Hi folks, Ladyada here from Adafruit. The Raspberry Pi folks said we could do a guest post on our Adafruit BrainCraft HAT & Voice Bonnet, so here we go!
I’ve been engineering up a few Machine Learning devices that work with Raspberry Pi: BrainCraft HAT and the Voice Bonnet!
The idea behind the BrainCraft HAT is to enable you to “craft brains” for machine learning on the EDGE, with microcontrollers and microcomputers. On ASK AN ENGINEER, we chatted with Pete Warden, the technical lead of the mobile, embedded TensorFlow Group on Google’s Brain team about what would be ideal for a board like this.
And here’s what we designed! The BrainCraft HAT has a 240×240 TFT IPS display for inference output, slots for camera connector cable for imaging projects, a 5-way joystick, a button for UI input, left and right microphones, stereo headphone out, stereo 1W speaker out, three RGB DotStar LEDs, two 3-pin STEMMA connectors on PWM pins so they can drive NeoPixels or servos, and Grove/STEMMA/Qwiic I2C port.
This will let people build a wide range of audio/video AI projects while also allowing easy plug-in of sensors and robotics!
A controllable mini fan attaches to the bottom and can be used to keep your Raspberry Pi cool while it’s doing intense AI inference calculations. Most importantly, there’s an on/off switch that will completely disable the audio codec, so that when it’s off, there’s no way it’s listening to you.
Next up, the Adafruit Voice Bonnet for Raspberry Pi: two speakers plus two mics. Your Raspberry Pi computer is like an electronic brain — and with the Adafruit Voice Bonnet you can give it a mouth and ears as well! Featuring two microphones and two 1Watt speaker outputs using a high-quality I2S codec, this Raspberry Pi add-on will work with any Raspberry Pi with a 2×20 GPIO header, from Raspberry Pi Zero up to Raspberry Pi 4 and beyond (basically all models but the very first ones made).
The on-board WM8960 codec uses I2S digital audio for great quality recording and playback, so it sounds a lot better than the headphone jack on Raspberry Pi (or the no-headphone jack on Raspberry Pi Zero). We put ferrite beads and filter capacitors on every input and output to get the best possible performance, and all at a great price.
The most wonderful time of the year is approaching! “Most wonderful” meaning the time when you have to figure out what gift best expresses your level of affection for various individuals in your life. We’re here to take away some of that stress for you — provided your favourite individuals like Raspberry Pi, of course. Otherwise you’re on your own. Sorry.
We’ve got ideas for the gamers in your life, what to get for the Raspberry Pi “superfan” who has everything, and options that allow you to keep giving all year round.
Newest and hottest
If keeping up with the Joneses is your thing, why not treat your nearest Raspberry Pi fan to one of our newest products…
Raspberry Pi 400 | $70
This year, we released Raspberry Pi 400: a complete personal computer, built into a compact keyboard, costing just $70. Our community went wild about the possibilities that Raspberry Pi 400 opens up for home learners and for those who don’t have expensive tech options at their fingertips.
Depending on where you are in the world, you may need to pre-order or join a waiting list, as Raspberry Pi 400 is in such high demand. But you could give a homemade ‘IOU’ voucher letting the recipient know that they will soon get their hands on one of our newest and most popular bits of kit.
Our latest book of coding coolness | £10
We publish some cool books around these parts. Laura Sach and Martin O’Hanlon, who are both Learning Managers at the Raspberry Pi Foundation, have written the very newest one, which is designed to help you to get more out of your Python projects.
So, if you’ve a keen coder in your midst, this book is the best choice to stretch their skills and keep them entertained throughout 2021. Buy it online from the official Raspberry Pi Press store.
Raspberry Pi 4 Retro Gaming Kit | £88
The Pi Hut’s Raspberry Pi 4 Retro Gaming Kit costs £88 and includes everything you need to create your very own retro gaming console. All your lucky kit recipient has to find is a screen to plug into, and a keyboard to set up their new Raspberry Pi, which comes as part of the kit along with a case for it. The Pi Hut has also thrown in a 16GB microSD card, plus a reader for it, as well as our official micro HDMI cable. Job done.
Picade 8″ or 10″ display | from £165
How cool does Picade look?! It’s sold by Pimoroni and you can buy an 8″ display set for £165,or a 10″ display version for £225. Show me a self-respecting gamer who doesn’t want a desktop retro arcade machine in their own home.
Picade is a Raspberry Pi–powered mini arcade that you build yourself. All you’ll need to add is your own Raspberry Pi, a power supply, and a micro SD card.
Code the Classics, Volume 1 | £12
And if the gamer on your gift list prefers to create their own retro video games, send them a copy of Code the Classics, Volume 1. It’s a stunning-looking hardback book packed with 224 pages telling the stories of some of the seminal video games of the 1970s and 1980s, and showing you how to create your own. Putting hours of projects in the hands of your favourite gamer will only set you back £12. Buy it online from the official Raspberry Pi Press store.
Raspberry Pi superfans
Raspberry Pi Zero W | $10
For just $10 apiece, you can drop a couple Raspberry Pi Zero W into any tinkerer’s stocking and they’ll be set for their next few projects. They will LOVE you for allowing them try a new, risky build without having to tear down something else they created to retrieve an old Raspberry Pi.
Babbage Bear | $9
What to get the superfan who already has a desk full of Raspberry Pi? An official Babbage Bear to oversee the proceedings! Babbage only costs £9 and will arrive wearing their own Raspberry Pi–branded T-shirt. A special Raspberry Pi Towers inhabitant made our Babbage this Christmassy outfit before we photographed them.
Official t-shirts | $12
If you’ve a superfan on your gift list, then it’s likely they already own a t-shirt with the Raspberry Pi logo on it — so why not get them one of these new designs?
Both costing just £12, the black Raspberry Pi “Pi 4” t-shirt was released to celebrate the launch of Raspberry Pi 4 and features an illustration of the powerful $35 computer. The white Raspberry Pi “Make Cool Stuff” option was created by Raspberry Pi’s own illustrator/animator extraordinaire Sam Alder. Drop that inside fact on the gift tag for extra superfan points.
Wearable tech projects | £7
And if they’re the kind of superfan who would like to make their own Raspberry Pi-–themed clothing, gift them with our Wearable Tech Projects book. This 164-page book gathers up the best bits of wearable technology from HackSpace magazine, with tutorials such as adding lights to your favourite cosplay helmet, and creating a glowing LED skirt. It’s on sale for just £7 and you can buy it online from the official Raspberry Pi Press store.
Keep giving all year
What if you could give the joy of opening a Raspberry Pi–themed gift every single month for a whole year? Our magazine subscriptions let you do just that, AND they come with a few extra gifts when you sign up.
The MagPi magazine
The official Raspberry Pi magazine comes with a free Raspberry Pi Zero kit worth £20 when you sign up for a 12-month subscription. The magazine is packed with computing and electronics tutorials, how-to guides, and the latest news and reviews.
HackSpace magazine is packed with projects for fixers and tinkerers of all abilities. 12-month subscriptions comes with a free Adafruit Circuit Playground Express, which has been specially developed to teach programming novices from scratch and is worth £25.
Wireframe magazine lifts the lid on video games. In every issue, you’ll find out how games are made, who makes them, and how you can make your own using detailed guides. The latest deal gets you three issues for just £10, plus your choice of one of our official books as a gift.
Today we have another guest post from Igalia’s Iago Toral, who has spent the past year working on the Mesa graphic driver stack for Raspberry Pi 4.
Four months ago we announced that work on the Vulkan effort for Raspberry Pi 4 (v3dv) was progressing well, and that we were moving the development to an open repository.
vkQuake3 on Raspberry Pi 4
This week, the Vulkan driver for Raspberry Pi 4 has been merged with Mesa upstream, becoming one of the official Vulkan Mesa drivers. This brings several advantages:
Easier to find: now anyone willing to test the driver just needs to go to the official Mesa repository
Bug tracking: issues/bugs can now be filed on the official Mesa repository bug tracker. If the problem affects other parts of the project, it will be easier for us to involve other Mesa developers.
