How to improve upon the standard burglar deterring method of leaving lights switched on? Dennis Mellican turned to Raspberry Pi for a much more effective solution. It actually proved too effective when a neighbour stopped by, but more on that in a bit.
Here you can see Dennis’s system in action scaring off a trespasser:
The burglar deterrent started out as Dennis’s regular home automation system. Not content with the current software offerings, and having worked in DevOps, Dennis decided to create his own solution. Enter Raspberry Pi (well, several of them).
Dennis has multiple Raspberry Pi–powered devices dotted around his home, doing things such as turning on lights, powering up a garden sprinkler, and playing fake dog barks on wireless speakers. All these burglar deterrents work together and are run by a chat bot.
Each Raspberry Pi controls a single automated item in Dennis’s home. All the Raspberry Pis communicate with each other via Slack. Dennis issues commands if he, for example, wants lights to turn on while he is away, but the Raspberry Pis can also talk to each other when a trigger event occurs, such as when a motion sensor is tripped.
Google Chromecast enables ‘dumb’ speakers to be smart. Dennis has such speakers set up inside, close to windows at the front and back of the house, and they play an .mp3 file of a fake dog bark when commanded.
The security cameras Dennis uses in his home setup are a wireless CCTV variety, and the lights are a mix of TP-Link and Lifx smart bulbs.
Here’s all the Python code running Dennis’ entire security system.
Dennis’s smart system has backfired on him a few times. Once a neighbour visited while he was out and thought Dennis was rudely not answering the door, because she saw the lights go on inside, making it appear like he was home. Awkward.
The fake dog barking has also startled the postman and a few joggers — Dennis says it adds to the realism.
The troupe of Raspberry Pis has also scared away an Australian possum (video above). These critters are notorious for making nests in roof cavities, so Dennis dodged another problematic home invasion there.
Dennis is a maker after our own hearts when explaining where he’d like to go next with his anti-burglary build:
“I feel like Kevin McCallister from Home Alone, with these home security ‘traps’. I’m still waiting to catch the Wet Bandits for the sequel to this story. So far only stray cats have been caught by the sprinkler. Perhaps the next adventure of the chat bot is to order pizza and have Gangster ‘Johnny’ complete the transaction when the pizza delivery triggers the sensors.”
Project Alias, the newest creation of Amsterdam-based maker Bjørn Karmann, allows you to rename your home assistant and, more importantly, paralyse the device’s always-on listening function — for better security.
Alias is a teachable “parasite” that is designed to give users more control over their smart assistants, both when it comes to customisation and privacy. Through a simple app the user can train Alias to react on a custom wake-word/sound, and once trained, Alias can take control over your home assistant by activating it for you.
Always-on home assistants
Love them or hate them, devices such as Google Home and Amazon Echo have become a staple in many homes, thanks to people’s desire to automate mundane chores. I mean, why think about vacuuming my home when my Echo Dot can tell my robot hoover to do it for me?
However, despite their convenience, one concern remains for users of most off-the-shelf products: the always-on, always listening function.
But how do you get something to do your bidding without it always listening for your commands?
Introducing Project Alias
Bjørn Karmann’s Project Alias serves two purposes: it lets you rename your assistant however you see fit (hello Trogdor!), and it paralyses the device’s always-listening function, taking over command. Then, instead of Amazon/Google/etc. listening to the comings and goings in your home, it’s a headless Raspberry Pi 3A+. And as the Raspberry Pi doesn’t need an internet connection in order to do its thing, the only one listening to you in your home is your significant other, your kids or, in my case, two obnoxious house bunnies.
Bjørn has provided a STL file to let prospective Project Alias makers 3D print their own modern-looking case for the 3A+. And the setup tutorial and complete code are on his GitHub.
Once the add-on is built, you simply access the Project Alias trainer via your phone’s browser and tell your home assistant its new name.
And there you have it: an augemented home assistant that does your bidding without you needing to be concerned about who is listening at the other end.
Other potential names for your home assistant
Now you have Project Alias set up on your Amazon Echo or Google Home, here are some names we think you should use:
After the outstanding success of their AIY Projects Voice and Vision Kits, Google has announced the release of upgraded kits, complete with Raspberry Pi Zero WH, Camera Module, and preloaded SD card.
Google’s AIY Projects Kits
Google launched the AIY Projects Voice Kit last year, first as a cover gift with The MagPi magazine and later as a standalone product.
Makers needed to provide their own Raspberry Pi for the original kit. The new kits include everything you need, from Pi to SD card.
