boat owners – navigation projects are a great way to take expense out of your own setup. Ufuk has documented the build all the way from creating an Alexa skill to rewiring his boat over on Hackster.

 

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Pi Wars 3.0

Post Syndicated from Liz Upton original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/pi-wars-3/

Here’s a guest post from our old friends Mike Horne and Tim Richardson. Come and join the fun at the next Pi Wars!

Pi Wars is a challenge-based robotics competition in which every robot must be controlled by a Raspberry Pi. It’s great fun, and it will all be kicking off once again on 1st-2nd April 2017. For the first time, we are extending the event to run over two days, as we have been overwhelmed with interested applicants.

2015obstacle

Another victim succumbs to the obstacle course and its turntable of doom

We have always tried to encourage young robot builders to get involved in CamJam and in Pi Wars. Previously we have held Pi Wars in September and December, but this did not allow school teams enough time to build, program, test, and otherwise prepare their robot around their schoolwork. We therefore decided to move the event date to later in the academic year: we think April is late enough for schools to have run enough robot club sessions, but early enough not to clash with exams.

People of all ages take part. Here's Amy, aided by Heffalump and friends, showing Eben her robot.

People of all ages take part. Here’s Amy, aided by Heffalump and friends, showing Eben her robot.

This time around, we have a celebrity judge: Dr Lucy Rogers from the BBC’s Robot Wars will be putting your robots through their paces.

lucyrogers

Dr Lucy Rogers in conversation with an old friend

In previous years, we have categorised robots by cost (in 2014) and size (in 2015). This time, we are going to group teams into the following categories:

  • Schools and other clubs

  • Families and groups of friends

  • Amateur/beginner/intermediate hobbyists(s)

  • Professional or expert hobbyist(s)

This means that robot teams will be competing against their peers, rather than against those with different skill levels – so, it will be, for instance, school vs school and family vs family (in a non-Mafia kind of way).

This is the kind of thing you see at Pi Wars: Liz commandeers a gigantic Big Trak.

This is the kind of thing you see at Pi Wars: your friendly Director of Communications commandeers a gigantic Big Trak.

This year’s list of challenges is available on the Pi Wars website. As well as winning points for their performance in a range of challenges, this year’s robots are also being given points for artistic and technical merit. There’s even a prize for the funniest robot (the competition does start on April Fool’s Day, after all!) and a pre-event blogging competition which encourages teams write about themselves, and their journey from a collection of parts to a working robot.

We’ve come up with a list of general rules and also rules for each challenge. Perhaps the most important one this year is a requirement that your robot must be sub-A4 in size. This still leaves quite a lot of room for flexibility in design, whilst at the same time levelling the playing field. It also means that those teams who are using kits are in with a better chance of competing against those who make their robot from scratch.

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Entry into Pi Wars is on an application basis, rather than first-come, first served. With the number of teams we’re expecting to apply, the quality of your application is important. You can read more about the application and selection process here.

To apply to enter the competition, please fill in the application form. Feel free to take as much time over your application, and provide as much information as possible.

If you’re interested in robotics and technology, but you don’t want to build your own robot this time, you are still very welcome to come and watch the competition. Spectator tickets will go on sale later in the year. We only charge for adults, so it’s great for those on limited incomes. Join our mailing list to be notified when tickets are available, or keep an eye on piwars.org.

The game is afoot! Competitors at Pi Wars 2015

The game is afoot! Competitors at Pi Wars 2015

If you’re an altruistic type, you may be wondering if there’s some way you can help with Pi Wars. As with all big events, we need a team of volunteers to make the day go smoothly. Rather than having just a few marshals who spend the entire day helping, we aim to have as many people as possible so that everyone can spend most of the day watching the robots take on the challenges. Depending on the number of people who volunteer, helpers spend approximately two hours doing marshalling activities. Judges generally spend slightly more time judging, but we aim to give everyone a chance to experience the event as a spectator as well as helping us out! If you’d like to help out, please do contact us. We’ll be delighted to hear from you! We are also very happy to hear from potential sponsors: you can check out our website for more information on sponsorship, and on what we can offer in return.

To whet your appetite for the upcoming competition, or if you have never been to Pi Wars and want to know what it’s like on the day, we’d like to leave you with Matt Manning’s video of last year’s event…

Pi Wars 2015

Uploaded by RaspberryPiIVBeginners on 2015-12-05.

…and Spencer Organ’s video of the 2014 wars:

Pi Wars December 2014

What can you do with a Raspberry Pi? Build robots! Check out this video of Pi Wars held on Saturday 6th December 2014.

Tickets will be available for observers as well as competitors; it promises to be another great weekend. We’re looking forward to seeing you there!