Releasing: v3dv will be included in all Mesa releases. In due course, you will no longer need to go to an external repository to obtain the driver, as it will be included in the Mesa package for your distribution.
Maintenance: v3dv will be included in the Mesa Continuous Integration system, so every merge request will be tested to ensure that our driver still builds. More effort can go to new features and bug fixes rather than just keeping up with upstream changes.
Progress, and current status
We said back in June that we were passing over 70,000 tests from the Khronos Conformance Test Suite for Vulkan 1.0, and that we had an implementation for a significant subset of the Vulkan 1.0 API. Now we are passing over 100,000 tests, and have implemented the full Vulkan 1.0 API. Only a handful of CTS tests remain to be fixed.
Sascha Willems’ deferred multisampling demo
This doesn’t mean that our work is done, of course. Although the CTS is a really complete test suite, it is not the same as a real use case. As mentioned some of our updates, we have been testing the driver with Vulkan ports of the original Quake trilogy, but deeper and more detailed testing is needed. So the next step will be to test the driver with more use cases, and fixing any bugs or performance issues that we find during the process.
Here’s Mythic Beast’s Pete Stevens to talk about how we run the Raspberry Pi website on Raspberry Pis, and how Mythic Beasts can run your site on Raspberry Pis too!
Rent a Raspberry Pi
In late 2016, Mythic Beasts launched a Raspberry Pi cloud, allowing you to rent a Raspberry Pi 3 as a service.
Raspberry Pi 4 is a much more capable computer, with more than twice the performance and, crucially, four times the memory. We were so excited by it, we bet Eben Upton a beer that we could host the launch site for Raspberry Pi 4 on Raspberry Pi 4. We’d demonstrated that it was just about possible to run a normal day on a cluster of eight Raspberry Pi 3s, but launch day is a bit more exciting — tens of millions rather than a million visitors.
Eben, being a fool supremely confident in the work that his team had done, took the bet and let us. On Thursday 20 June 2019, he dropped off eighteen 4GB RAM Raspberry Pi 4 computers that had previously been used in testing. We set about configuring them to replace all the web servers that run the Raspberry Pi blog.
14× Dynamic Web server (PHP/Apache)
2× Static webserver (Apache, flat files)
2× Memcache (in memory store to accelerate web serving)
We started the build on Friday 21 June. We immediately ran into our first ‘chicken and egg’ problem. The Raspberry Pi web servers are built from Puppet, based (at the time) on Debian Jessie. Raspberry Pi 4’s release OS was a not-yet-released version of Debian Buster, which at the time wasn’t supported by Puppet. In conjunction with Greg Annandale at the Raspberry Pi Foundation, we created a Puppet build that would run on Raspberry Pi 4, updated the configuration from Jessie to Buster (newer Apache/PHP), and did some testing.
We have pre-built enclosures from our Raspberry Pi 3 cloud. We followed the same approach using Power over Ethernet to provide power and data to each Raspberry Pi 4. This dramatically reduces the cabling and complexity of the setup. Late on Friday 21, just over 24 hours after we started, we moved the hastily constructed Raspberry Pi 4 setup to Sovereign House, a key Mythic Beasts data centre and one of the best-connected buildings in Europe.
Over the course of a few hours, we gradually moved the entire production load from the existing virtual servers to the Raspberry Pi 4 cloud and every page from the blog was being served directly off Raspberry Pi 4. We left it for two days to bed in before the real test: launch day.
The launch was almost perfectly smooth. The Raspberry Pi cluster coped fine with the tens of millions of users. However, the Raspberry Pi cluster and website is fronted by Cloudflare, which provides acceleration for static resources and protects the site from denial of service. Unfortunately, they had a two-hour outage in the middle of the launch thanks to a misconfigured internet optimiser run by a customer of Verizon. So the Raspberry Pi 4 cluster had a long lunch break wondering where all the users had gone.
We ran the website on the Raspberry Pi 4 cluster for over a month before reverting back to the usual virtual server-based environment. We’d proved that RaspberryPi 4 would make an awesome hosting platform.
Commercialising Raspberry Pi 4 as a service
We were already running Raspberry Pi 3 as a service for many customers (e.g. PiWheels, which builds Python packages for Raspberry Pi), and being able spin up Raspberry Pi 3 on demand is incredibly useful.
At launch, Raspberry Pi 4 wasn’t suitable. We rely on network boot in order to be able to remotely re-image Raspberry Pi. SD cards just aren’t very reliable; visiting the data centre for manual intervention on every SD card failure is not only expensive in time, but also means we’d have to maintain physical access to every Raspberry Pi 4 in our cloud. Netboot means that we just build large enclosures of 108 Raspberry Pis and seal them in, as they will never require physical attention. If one fails — and we’ve not yet seen one fail — we can shut it down and take it out of our database.
For Raspberry Pi 4 we had to wait for network booting to be a reality. We had access to beta firmware in November 2019 and built a sample Raspberry Pi 4 network boot setup. We then had to integrate it into our management code, build Raspberry Pi 4–compatible operating system images, and enhance our billing to cope with multiple models and by-the-hour billing. Then we had to do a file server and network upgrade: serving lots of machines with true gigabit needs more ‘oomph’ than the 100Mbps of Raspberry Pi 3. This also all needed to be backward-compatible so as not to break the existing Raspberry Pi 3 users. On 17 June 2020 we launched, and Raspberry Pi 4 is now ready to order in our cloud.
Is it any good?
Yes. Raspberry Pi is twice as fast as the same-sized instances in AWS, for a quarter of the price. Just see for yourself:
Raspberry Pi is excited to bring the Khronos OpenVX 1.3 API to our line of single-board computers. Here’s Kiriti Nagesh Gowda, AMD‘s MTS Software Development Engineer, to tell you more.
OpenVX for computer vision
OpenVX™ is an open, royalty-free API standard for cross-platform acceleration of computer vision applications developed by The Khronos Group. The Khronos Group is an open industry consortium of more than 150 leading hardware and software companies creating advanced, royalty-free acceleration standards for 3D graphics, augmented and virtual reality, vision, and machine learning. Khronos standards include Vulkan®, OpenCL™, SYCL™, OpenVX™, NNEF™, and many others.
Now with added Raspberry Pi
The Khronos Group and Raspberry Pi have come together to work on an open-source implementation of OpenVX™ 1.3, which passes the conformance on Raspberry Pi. The open-source implementation passes the Vision, Enhanced Vision, & Neural Net conformance profiles specified in OpenVX 1.3 on Raspberry Pi.
Application developers may always freely use Khronos standards when they are available on the target system. To enable companies to test their products for conformance, Khronos has established an Adopters Program for each standard. This helps to ensure that Khronos standards are consistently implemented by multiple vendors to create a reliable platform for developers. Conformant products also enjoy protection from the Khronos IP Framework, ensuring that Khronos members will not assert their IP essential to the specification against the implementation.
OpenVX enables a performance and power-optimized computer vision processing, especially important in embedded and real-time use cases such as face, body, and gesture tracking, smart video surveillance, advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), object and scene reconstruction, augmented reality, visual inspection, robotics, and more. The developers can take advantage of using this robust API in their application and know that the application is portable across all the conformant hardware.
Below, we will go over how to build and install the open-source OpenVX 1.3 library on Raspberry Pi 4 Model B. We will run the conformance for the Vision, Enhanced Vision, & Neural Net conformance profiles and create a simple computer vision application to get started with OpenVX on Raspberry Pi.
In issue 32 of HackSpace magazine, out now, we talk to Gina Häußge, creator of OctoPrint – it sits on a Raspberry pi and monitors your 3D printer.
Gina Häußge, creator and maintainer of OctoPrint
There’s something enchanting about watching a 3D printer lay down hot plastic. Seeing an object take shape before your eyes is utterly compelling, which is perhaps why we love watching 3D printing time-lapse videos so much.