Within a DIY cardboard box, makers were able to assemble their own voice-activated AI assistant akin to the Amazon Alexa, Apple’s Siri, and Google’s own Google Home Assistant. The Voice Kit was an instant hit that spurred no end of maker videos and tutorials, including our own free tutorial for controlling a robot using voice commands.
Later in the year, the team followed up the success of the Voice Kit with the AIY Projects Vision Kit — the same cardboard box hosting a camera perfect for some pretty nifty image recognition projects.
For more on the AIY Voice Kit, here’s our release video hosted by the rather delightful Rob Zwetsloot.
Check out the exclusive Google AIY Projects Kit that comes free with The MagPi 57! Grab yourself a copy in stores or online now: http://magpi.cc/2pI6IiQ This first AIY Projects kit taps into the Google Assistant SDK and Cloud Speech API using the AIY Projects Voice HAT (Hardware Accessory on Top) board, stereo microphone, and speaker (included free with the magazine).
AIY Projects 2
So what’s new with version 2 of the AIY Projects Voice Kit? The kit now includes the recently released Raspberry Pi Zero WH, our Zero W with added pre-soldered header pins for instant digital making accessibility. Purchasers of the kits will also get a micro SD card with preloaded OS to help them get started without having to set the card up themselves.
Everything you need to build your own Raspberry Pi-powered Google voice assistant
“Everything you need to get started is right there in the box,” explains Billy Rutledge, Google’s Director of AIY Projects. “We knew from our research that even though makers are interested in AI, many felt that adding it to their projects was too difficult or required expensive hardware.”
Google is also hard at work producing AIY Projects companion apps for Android, iOS, and Chrome. The Android app is available now to coincide with the launch of the upgraded kits, with the other two due for release soon. The app supports wireless setup of the AIY Kit, though avid coders will still be able to hack theirs to better suit their projects.
Google has also updated the AIY Projects website with an AIY Models section highlighting a range of neural network projects for the kits.
Get your kit
The updated Voice and Vision Kits were announced last night, and in the US they are available now from Target. UK-based makers should be able to get their hands on them this summer — keep an eye on our social channels for updates and links.
With Raspberry Pi projects using home assistant services such as Amazon Alexa and Google Home becoming more and more popular, we invited Raspberry Pi maker Matt ‘Raspberry Pi Spy‘ Hawkins to write a guest post about his latest project, the Pi Spy Alexa Skill.
Pi Spy Skill
The Alexa system uses Skills to provide voice-activated functionality, and it allows you to create new Skills to add extra features. With the Pi Spy Skill, you can ask Alexa what function each pin on the Raspberry Pi’s GPIO header provides, for example by using the phrase “Alexa, ask Pi Spy what is Pin 2.” In response to a phrase such as “Alexa, ask Pi Spy where is GPIO 8”, Alexa can now also tell you on which pin you can find a specific GPIO reference number.
This information is already available in various forms, but I thought it would be useful to retrieve it when I was busy soldering or building circuits and had no hands free.
Creating an Alexa Skill
There is a learning curve to creating a new Skill, and in some regards it was similar to mobile app development.
A Skill consists of two parts: the first is created within the Amazon Developer Console and defines the structure of the voice commands Alexa should recognise. The second part is a webservice that can receive data extracted from the voice commands and provide a response back to the device. You can create the webservice on a webserver, internet-connected device, or cloud service.
I decided to use Amazon’s AWS Lambda service. Once set up, this allows you to write code without having to worry about the server it is running on. It also supports Python, so it fit in nicely with most of my other projects.
To get started, I logged into the Amazon Developer Console with my personal Amazon account and navigated to the Alexa section. I created a new Skill named Pi Spy. Within a Skill, you define an Intent Schema and some Sample Utterances. The schema defines individual intents, and the utterances define how these are invoked by the user.
Here is how my ExaminePin intent is defined in the schema:
Example utterances then attempt to capture the different phrases the user might speak to their device.
Whenever Alexa matches a spoken phrase to an utterance, it passes the name of the intent and the variable PinID to the webservice.
In the test section, you can check what JSON data will be generated and passed to your webservice in response to specific phrases. This allows you to verify that the webservices’ responses are correct.
Over on the AWS Services site, I created a Lambda function based on one of the provided examples to receive the incoming requests. Here is the section of that code which deals with the ExaminePin intent:
For this intent, I used a Python dictionary to match the incoming pin number to its description. Another Python function deals with the GPIO queries. A URL to this Lambda function was added to the Skill as its ‘endpoint’.