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Batinator – spot bats in flight

Post Syndicated from Liz Upton original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/batinator-spot-bats/

Even you live somewhere heavily endowed with bats, you’ve probably never had a good look at one on the wing. Bats fly so fast – in poor lighting conditions – that if you’re lucky you’ll get a glimpse of something flashing by out of the corner of your eye, but usually you won’t even notice they’re there.

Enter the Batinator.

bats

The Batinator is a portable Raspberry Pi device with an Pi NoIR camera board and a big array of IR lights to illuminate the subject, which means it can see in the infra-red spectrum. Martin Mander has set it up to record at 90 frames per second – enough to capture the very fast flappings of your neighbourhood bats in slow-mo. And it’s powered by a recycled 12v rechargeable drill bat-tery, which makes it look like some sort of police hand-held radar bat scanner. (Which it is not.)

batinator

Here’s the Batinator in action (bats start doing bat stuff at about 2:40):

The Raspberry Pi Batinator

The Batinator is a portable Raspberry Pi that uses a PinoIR (No Infrared Filter) camera module to record video in the dark at 90 frames per second, 640×480 resolution. It features a 48 LED illuminator lamp on top and the power is provided by a 12v rechargeable drill battery.

Martin’s made a full writeup available on Instructables so you can make your own, along with some video he’s taken with the same setup of a lightning storm – it turns out that the same technology that’s great for bat-spotting is also great for storm-filming. He’ll walk you through the equipment he’s built, as well as through building your own bat lure, which involves soaking your socks in beer and hanging them from a line to attract tasty, tasty moths.

sad bat

Thanks Martin – let us know if you take more footage!

 

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Hi Fi Raspberry Pi – digitising and streaming vinyl

Post Syndicated from Liz Upton original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/hi-fi-raspberry-pi/

Over at Mozilla HQ (where Firefox, a browser that many of you are using to read this, is made), some retro hardware hacking has been going on.

vinyl record

The Mozillans have worked their way through several office music services, but nothing, so far, has stuck. Then this home-made project, which started as a bit of a joke, landed on a countertop – and it’s stayed.

Matt Claypotch found a vinyl record player online, and had it delivered to the office, intending to tinker with it at home. It never made it that far. He and his colleagues spent their lunch hour at a local thrift store buying up random vintage vinyl…and the record player stayed in the office so everybody could use it.

Potch’s officemates embarked on a vinyl spending spree.

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What could be better? The warm crackle of vintage vinyl, “random, crappy albums” you definitely can’t find on Spotify (and stuff like the Van Halen album above that you can find on Spotify but possibly would prefer not to)…the problem was, once the machine had been set up in a break room, only the people in that room could listen to the cheese.

Enter the Raspberry Pi, with a custom-made streaming setup. One Mozillan didn’t want to have to sit in the common area to get his daily dose of bangin’ choons, so he set up a Pi to stream music from the analogue vinyl over USB (it’s 2016, record players apparently have USB ports now) via an Icecast stream to headphones anywhere in the office. Analogue > digital > analogue, if you like.

The setup is surprisingly successful; they’ve organised other audio systems which weren’t very popular, but this one, which happened organically, is being used by the whole office.

You can listen to a podcast from Envoy Office Hacks about the setup, and the office’s reaction to it.

Mozilla, keep on bopping to disco Star Wars. (I’m off to see if I can find a copy of that record. It’s probably a lot better in my imagination than it is in real life, but BOY, is it good in my imagination*.)

*I found it on YouTube. It’s a lot better in my imagination.

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Useless Duck Company

Post Syndicated from Liz Upton original https://www.raspberrypi.org/blog/useless-duck-company/

The Useless Duck Company’s very splendid videos, demonstrating some of their thoughtful and helpful Internet of Things applications, have been making us LITERALLY DIE WITH HAPPINESS (literally!) ever since we discovered them. Even better: we got in touch with the Chief Duck, and he let us know which of his inventions use a Raspberry Pi. Here are two of the most safe-for-work ones.

Sock Removal Robot

Two months ago I made an app for removing socks, but people complained that you need a dog for it to work. I made this robot so everyone can use my app! Patreon – https://www.patreon.com/user?u=3660602 Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/UselessDuck/ Twitter – https://twitter.com/UselessDuck/ Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/UselessDuckCompany/ Music by http://www.bensound.com/

Wireless baby crib

If your baby does not fall asleep after use simply press the button again. Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/UselessDuck/ Twitter – https://twitter.com/UselessDuck/ Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/UselessDuckCompany/ Intro music by http://www.bensound.com/

Useless Duck Company, we salute you. Please invent something to clear up the coffee we’ve all spat across our desks.

 

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