Despite this, it would be impractical and inefficient to sit and watch every time you sent a print job through. That’s why we should all be grateful for OctoPrint. This free, open-source software monitors your 3D printer for you, keeping you from wasting plastic and ensuring that you can go about your business without fearing for your latest build. OctoPrint is the creation of Gina Haüßge. We enjoyed a socially distant chat with her about the challenges of running an open-source project, making, and what it’s like to have a small project become huge.
HackSpace: Most people who have used a 3D printer will have heard of OctoPrint, but for the benefit of those who haven’t, what is it?
Gina Haüßge: Somebody once called it a baby monitor for your 3D printer. I really like this description. It’s pretty much a combination of a baby monitor and a remote control, because it allows you to go through any web browser on your network and monitor what your printer is currently up to, how much the current job has progressed. If you have a webcam set up, it can show you the print itself, so you can see that everything is working correctly, it’s still on the bed, and all that.
It also offers a plug-in interface so that it can be expanded with various features and functionality, and people have written a ton of integrations with notification systems. And all of this runs on pretty much any system that runs Python. I have to say Python, not MicroPython, the full version. Usually Linux, and the most common use case is to run it on a Raspberry Pi, and this is also how I originally set it out to work.
Most people think it only runs on a Raspberry Pi, but no. It will run on any old laptop that you still have lying around. It’s cross-platform, so you don’t need to buy a Raspberry Pi if you have another machine that will fit the bill.
OctoPrint is most commonly run on a Raspberry Pi
HS: How long have you been working on it?
GH: I originally sat down to write it over my Christmas break in 2012, because I had got my first 3D printer back then. It was sitting in my office producing fumes and noise for hours on end, which was annoying when trying to work, or game, or anything else.
I thought there must be a solution involving attaching one of these nifty new Raspberry Pis that had just come out. Someone must have written something, right? I browsed around the internet, realised that the closest thing to what I was looking for treated the printer as a black box – to fire job data at it and hope that it gets it right. That was not what I wanted; I wanted this feedback channel. I wanted to see what was happening; I wanted to monitor the temperatures; I wanted to monitor the job progress.
The very first version back then was a plug-in for Cura, before Cura even supported plug-ins. After my Christmas break, I went, OK, it’s doing everything I wanted it to do; back to work at my normal regular job. And then it exploded. I started getting emails, issue reports, and feature requests from all over the world. ‘Can you make it also do this?’ ‘Hey, I have this other printer with this slightly different firmware that behaves like this; can you adapt it so that it works with this?’. ‘Can you remove it from Cura, and have it so it works standalone?’ Suddenly I had this huge open-source project on my hands. I didn’t do any kind of promotion for it or anything like that. I just posted about it in a Google+ community, of all things, and from there it grew by word of mouth.
A year or so later, I reduced my regular job to 80%, to have one day a week for OctoPrint, but that didn’t suffice either with everything that was going on. Then I had the opportunity to go full-time, sponsored by a single company who also made 3D printers, and they ran out of money in 2016. That was when I turned to crowdfunding, which has been the mode of operation ever since. Around 95% of everything that is done on OctoPrint is run by me, and I work on it full-time now. Since 2014.
A lot of the stuff that I have been adding over the years, for instance, the plug-in system itself, would not have been possible as a pet side project, not with a day job.
HS: What are you working on at the moment?
GH: In March just gone, I released the next big version, to make OctoPrint Python 3-compatible, because at the start of the year Python was deemed end of life, so I had to do something. The problem is that there’s a flourishing plug-in ecosystem written in Python 2, so for now, I’m stuck with having to support both, and trying to motivate the plug-in maintainers to also migrate, which is a ton of fun actually. I wrote a migration guide, tracking in the plug-in repository how many plugs are compatible. Newly registered plug-ins have to be compatible too.
HS: Do you have any idea how many people use OctoPrint?
GH: Nine months, a year ago, I introduced usage tracking. It’s my own bundled plug-in that ships with OctoPrint that does anonymous user tracking through my own platform, so no GDPR issues should arise there. And what this shows me is that, over the course of the last seven days, I saw 66,000 instances, and the last 30 days, I saw 91,000 instances.
But that’s only those who have opted into the usage tracking, which obviously is only a fraction. I have no idea about the fraction – whether the real number is five times, ten times higher, I’ve no way of knowing.
When I did the most recent big update, I got some statistics back from piwheels [a Python package repository]. They saw a spike in repositories that were being pulled from their index, which corresponded to dependencies that the new version of OctoPrint depends on, and the spike that they saw corresponded with the day that I rolled out the new version. Based on that, it looks like there’s probably ten times as many instances out there. I didn’t expect that. So the total number of users could be 700,000, it could be over a million, I have no idea. But based on these piwheels stats, it’s in that ballpark.
HS: And are you seeing a growth in those figures?
GH: Yes. Especially now, with the pandemic going on. If you had asked me three or four months ago, just when the pandemic started, I would have told you more like 60,000 per 30 days. So I saw a significant increase. I also saw a significant usage increase in the last couple of weeks.
I also saw a significant increase in support overheads in the last couple of weeks, which was absolutely insane. It was like everyone and their mother wanted to know something from me, writing me emails, opening tickets and all that, and this influx of people has not stopped yet. At first I thought, well I’ll just go into crunch mode and weather this out, but that didn’t work out. I had to find new ways to cope in order to keep this sustainable.
HS: You can’t have crunch mode for three months!
GH: I mean it’s OK for four weeks or so, but then you start to notice side effects on your own well-being. It’s not a good idea. I’m in for the long haul.
HS: Wanting a feedback channel instead of just firing off commands that work silently makes a lot of sense.
GH: It’s not like a paper printer where you fire and forget, so treating it as a black box, where you don’t get anything back on status and all that, is bound to be trouble. This is a complicated machine where a lot of stuff can go wrong, so it makes sense to have a feedback channel — at least that was my intuition back then, and evidently, a lot of people thought the same.
HS: You must have saved people countless hours and hours of wasted time, filament, and energy.
GH: I’ve also heard that I’ve saved at least one marriage! Someone wrote me an email a couple of years ago thanking me because the person had a new printer in their garage and was constantly monitoring it, sitting in front of it. Apparently the wife and kids were not too thrilled by this. They installed OctoPrint, and since then they’ve been happy again.
Get HackSpace magazine issue 31 — out today
HackSpace magazine issue 32: on sale now!
You can read the rest of HackSpace magazine’s interview with Gina Häußge in issue 32, out today and available online from the Raspberry Pi Press online store. You can also download issue 32 for free.
Today we have a guest post from Igalia’s Iago Toral, who has spent the past year working on the Mesa graphic driver stack for Raspberry Pi 4.
It is almost five months since we announced the Vulkan effort for Raspberry Pi 4. It was great to see how many people were excited about this, and today we would like to give you a status update on our progress over these last months.
When we announced the effort back in January we were at the point of rendering a coloured triangle, which required only minimal coverage of the Vulkan 1.0 API in the driver. Today, we are passing over 70,000 tests from the Khronos Conformance Test Suite for Vulkan 1.0 and we have an implementation for a significant subset of the Vulkan 1.0 API.
Progress so far, in pictures
While I could detail here all the features that we have implemented, I am sure that list would get long and boring very quickly for most of you. So, instead, we would like to show you our progress through pics taken from a bunch of the popular Vulkan demos by Sascha Willems running on Raspberry Pi 4:
Hopefully that is more entertaining than a feature checklist and will help you visualize better where we are now compared to January’s coloured triangle.
Before you get too excited though, while these demos are nice, they are still a far cry from actual games and applications. We still have a lot of work to do before the driver can handle these more complex workloads. Even some of Sascha’s demos don’t run yet, whether because of driver bugs or unimplemented Vulkan features. We still have a lot of work ahead of us.
I would also like to give you an overview of some of the things we will be working on in the coming months:
Our first priority is to support the basic Vulkan 1.0 feature set. This will involve, at least, supporting compute shaders, input attachments, texel buffers, storage images, pipeline caches, and multisampling. There are some other features that we need to support in Vulkan 1.0, such as robust buffer access etc, but those are probably the largest ones we are currently missing.