As with the Skill, the Python code can be tested to iron out any syntax errors or logic problems.
With suitable configuration, it would be possible to create the webservice on a Pi, and that is something I’m currently working on. This approach is particularly interesting, as the Pi can then be used to control local hardware devices such as cameras, lights, or pet feeders.
My Alexa Skill is currently only available to UK users. I’m hoping Amazon will choose to copy it to the US service, but I think that is down to its perceived popularity, or it may be done in bulk based on release date. In the next update, I’ll be adding an American English version to help speed up this process.
Looking for the perfect Christmas gift for a beloved maker in your life? Maybe you’d like to give a relative or friend a taste of the world of coding and Raspberry Pi? Whatever you’re looking for, the Raspberry Pi Christmas shopping list will point you in the right direction.
For those getting started
Thinking about introducing someone special to the wonders of Raspberry Pi during the holidays? Although you can set up your Pi with peripherals from around your home, such as a mobile phone charger, your PC’s keyboard, and the old mouse dwelling in an office drawer, a starter kit is a nice all-in-one package for the budding coder.
If you’re looking for something for a confident digital maker, you can’t go wrong with adding to their arsenal of electric and electronic bits and bobs that are no doubt cluttering drawers and boxes throughout their house.
Components such as servomotors, displays, and sensors are staples of the maker world. And when it comes to jumper wires, buttons, and LEDs, one can never have enough.
You could also consider getting your person a soldering iron, some helpings hands, or small tools such as a Dremel or screwdriver set.
And to make their life a little less messy, pop it all inside a Really Useful Box…because they’re really useful.
For kit makers
While some people like to dive into making head-first and to build whatever comes to mind, others enjoy working with kits.
The Naturebytes kit allows you to record the animal visitors of your garden with the help of a camera and a motion sensor. Footage of your local badgers, birds, deer, and more will be saved to an SD card, or tweeted or emailed to you if it’s in range of WiFi.
Coretec’s Tiny 4WD is a kit for assembling a Pi Zero–powered remote-controlled robot at home. Not only is the robot adorable, building it also a great introduction to motors and wireless control.
Looking for something small to keep your loved ones occupied on Christmas morning? Or do you have to buy a Secret Santa gift for the office tech? Here are some wonderful stocking fillers to fill your boots with this season.
The Pi Hut 3D Xmas Tree: available as both a pre-soldered and a DIY version, this gadget will work with any 40-pin Raspberry Pi and allows you to create your own mini light show.
Google AIY Voice kit: build your own home assistant using a Raspberry Pi, the MagPi Essentials guide, and this brand-new kit. “Google, play Mariah Carey again…”
LEGO Idea’s bought out this amazing ‘Women of NASA’ set, and I thought it would be fun to build, play and learn from these inspiring women! First up, let’s discover a little more about Sally Ride and Mae Jemison, two AWESOME ASTRONAUTS!
Treat the kids, and big kids, in your life to the newest LEGO Ideas set, the Women of NASA — starring Nancy Grace Roman, Margaret Hamilton, Sally Ride, and Mae Jemison!
Explore the world of wearables with Pimoroni’s sewable, hackable, wearable, adorable Bearables kits.
With so many amazing kits, HATs, and books available from members of the Raspberry Pi community, it’s hard to only pick a few. Have you found something splendid for the maker in your life? Maybe you’ve created your own kit that uses the Raspberry Pi? Share your favourites with us in the comments below or via our social media accounts.
Voice computing has long been a staple of science fiction, but it has only relatively recently made its way into fairly common mainstream use. Gadgets like mobile phones and “smart” home assistant devices (e.g. Amazon Echo, Google Home) have brought voice-based user interfaces to the masses. The voice processing for those gadgets relies on various proprietary services “in the cloud”, which generally leaves the free-software world out in the cold. There have been FOSS speech-recognition efforts over the years, but Mozilla’s recent announcement of the release of its voice-recognition code and voice data set should help further the goal of FOSS voice interfaces.
As more and more digital home assistants are appearing on the consumer market, it’s not uncommon to see the towering Amazon Echo or sleek Google Home when visiting friends or family. But we, the maker community, are rarely happy unless our tech stands out from the rest. So without further ado, here’s a roundup of some fantastic retrofitted home assistant projects you can recreate and give pride of place in your kitchen, on your bookshelf, or wherever else you’d like to talk to your virtual, disembodied PA.
Turned an 80s Tomy Mr Money into a little Google AIY / Raspberry Pi based assistant.