Once we are feature-complete we will probably move focus to CTS conformance, which will be all about bugfixing, and making sure we handle spec corner cases. And once we are close to conformance, the driver should hopefully be stable and robust enough that we should probably start testing actual Vulkan applications and games to drive further bugfixing work.
Finally, there will be a lot of performance tuning and optimization work that we will probably tackle in the last stages of development.
So as I said before, we still have a long way to go!
Moving development to an open repository
Before we end this post, I would also like to share another important piece of news: starting today, we are moving development of the driver to an open repository. You can find instructions on how to build and install the driver here. I know this is something that many of you have been asking for, and I am sorry that it took us a few months to get here. But I think that now that we have a more stable driver infrastructure in place, and we don’t feel like we are constantly making large changes every other day, development should be a lot friendlier to external contributors than it may have been a few months ago.
So that’s everything we wanted to share today – I hope you are still excited about Vulkan and looking forward to future updates. In the meantime, if you have questions or are interested in contributing to the driver, join us on irc.freenode.net, #videocore channel.
We love seeing Raspberry Pi being used to push industry forward. Here’s an example of how our tiny computers are making an impact in agriculture.
Directed Machines is a small company on a mission to remove pollution and minimise human labour in land care. Their focus is to do more with less, so the affordable power of our robust computers matches perfectly with their goals.
You’ll find a Raspberry Pi 4 at the heart of their solar-powered, autonomous, electric tractors called Land Care Robots.
Here are a few of the robot’s specs:
30KW / 42HP peak power
1400 ft.lb torque
400W bi-facial, high-efficiency solar panel for 10KWh energy storage
50″(W)×80″(L) with zero turn
Dual color and depth (distance measuring) cameras, accelerometer, magnetic compass, and GPS
4G/3G/2G modem for self-update/telemetry publish/map downloads and WiFi, allowing direct control from smartphone or PC
Multiple autonomy modes, area coverage, and way-point navigation
Follow mode, person or peer robot, using wearable tag, depth sensors and motion control using smartphone touch/tilt, combined with obstacle avoidance
Directed Machine’s COO Wayne Pearson explains: “Rather than opting for the most advanced components (often the simplest solution), we endeavour to find affordable, easily sourced components. We then enable these components to accomplish more by ensuring efficient uses of compute/memory resources through our software stack, which we built from the ground up.”
“All in all,” Wayne continues, “this approach helps minimise unnecessarily inflated component costs (as well as the corresponding complexities) from being passed along to our customers — which keeps our prices lower and enables rapid field repair/maintenance.”
Here’s a practical example of that. This is a custom HAT Directed Machine’s ‘Electrical Engineering Guy’ Chris Doughty shared on LinkedIn. It was specially created to expand the functionality of the Raspberry Pi 4s they were using:
The HAT includes:
• 7-port USB 2.0 hub (six ports off-board) with individual port-power control • 5A of 5.45V power to keep Pi running stable with high-current peripherals • 9-axis IMU LSM9DS1 • Precision ‘M8P’ UBLOX GNSS receiver (capable of supporting RTK) SMA connection for external GPS antenna including DC for LNA • 7–15V DC input to support automotive and accessory-port applications • Connects to standard Raspberry Pi 3 and 4 via pin-header and standoffs
Directed Machine’s founder George Chrysanthakopoulos shared the video at the top of this post on LinkedIn to demonstrate how the land care robots see the world while autonomously navigating. The combined power of Raspberry Pi 4 and their own built-from-the-ground software stack lets the robots see dual depth and colour streams at 15Hz. This is all made possible with a cheap GPS plus an Inertial Measurement Unit (IMU) for just $15 combined.
With a base price of the Land Care Robot is in the thousands, we’re not suggesting you should pick up one for your back garden — cutting the lawn is a childhood chore for the ages. But, for industry, the robot is a fine example of how businesses are using Raspberry Pi to cut both cost and environmental impact.
Also see Liz’s favourite project, the Cucumber Counter, and the popular CNC FarmBot, for more examples of ‘Down on the farm with Raspberry Pi’.
When you’re learning a new language, it’s easier the younger you are. But how can we show very young students that learning to speak code is fun? Consequential Robotics has an answer…
The MiRo-E is an ’emotionally engaging’ robot platform that was created on a custom PCB and has since moved onto Raspberry Pi. The creators made the change because they saw that schools were more familiar with Raspberry Pi and realised the potential in being able to upgrade the robotic learning tools with new Raspberry Pi boards.
While the robot started as a developers’ tool (MiRo-B), the creators completely re-engineered MiRo’s mechatronics and software to turn it into an educational tool purely for the classroom environment.
MiRo-E with students at a School in North London, UK
MiRo-E can see, hear, and interact with its environment, providing endless programming possibilities. It responds to human interaction, making it a fun, engaging way for students to learn coding skills. If you stroke it, it purrs, lights up, move its ears, and wags its tail. Making a sound or clapping makes MiRo move towards you, or away if it is alarmed. And it especially likes movement, following you around like a real, loyal canine friend. These functionalities are just the basic starting point, however: students can make MiRo do much more once they start tinkering with their programmable pet.
These opportunities are provided on MiRoCode, a user-friendly web-based coding interface, where students can run through lesson plans and experiment with new ideas. They can test code on a virtual MiRo-E to create new skills that can be applied to a real-life MiRo-E.
Here are the full technical specs. But basically, MiRo-E comprises a Raspberry Pi 3B+ as its core, light sensors, cliff sensors, an HD camera, and a variety of connectivity options.
How does it interact?
MiRo reacts to sound, touch, and movement in a variety of ways. 28 capacitive touch sensors tell it when it is being petted or stroked. Six independent RGB LEDs allow it to show emotion, along with DOF to move its eyes, tail, and ears. Its ears also house four 16-bit microphones and a loudspeaker. And two differential drive wheels with opto-sensors help MiRo move around.
What else can it do?
The ‘E’ bit of MiRo-E means it’s emotionally engaging, and the intelligent pet’s potential in healthcare have already been explored. Interaction with animals has been proved to be positive for patients of all ages, but sometimes it’s not possible for ‘real’ animals to comfort people. MiRo-E can fill the gap for young children who would benefit from animal comfort, but where healthcare or animal welfare risks are barriers.
The same researchers who created this emotionally engaging robo-dog for young people are also working with project partners in Japan to develop ‘telepresence robots’ for older patients to interact with their families over video calls.
Is it still the Easter holidays? Can anyone tell? Does it matter, when we have nostalgic tech bunny pets to share with you?
These little bunnies can now do much more than when they first appeared. But they’re still incredibly cute – just look at that little lopsided-ear thing they do.
The original Nabaztag bunnies were to us in the mid-noughties what Tamagotchis were to eleven-year-olds everywhere in the 1990s. They communicated through colour, light, and sound. But now (and here’s the best bit), with a simple bit of surgery and the help of a new Raspberry Pi heart, your digital desk pet will be smarter than ever. It will be able to tell you what the weather is like, and offer local speech recognition as well as “ear-based Tai Chi”. No, we’re not sure either, but we are sure that it sounds cool. And very calming.
Part of the custom kit that will breathe new life into your bunny
The design team have created what they call the TagTagTag kit. Here are the main components of said kit:
The custom Raspberry Pi bunny board we hope the next funding drive will release more of!
This new venture had its first outing at the Paris Maker Faire in 2018, and it looks like we’re already too late to buy one of the limited number of ready-made upgraded bunnies. However, those of you who kept hold of your original bunny might be able to source one of Nabaztag’s custom boards to upgrade it yourself if you’re prepared to be patient – head over to the project’s funding page. You’ll also need a Raspberry Pi Zero W and a microSD card. The video below is in French, but it’s captioned.
If you own a 3D printer, you’ll likely have at least heard of OctoPrint from the ever benevolent 3D printing online community. It has the potential to transform your 3D printing workflow for the better, and it’s very easy to set up. This guide will take you through the setup process step by step, and give you some handy tips along the way.