Matt ‘Circuitbeard’ Brailsford’s Tomy Mr Money Google AIY Assistant is just one of many home-brew home assistants makers have built since the release of APIs for Amazon Alexa and Google Home. Here are some more…
Oh Teddy, how exciting and mysterious you were when I unwrapped you back in the mideighties. With your awkwardly moving lips and twitching eyelids, you were the cream of the crop of robotic toys! How was I to know that during my thirties, you would become augmented with home assistant software and suddenly instil within me a fear unlike any I’d felt before? (Save for my lifelong horror of ET…)
Please watch: “DIY Fidget LED Display – Part 1” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FAZIc82Duzk -~-~~-~~~-~~-~- There are tons of virtual assistants out on the market: Siri, Ok Google, Alexa, etc. I had this crazy idea…what if I made the virtual assistant real…kinda. I decided to take an old animatronic teddy bear and hack it so that it ran Amazon Alexa.
Several makers around the world have performed surgery on Teddy to install a Raspberry Pi within his stomach and integrate him with Amazon Alexa Voice or Google’s AIY Projects Voice kit. And because these makers are talented, they’ve also managed to hijack Teddy’s wiring to make his lips move in time with his responses to your commands. Freaky…
Speaking of freaky: check out Zack’s Furlexa — an Amazon Alexa Furby that will haunt your nightmares.
Give old tech new life
Devices that were the height of technology when you purchased them may now be languishing in your attic collecting dust. With new and improved versions of gadgets and gizmos being released almost constantly, it is likely that your household harbours a spare whosit or whatsit which you can dismantle and give a new Raspberry Pi heart and purpose.
Take, for example, Martin Mander’s Google Pi intercom. By gutting and thoroughly cleaning a vintage intercom, Martin fashioned a suitable housing the Google AIY Projects Voice kit to create a new home assistant for his house:
This is a 1986 Radio Shack Intercom that I’ve converted into a Google Home style device using a Raspberry Pi and the Google AIY (Artificial Intelligence Yourself) kit that came free with the MagPi magazine (issue 57). It uses the Google Assistant to answer questions and perform actions, using IFTTT to integrate with smart home accessories and other web services.
Not only does this build look fantastic, it’s also a great conversation starter for any visitors who had a similar device during the eighties.
…and then I’ll put that box inside of another box, and then I’ll mail that box to myself, and when it arrives…
A GIF. A harmless, little GIF…and proof of the comms team’s obsession with The Emperor’s New Groove.
You don’t have to be fancy when it comes to housing your home assistant. And often, especially if you’re working with the smaller people in your household, the results of a simple homespun approach are just as delightful.
Here are Hannah and her dad Tom, explaining how they built a home assistant together and fit it inside an old cigar box:
My 7 year old daughter and I decided to play around with the Raspberry Pi and build ourselves an Amazon Echo (Alexa). The video tells you about what we did and the links below will take you to all the sites we used to get this up and running.
And now it’s your turn! I challenge you all (and also myself) to create a home assistant using the Raspberry Pi. Whether you decide to fit Amazon Alexa inside an old shoebox or Google Home inside your sister’s Barbie, I’d love to see what you create using the free home assistant software available online.
Check out these otherhomeassistants for Raspberry Pi, and keep an eye on our blog to see what I manage to create as part of the challenge.
It’s never too early for Christmas-themed resources — especially when you want to make the most of them in your school, Code Club or CoderDojo! So here’s the ever-wonderful Laura Sach with an introduction of our newest festive projects.
In the immortal words of Noddy Holder: “it’s Christmaaaaaaasssss!” Well, maybe it isn’t quite Christmas yet, but since the shops have been playing Mariah Carey on a loop since the last pumpkin lantern hit the bargain bin, you’re hopefully well prepared.
To get you in the mood with some festive fun, we’ve put together a selection of seasonal free resources for you. Each project has a difficulty level in line with our Digital Making Curriculum, so you can check which might suit you best. Why not try them out at your local Raspberry Jam, CoderDojo, or Code Club, at school, or even on a cold day at home with a big mug of hot chocolate?
Jazzy jumpers (Creator level): as a child in the eighties, you’d always get an embarrassing and probably badly sized jazzy jumper at Christmas from some distant relative. Thank goodness the trend has gone hipster and dreadful jumpers are now cool!
This resource shows you how to build a memory game in Scratch where you must remember the colour and picture of a jazzy jumper before recreating it. How many jumpers can you successfully recall in a row?