Before we start finding out how to install OctoPrint, let’s look at why you might want to. OctoPrint is a piece of open-source software that allows us to add WiFi functionality to any 3D printer with a USB port (which is pretty much all of them). More specifically, you’ll be able to drop files from your computer onto your printer, start/stop prints, monitor your printer via a live video feed, control the motors, control the temperature, and more, all from your web browser. Of course, with great power comes great responsibility — 3D printers have parts that are hot enough to cause fires, so make sure you have a safe setup, which may include not letting it run unsupervised.
• Raspberry Pi 3 (or newer) • MicroSD card • Raspberry Pi power adapter • USB cable (the connector type will depend on your printer) • Webcam/Raspberry Pi Camera Module (optional) • 3D-printed camera mount (optional)
Before we get started, it is not recommended that anything less than a Raspberry Pi 3 is used for this project. There have been reports of limited success using OctoPrint on a Raspberry Pi Zero W, but only if you have no intention of using a camera to monitor your prints. If you want to try this with a Pi Zero or an older Raspberry Pi, you may experience unexpected print failures.
Firstly, you will need to download the latest version of OctoPi from the OctoPrint website. OctoPi is a Raspbian distribution that comes with OctoPrint, video streaming software, and CuraEngine for slicing models on your Raspberry Pi. When this has finished downloading, unzip the file and put the resulting IMG file somewhere handy.
Next, we need to flash this image onto our microSD card. We recommend using Etcher to do this, due to its minimal UI and ease of use; plus it’s also available to use on both Windows and Mac. Get it here: balena.io/etcher. When Etcher is installed and running, you’ll see the UI displayed. Simply click the Select Image button and find the IMG file you unzipped earlier. Next, put your microSD card into your computer and select it in the middle column of the Etcher interface.
Finally, click on Flash!, and while the image is being burned onto the card, get your WiFi router details, as you’ll need them for the next step.
Now that you have your operating system, you’ll want to add your WiFi details so that the Raspberry Pi can automatically connect to your network after it’s booted. To do this, remove the microSD card from your computer (Etcher will have ‘ejected’ the card after it has finished burning the image onto it) and then plug it back in again. Navigate to the microSD card on your computer — it should now be called boot — and open the file called octopi-wpa-supplicant.txt. Editing this file using WordPad or TextEdit can cause formatting issues; we recommend using Notepad++ to update this file, but there are instructions within the file itself to mitigate formatting issues if you do choose to use another text editor. Find the section that begins ## WPA/WPA2 secured and remove the hash signs from the four lines below this one to uncomment them. Finally, replace the SSID value and the PSK value with the name and password for your WiFi network, respectively (keeping the quotation marks). See the example below for how this should look.
Further down in the file, there is a section for what country you are in. If you are using OctoPrint in the UK, leave this as is (by default, the UK is selected). However, if you wish to change this, simply comment the UK line again by adding a # before it, and uncomment whichever country you are setting up OctoPrint in. The example below shows how the file will look if you are setting this up for use in the US:
# Uncomment the country your Pi is in to activate Wifi in RaspberryPi 3 B+ and above
# For full list see: https://en.wikipedia.org/ wiki/ISO_3166-1_alpha-2
#country=GB # United Kingdom
#country=CA # Canada
#country=DE # Germany
#country=FR # France
country=US # United States
When the changes have been made, save the file and then eject/unmount and remove the microSD card from your computer and put it into your Raspberry Pi. Plug the power supply in, and go and make a cup of tea while it boots up for the first time (this may take around ten minutes). Make sure the Raspberry Pi is running as expected (i.e. check that the green status LED is flashing intermittently). If you’re using macOS, visit octopi.local in your browser of choice. If you’re using Windows, you can find OctoPrint by clicking on the Network tab in the sidebar. It should be called OctoPrint instance on octopi – double-clicking on this will open the OctoPrint dashboard in your browser.
If you see the screen shown above, then congratulations! You have set up OctoPrint.
Not seeing that OctoPrint splash screen? Fear not, you are not the first. While a full list of issues is beyond the scope of this article, common issues include: double-checking your WiFi details are entered correctly in the octopi-wpa-supplicant.txt file, ensuring your Raspberry Pi is working correctly (plug the Raspberry Pi into a monitor and watch what happens during boot), or your Raspberry Pi may be out of range of your WiFi router. There’s a detailed list of troubleshooting suggestions on the OctoPrint website.
Printing with OctoPrint
We now have the opportunity to set up OctoPrint for our printer using the handy wizard. Most of this is very straightforward — setting up a password, signing up to send anonymous usage stats, etc. — but there are a few sections which require a little more thought.
We recommend enabling the connectivity check and the plug-ins blacklist to help keep things nice and stable. If you plan on using OctoPrint as your slicer as well as a monitoring tool, then you can use this step to import a Cura profile. However, we recommend skipping this step as it’s much quicker (and you can use a slicer of your choice) to slice the model on your computer, and then send the finished G-code over.
Finally, we need to put in our printer details. Above, we’ve included some of the specs of the Creality Ender-3 as an example. If you can’t find the exact details of your printer, a quick web search should show what you need for this section.
The General tab can have anything in it, it’s just an identifier for your own use. Print bed & build volume should be easy to find out — if not, you can measure your print bed and find out the position of the origin by looking at your Cura printer profile. Leave Axes as default; for the Hotend and extruder section, defaults are almost certainly fine here (unless you’ve changed your nozzle; 0.4 is the default diameter for most consumer printers).
OctoPrint is better with a camera
Now that you’re set up with OctoPrint, you’re ready to start printing. Turn off your Raspberry Pi, then plug it into your 3D printer. After it has booted up, open OctoPrint again in your browser and take your newly WiFi-enabled printer for a spin by clicking the Connect button. After it has connected, you’ll be able to set the hot end and bed temperature, then watch as the real-time readings are updated.
In the Control tab, we can see the camera stream (if you’re using one) and the motor controls, as well as commands to home the axes. There’s a G-code file viewer to look through a cross-section of the currently loaded model, and a terminal to send custom G-code commands to your printer. The last tab is for making time-lapses; however, there is a plug-in available to help with this process.
Undoubtedly the easiest way to set up video monitoring of your prints is to use the official Raspberry Pi Camera Module. There are dozens of awesome mounts on Thingiverse for a Raspberry Pi Camera Module, to allow you to get the best angle of your models as they print. There are also some awesome OctoPrint-themed Raspberry Pi cases to house your new printer brains. While it isn’t officially supported by OctoPrint, you can use a USB webcam instead if you have one handy, or just want some very high-quality video streams. The OctoPrint wiki has a crowdsourced list of webcams known to work, as well as a link for the extra steps needed to get the webcam working correctly.
As mentioned earlier, our recommended way of printing a model using OctoPrint is to first use your slicer as you would if you were creating a file to save to a microSD card. Once you have the file, save it somewhere handy on your computer, and open the OctoPrint interface. In the bottom left of the screen, you will see the Upload File button — click this and upload the G-code you wish to print.
You’ll see the file/print details appear, including information on how long it’ll take for the object to print. Before you kick things off, check out the G-code Viewer tab on the right. You can not only scroll through the layers of the object, but, using the slider at the bottom, you can see the exact pattern the 3D printer will use to ‘draw’ each layer. Now click Print and watch your printer jump into action!
OctoPrint has scores of community-created plug-ins, but our favourite, Octolapse, makes beautiful hypnotic time-lapses. What makes them so special is that the plug-in alters the G-code of whatever object you are printing so that once each layer has finished, the extruder moves away from the print to let the camera take an unobstructed shot of the model. The result is an object that seems to grow out of the build plate as if by magic. You’ll not find a finer example of it than here.
3D Printing timelapses of models printed on the Prusa i3 MK3! Here’s another compilation of my recent timelapses. I got some shots that i think came out really great and i hope you enjoy them! as always if you want to see some of these timelapses before they come out or want to catch some behind the scenes action check out my instagram!
Thanks to Glenn and HackSpace magazine
This tutorial comes fresh from the pages of HackSpace magazine issue 26 and was written by Glenn Horan. Thanks, Glenn.
Turn your Christmas tree into a capacitive touch-interactive musical instrument using a Raspberry Pi and a Bare Conductive Pi Cap. You’ll be rocking around the Christmas tree in no time! /* Bare Conductive */ Pi Cap: https://www.bareconductive.com/shop/pi-cap/ Touch Board: https://www.bareconductive.com/shop/touch-board/ Code: https://github.com/BareConductive/picap-touch-mp3-py #RasberryPi #BareConductive #Christmas
Using the Bare Conductive Pi Cap, Davy Wybiral hooked up his fairy lights and baubles to a Raspberry Pi. The result? Musical baubles that allow the user to play their favourite festive classics at the touch of a finger. These baubles are fantastic, and it’s easy to make your own. Just watch the video for Davy’s how-to.
The code for Bare Conductive’s Pi Cap polyphonic touch MP3 utility can be found in this GitHub repo, and you can pick up a Pi Cap on the Bare Conductive website. Then all you need to do is hook up your favourite tree decorations to the Pi Cap via insulated wires, and you’re good to go. It’s OK if your decorations aren’t conductive: you’ll actually be touching the wires and not the ornaments themselves.
And don’t worry about touching the wires, it’s perfectly safe. But just in this instance. Please don’t make a habit of touching wires.
Make sure to subscribe to Davy on YouTube (we did) and give him a like for the baubles video. Also, leave a comment to tell him how great it is, because nice comments are lovely, and we should all be leaving as many of them as we can on the videos for our favourite creators.
Stuck for what to buy your friends and family this Christmas? Whether you’re looking to introduce someone to Raspberry Pi and coding, or trying to find the perfect gift for the tech-mad hobbyist in your life, our Christmas Shopping Guide 2019 will help you complete your shopping list. So, let’s get started…
The good ol’ Raspberry Pi
They’ve asked for a Raspberry Pi but not told you which one they want? You know they like coding but don’t know where to start? They’re an avid baker and you think they may have spelt ‘pie’ wrong on their Christmas list? No problem, we’ve got you sorted.
Raspberry Pi 4 Desktop Kit
With everything you need to get started using Raspberry Pi 4, the Raspberry Pi 4 Desktop Kit contains our official mouse, keyboard with an integrated USB hub, USB-C power adapter, case, two micro HDMI leads, our Beginner’s Guide and, of course, the 4GB Raspberry Pi 4. Available from our Approved Resellers and the Raspberry Pi Store, Cambridge, the Desktop Kit is the perfect gift for anyone who’s wanting to get started with coding and digital making, or who’s simply looking to upgrade their current home computer to a smaller, less power-hungry setup.
The smallest Raspberry Pi still packs a punch despite its size and price. For $10, Raspberry Pi Zero W is perfect for embedding into projects and, with onboard Bluetooth and wireless LAN, there are fewer cables to worry about. Buy a Raspberry Pi Zero W with or without pre-soldered header pins, and pop it in someone’s stocking this Christmas as a great maker surprise.
This isn’t just a book: it’s a book with a computer on the front. Getting Started with Raspberry Pi is a great gift for anyone curious about coding and, at £35, it’s a pretty affordable gift to give this festive season. Alongside the 116-page getting-started guide, the package also contains a Raspberry Pi 3A+, official case, and 16GB micro SD card pre-loaded with NOOBs. Raspberry Pi 3A+ can be powered with a good-quality micro USB phone charger, and it can be connected to any TV or computer display via standard HDMI. Grab a keyboard and mouse — you’ll be surprised how many people have a keyboard and mouse lying around — and you’re good to go!
A full range of all Raspberry Pi variants, official accessories, and add-ons can be found on our products page.
A Raspberry Pie
Don’t be lazy, make your own!
Raspberry Pi Press has released a small library’s worth of publications these last few months — have you ordered all your copies yet?
Pre-orders are now open for our glorious Code the Classics, so secure your copy now for the 13 December release date, with free UK shipping. And, while you’re on our Raspberry Pi Press page, check out our latest range of publications to suit all techy interests: Retro Gaming with Raspberry Pi will show the budding gamer in your life how to build their own Raspberry Pi retro arcade to play their Code the Classics favourites on, while Book of Making 2 and Raspberry Pi Projects Book 5 will inspire them to make all manner of amazing projects, from electronics and woodworking to crafts and rockets.
Everyone needs a Babbage Bear. Your new Babs will come complete with their own Raspberry Pi-branded shirt. And, with some felt, stuffing, and a stapler, you can make them as festive as ours in no time!
This newest iteration of The Pi Hut 3D Xmas Tree includes programmable RGB LEDs! Simply detach the two halves of the tree from their frame, slot them together, and place them onto the GPIO pins of your Raspberry Pi. With the provided libraries of code, the tree will be lit up and merry before you know it.
Full instructions are provided with the kit, and are also available online. Buy the kit pre-soldered or loose, depending on your giftee’s soldering skills.
Visit the websites of all our Approved Resellers for more great Raspberry Pi gifts. Find your local Approved Reseller by selecting your country from the dropdown menu on any Raspberry Pi Products page.
Fill their maker kit this festive season, with a whole host of great components and tools. A soldering iron is a great way for coders to start bringing their projects out into the real world, allowing them to permanently add sensors, lights, buttons, etc. to their Raspberry Pi. They’ll also need one if they want to add header pins to the $5 Raspberry Pi Zero and $10 Raspberry Pi Zero W.
You can never have enough LEDs. Available in a variety of sizes and colours, you can find packs of LEDs online or in your local electronics store.
Never underestimate the importance of a cutting mat. Not only will it save your tabletop from craft knife cuts and soldering iron burns, but they also look great in photos for when its time to show of their latest project!
If you plan on making online purchases via Amazon, please consider selecting the Raspberry Pi Foundation via Amazon Smile! Your items will still be the same cost to you, but Amazon will donate a portion of the purchase price to help us continue to make free computer science education available to adults and young people everywhere.
For those of you based elsewhere, we’re pretty sure that you just need to add smile. before amazon in the Amazon web address you use in your country, so give that a try. If that doesn’t work, try searching for Amazon Smile via your prefered search engine.
Our gift to you
We wanted to give you a gift this festive season, so we asked the incredibly talented Sam Alder to design an illustration for you to print or use as your desktop wallpaper.
The poster is completely free for you to use and can be opened by clicking on the image above. We just ask that you don’t sell it, print it onto a t-shirt or mug, tattoo it onto your body, or manipulate it. But do feel free to print it as a poster for your home, classroom, or office, or to upload it as your computer wallpaper. And, when you do, be sure to take a photo and share it with us on social media.
You can now install and use Scratch 3 Desktop for Raspbian on your Raspberry Pi!
Scratch 3 was released in January this year, and since then we and the Scratch team have put lots of work into creating an offline version for Raspberry Pi.
The new version of Scratch has a significantly improved interface and better functionality compared to previous versions. These improvements come at the cost of needing more processing power to run. Luckily, Raspberry Pi 4 has delivered just that, and with the software improvements in the newest version of Raspbian, Buster, we can now deliver a reliable Scratch 3 experience on our computer.
Which Raspberry Pi can I use?
Scratch 3 needs at least 1GB of RAM to run, and we recommend a Raspberry Pi 4 with 2GB+ RAM. While you can run Scratch 3 on a Raspberry Pi 2, 3, 3B+, or a Raspberry 4 with 1GB RAM, performance on these models is reduced, and depending on what other software you run at the same time, Scratch 3 may fail to start due to lack of memory.
The Scratch team is working to reduce the memory requirements of Scratch 3, so we will hopefully see improvements to this soon.
How to install Scratch 3
You can only install Scratch 3 on Raspbian Buster.
First, update Raspbian!
If you’ve yet to upgrade to Raspbian Buster, we recommend installing a fresh version of Buster onto your SD card instead of upgrading from your current version of Raspbian.
If you’re already using Raspbian Buster, but you’re not sure your running the latest version, update Buster by following this tutorial:
How to update to the latest version of Raspbian on your Raspberry Pi.