Sense HAT advent calendar
Sense HAT advent calendar (Builder level): put the lovely lights on your Sense HAT to festive use by creating an advent calendar you can open day by day. However, there’s strictly no cheating with this calendar — we teach you how to use Python to detect the current date and prevent would-be premature peekers!
Press the Enter key to open today’s door:
(Note: no chocolate will be dispensed from your Raspberry Pi. Sorry about that.)
Code a carol
Code a carol (Developer level): Have you ever noticed how much repetition there is in carols and other songs? This resource teaches you how to break down the Twelve days of Christmas tune into its component parts and code it up in Sonic Pi the lazy way: get the computer to do all the repetition for you!
No musical knowledge required — just follow our lead, and you’ll have yourself a rocking doorbell tune in no time!
Naughty and nice
Naughty and nice (Maker level): Have you been naughty or nice? Find out by using sentiment analysis on your tweets to see what sort of things you’ve been talking about throughout the year. For added fun, why not use your program on the Twitter account of your sibling/spouse/arch nemesis and report their level of naughtiness to Santa with an @ mention?
raspberry_pi is 65.5 percent NICE, with an accuracy of 0.9046692607003891
With the festive season just around the corner, it’s time to get started on your Christmas projects! Whether you’re planning to run your Christmas lights via a phone app, install a home assistant inside an Elf on a Shelf, or work through our Christmas resources, we would like to see what you make. So do share your festive builds with us on social media, or by posting links in the comments.
If, like me, you’re a pretty poor time-keeper with the uncanny ability to never get up when your alarm goes off and yet still somehow make it to work just in time — a little dishevelled, brushing your teeth in the office bathroom — then you too need Gladys.
Raspberry Pi home assistant
Over the last year, we’ve seen off-the-shelf home assistants make their way onto the Raspberry Pi. With the likes of Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Siri, it’s becoming ever easier to tell the air around you to “Turn off the bathroom light” or “Resume my audiobook”, and it happens without you lifting a finger. It’s quite wonderful. And alongside these big names are several home-brew variants, such as Jarvis and Jasper, which were developed to run on a Pi in order to perform home automation tasks.
So do we need another such service? Sure! And here’s why…
A simple romantic mode in Gladys ! See https://gladysproject.com for more informations about the project 🙂 Devices used : – A 5$ Xiaomi Switch Button – A Raspberry Pi 3 with Gladys on it – Connected lights ( Works with Philips Hue, Milight lamp, etc..
According to the Gladys creators’ website, Gladys Project is ‘an open-source program which runs on your Raspberry Pi. It communicates with all your devices and checks your calendar to help you in your everyday life’.
Gladys does the basic day-to-day life maintenance tasks that I need handled in order to exist without my mum there to remind me to wake up in time for work. And, as you can see from the video above, it also plays some mean George Michael.
Gladys can help run your day from start to finish, taking into consideration road conditions and travel time to ensure you’re never late, regardless of external influences. It takes you 30 minutes to get ready and another 30 minutes to drive to work for 9.00? OK, but today there’s a queue on the motorway, and now your drive time is looking to be closer to an hour. Thankfully, Gladys has woken you up a half hour earlier, so you’re still on time. Isn’t that nice of her? And while you’re showering and mourning those precious stolen minutes of sleep, she’s opening the blinds and brewing coffee for you. Thanks, mum!
Set the parameters of your home(s) using the dedicated hub.
Detecting your return home at the end of the day, Gladys runs your pre-set evening routine. Then, once you place your phone on an NFC tag to indicate bedtime, she turns off the lights and, if your nighttime preferences dictate it, starts the whale music playlist, sending you into a deep, stressless slumber.
Gladys comes as a pre-built Raspbian image, ready to be cloned to an SD card.
Gladys is free to download from the Gladys Project website and is compatible with smart devices such as Philips Hue lightbulbs, WeMo Insight Switches, and the ever tricky to control without the official app Sonos speakers!
Automate and chill
Which tasks and devices in your home do you control with a home assistant? Do you love sensor-controlled lighting which helps you save on electricity? How about working your way through an audiobook as you do your housework, requesting a pause every time you turn on the vacuum cleaner?
Share your experiences with us in the comments below, and if you’ve built a home assistant for Raspberry Pi, or use an existing setup to run your household, share that too.
And, as ever, if you want to keep up to date with Raspberry Pi projects from across the globe, be sure to follow us on social media, sign up to our weekly newsletter, the Raspberry Pi Weekly, and check out The MagPi, the official magazine of the Raspberry Pi community, available in stores or as a free PDF download.
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