Once you’re running the latest version of Buster, you can install Scratch 3 either using the Recommended Software application or apt on the terminal.
How to install Scratch 3 using the Recommended Software app
Open up the menu, click on Preferences >Recommended Software, and then select Scratch 3 and click on OK.
How to install Scratch 3 using the terminal
Open a terminal window, and type in and run the following commands:
sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install scratch3
What can I do with Scratch 3 and Raspberry Pi?
Scratch 3 Desktop for Raspbian comes with new extensions to allow you to control the GPIO pins and Sense HAT with Scratch code!
GPIO extension is a replacement for the existing extension in Scratch 2. Its layout and functionality is very similar, so you can use it as a drop-in replacement.
The GPIO extension gives you the flexibility to connect and control a whole host of electronic devices.
Simple Electronics extension
If you are looking to add something simple, like an LED or button controller for a game, you should find the new Simple Electronics extension easier to use than the GPIO extension. The Simple Electronics extension is the first version of a beginner-friendly extension for interacting with Raspberry Pi’s GPIO pins. Taking lessons from the implementation of gpiozero for Python, this new extension provides a simpler way of using electronic components: currently buttons and LEDs.
In this example, an LED connected to GPIO pin 17 is controlled by a button connected between pin 2 and GND.
Sense HAT extension
We’ve improved the Sense HAT extension to take advantage of new features in Scratch 3, and the updated version of the extension also introduces a number of new blocks to allow you to:
Sense tilting, shaking, and orientation
Use the joystick
Measure temperature, pressure, and humidity
Display text, characters, and patterns on the LED matrix
micro:bit and LEGO extensions
The micro:bit and LEGO extensions will become available later on Scratch 3 Desktop. This is because Scratch Link, the software which allows Scratch to talk to Bluetooth devices, is not yet available for Linux-type operating systems like Raspbian. A version of Scratch Link for Raspbian is part of our plans but, as yet, we don’t have a release date.
A round of thanks
It has been a long ambition of both the Scratch and Raspberry Pi teams to have Scratch 3 running on Raspberry Pi, and it’s amazing to see it released!
A big thank you to Raspberry Pi engineer Simon Long for building and packaging Scratch 3, and to the Scratch team for their support in getting over some of the problems we faced along the way.
Here at Pi Towers, we have a love/hate relationship with the Star Wars creatures known as Porgs. Love, because anything cute and annoying will instantly get our attention; hate, primarily because of this GIF:
So when hackster.io tweeted about the following project, you can imagine the unfiltered excitement and fear with which I shared the link in the comms team Slack channel.
It looked a little something like this:
Google AIY Projects Kit
When we announced the Google AIY Projects Kit as a freebie included in issue 57 of The MagPi, I don’t think we realised how well it would do. OK, no, we knew it would do well. After we gave away a free $5 computer on the front cover of issue 40, we knew giving tech away with The MagPi would always do well. But the wave of projects and applications that started on the day of the release was a wonderful surprise, as community members across the world immediately began to implement voice control in their builds.
And now, twenty months later, we’re still seeing some wonderful applications of the kit, including this glorious Porg project.
Learn Spanish with a Porg — because of course
Hackster.io user Paul Trebilcox-Ruiz shared his Translation Toy project on the site yesterday, providing a step-by-step guide to hacking the motors of the Star Wars Porg toy so that it moves in time with verbal responses from the AIY kit. It’s all rather nifty, and apart from a Raspberry Pi you only need some wires and a soldering iron to complete the project yourself.
…some wires, a soldering iron, and the cold-heartedness to pull apart the innards of a stuffed toy, Paul, you monster!
As soon as Paul realised that the Porg’s motors would run if he simply applied voltage, he extended the wires inside the Porg with the help of jumper leads and so attached the Porg to the GPIO pins on his Raspberry Pi.
For this setup, I hooked the two speaker wires from the Porg into the speaker connectors on the HAT, the button wires into the GPIO pin 24 and ground connectors under the ‘Servos’ heading, and for the motors I needed to hook up a relay for a 5V connection driven by the signal off of GPIO pin 26. The microphone that came with the AIY Voice Projects Kit was attached to the board using the pre-defined mic connector.
Then Paul wrote code that uses the AIY kit to translate any voice command it hears into Spanish.
Porgs are now part of the Star Wars universe for better or worse thanks to director Rian Johnson. How do you feel about the tasty critters? Thanks for watching
Porgs were introduced into the Star Wars universe as a means of hiding the many puffins that traipse the landscape of Skellig Michael, the location used for filming Luke Skywalker’s home, Ahch-To. Bless you.
A group of Porgs is called a murder.
A baby Porg is called a Porglet.
And no, you can’t get a physical copy of The MagPi issue 40 or issue 57. They’re gone now. Done. Forever. But you can still download the PDFs.
Steam Link, for the uninitiated, is a service that allowed users of the digital distribution platform Steam to stream video games from their PC to a display of choice — without the need to weave a mile-long HDMI cable between rooms and furniture to connect computer and television.
The original Steam Link
Up until now, if Steam users wanted to stream games to other displays, they had to do so with Valve’s own Steam Link device — a small black box available for purchase on the Valve website — and the device did pretty well. But with the new Steam Link app for Raspberry Pi, any Pi owner can get up and running with Steam Link using one single line of code.
And that’s all sorts of convenient!
Trying out Steam Link for ourselves
We didn’t just want to put out a blog post to let you folks know that the app’s beta version is now live. Instead, we wanted to collar one of our own to try the new app out at home and let us know exactly what they think. And since we knew that Simon, our Asset Management Assistant Keeper of the Swag, Organiser of the Stuff, Lord Commander of the Things, had a Steam Link at home, it made sense to ask him nicely to give the app a try over the weekend.
And he did, because Simon =
One line of code later…
It took Simon all of five minutes to get Steam Link up and running on his TV. He even went so far as to copy and paste the short line of code via a Chromium search for the announcement, instead of typing it in for himself.
And then Simon just had to sign into his Steam account and boom, Bob’s your uncle, Sally’s your aunt, the process was complete.
“Took less than five minutes before I was investigating strange cults from the comfort of my sofa,” explained Simon, as we all nodded, inwardly judging him a little for his game of choice. But in case you’re interested, Cultist Simulator is made by Factory Weather, and there are currently some photos of a tiny kitten on their homepage, so go check it out.
Let us know if you’ve tried the Steam Link app on Raspberry Pi, and what you think of it. Oh, and what games you’re playing on it, especially if they include Cultist Simulator.
And to make your Steam Link setup process easier, type rpf.io/steamlinkblog into your Chromium browser on your Raspberry Pi to open this blog post, and then copy and paste the following into a terminal window to run install the app:
Looking for this year’s perfect something to put under the tree ‘from Santa’? Well, look no further than right here — it’s time for our traditional Christmas shopping list!
Which Raspberry Pi?
As you are no doubt aware, the Raspberry Pi comes in more than one variety. And if you’re planning to give a Pi as a gift to a first-time user, you may be confused as to which one you should buy.
Raspberry Pi 3B+
For someone learning to write code for the first time, we recommend the Raspberry Pi 3B+. Anyone living in a home with an HDMI display, such as a computer monitor or television, will be able to plug directly into the 3B+, and in case they don’t already have a standard USB mouse and keyboard, these can both easily be acquired online, in many charity shops, or by sweet-talking a friend/neighbour/employer. You can even find some great Raspberry Pi starter kits that include many of the items needed to get started.
Raspberry Pi Zero W
The Raspberry Pi Zero W comes at a lower price, and with it, a smaller footprint than the 3B+. This makes the tiny Pi the perfect addition to any creator’s toolkit, ideal for projects that run on a Pi long-term, such as display builds, robots, or near-space HABs.
Pre-loaded micro SD card
Whatever Raspberry Pi you choose for the lucky receiver of your Christmas gift, we also recommend getting them a pre-loaded micro SD card. While it’s really easy to flash an operating system image onto one of the dusty old micro SD cards you have lurking in a drawer, pre-loaded cards allow new Pi owners to plug in and get started right off the bat. Plus, the ones with our operating system Raspbian on come in rather fancy, logo-adorned SD adapters. And who doesn’t like a rather fancy, logo-adorned SD adapter?
Books, books, books
We’re releasing two new books this week that are perfect for any Christmas stocking!
Code Club Book of Scratch Volume 1
The Code Club team is buzzing over the release of the first Code Club book, available to buy from Friday. Primarily aimed at learners aged 9–13, the book focuses on teaching the Scratch programming language, and it’s jam-packed with fun projects, tips, and stickers. The book also comes with a pair of super-special computer science glasses that allow you to see secret hints hidden throughout the book. Very, very cool.
And since Scratch is pre-installed on Raspbian, the Code Club Book of Scratch is the perfect accompaniment to that Raspberry Pi you’re planning to get for the young person in your life!
The Official Raspberry Pi Beginner’s Guide
From setting up a Raspberry Pi to using Scratch and Python to create games and animations, the hot-off-the-press Official Raspberry Pi Beginner’s Guide has everything your loved one needs to get started and keep going.
And when we say ‘ hot-off-the-press’, we mean it — we only released the book this week!
Both the Raspberry Pi Beginner’s Guide and the Code Club Book of Scratch are available with free international shipping. And if you’d like to give either of them a ‘try before you buy’ test drive, they should both available soon as free PDFs for you to download and peruse at your leisure.
Alongside our books, we have an array of magazines, including the brand-new, twice-monthly, video game–focused Wireframe! As with the books, you can download all issues of our magazines for a test read before you commit to a subscription.
Twelve-month print subscriptions to HackSpace magazine or The MagPi will reward you with a technical treat: an Adafruit Circuit Playground or a Raspberry Pi 3A+.
So not only can you give a gift that will last the entirety of 2019, but you’ll also automatically provide your favourite creative person with something rather lovely to play with when they receive their first issue.
So many choices, so many ways to make the creators and tech fans in your life happy this holiday season.
Accessories and such
Maybe the person you’re shopping for already has every Raspberry Pi on the market. And as for our publications, their mailbox is full of magazines and books every week, and their smartphone and tablets are crammed with every PDF we’ve ever produced. So what next?
What do you buy the Raspberry Pi fan who has all the Pis? Swag, of course!
Whether it’s a HAT (Hardware Attached on Top) for the Raspberry Pi, or a full kit to make something rather spectacular, our Approved Resellers stock all manner of Pi add-ons.
You can find your nearest Raspberry Pi Approved Reseller by clicking on any item on our products page and then selecting your country.
This isn’t all!
We’ve been putting together a Raspberry Pi shopping list every year in response to the message we receive from you asking for gift ideas. So why not have a look back at our previous lists to get more inspiration for what to give, including more books, toolkit staples, non-Pi tech bits, and, of course, LEGO.
A few Mondays ago, the Raspberry Pi North America team visited a very special, Raspberry Pi–powered Escape Room in San Francisco. Run by Palace Games, the Edison Escape Room is an immersive experience full of lights, sensors, and plenty of surprises. This is the team’s story of how they entered, explored, and ultimately escaped this room.
At World Maker Faire this year, our very own social media star Alex Bate met Jordan Bunker, one of the Production Artists at Palace Games. Emails were sent, dates arranges, and boom, the Raspberry Pi North America team had to face the Edison Escape Room!
In case you’re not familiar, an escape room is a physical adventure game in which players solve a series of puzzles and riddles using clues, logic, and strategy to complete the game’s objectives. Many escape room designers use physical computing to control the many sensors and triggers involved in the player experience.
The team vs Edison
Upon entering the Edison Escape Room, my team and I quickly realized that we were within a complex system built like a giant computer! So even though it was our first-ever time in an escape room, that would not be a disadvantage for us.
Our goal was to accomplish a variety of tasks, including solving many puzzles, looking for hidden clues when anything could be a clue, completing circuits, moving with the floor, and getting a bit of a workout.
The true test, however, was how well we communicated and worked with each other — which we did an awesome job at: at times we split up the work to effectively figure out the many different puzzles and clues; there was a lot “try it this way”, “maybe it means this”, and “what if it’s supposed to go that way” being yelled across the room. Everyone had their Edison thinking hat on that day, and we were so ecstatic when we completed the last challenge and finally escaped!
The inner workings
After escaping the room, we got the chance to explore behind the scenes. We found a local network of many Raspberry Pis that are coordinated by a central Raspberry Pi server. The Python Banyan framework is the connective tissue between the Raspberry Pis and their attached components.
The framework facilitates the communication between the Pis and the central server via Ethernet. The Raspberry Pis are used to read various types of sensors and to drive actuators that control lights, open doors, or play back media. And Raspberry Pis also drive the control panels that employees use to enter settings and keep tabs on the game.
“Raspberry Pi keeps us going. It’s the heart and soul of our rooms.” – Elizabeth Sonder, Design Engineer & Production Manager
We highly recommend heading over to Palace Games and exploring one of their many escape rooms. It’s a great team-building exercise and definitely allows you to learn a lot about the people you work with. Thank you to the Palace Games team for hosting us, and we hope to return and escape one of their rooms again soon!
Marcos Navas is a Union City Technology Facilitator with Union City school district in New Jersey and an active member of the maker, STEM, and coding communities. He was part of the first cohort of Raspberry Pi Certified Educators in the United States. Recently, he completed a fellowship with IDEO’s Teachers Guild and launched Hands-on Coding, a company that makes physical coding blocks for learners. Hands-On Coding blocks allow students to physically build computer programs and act out their code in the real world. They turn the human into a computer and teach children not only how to solve problems, but also how to express themselves.
In this blog post, Marcos shares how his experience at Picademy helped him successfully combine his skills as a teacher with an entrepreneurial drive.
At Picademy North America
The day before my flight to San Jose Airport to the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, I was busy in my garage makerspace. It’s strange when and how inspiration strikes, but it did — at 1am while I was preparing for Picademy. While looking at the Raspberry Pi and all the coding languages, I began thinking, “Wouldn’t it be cool if I could hold the code in my hands and manipulate it?” So I began tinkering with the 3D printer and created a repeat block — and that’s how the story of Hands-On Coding begins.
The following day, I was part of the first cohort of Raspberry Pi Certified Educators (RCEs) in America. I walked into a room full of innovative and creative teachers from all over the country. Over the next two days, we were introduced to the world of Raspberry Pi and the coding basics we needed to create our first project. It was here that I understood the power of coding and how it is the language of the future. I truly believed then — and now! — how impactful coding could be if integrated into schools.
With so many talented people in attendance, I decided to share my 3D-printed coding blocks. After receiving many “oohs” and “aahs” from my peers along with several order requests, I realized that my idea could turn into something much bigger!
FAIL: First Attempt In Learning
One of the major takeaways from Picademy was Carrie Anne Philbin’s intro slide titled “FAIL: First Attempt In Learning.” But, for me, the word ‘fail’ turned into ‘fear’: being new to coding and the Raspberry Pi was daunting. Through persistence, though, I embraced growth, and worked my way out of those fears; I began to gain more confidence, which led to new ideas and experiences. And I learned that changing my perspective on failure was the key to embracing it. Some time after Picademy, this same message was repeated to me by Reshma Suajani, founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, who saw my coding blocks and said: “Don’t let the fear of failure get in your way.” So I let failure drive me instead.
Hands-On Coding blocks
After Picademy, I met with Sam Patterson, another amazing RCE, at his local makerspace. During our conversation, I handed him one of my first coding block prototypes and asked for his thoughts. His words got me thinking about kinesthetic coding and the physical movements of acting out code to build understanding.
Two years later, in July 2018, after developing partnerships, distribution channels, and a fantastic shipping department (me), we delivered our first Hands-On Coding blocks! Hands-On Coding now consists of me and my partners Laura Fleming and Joann Presby, and our goal is to revolutionize coding by making it a more physical and tangible educational idea open to various types of learners. We hope to teach the fundamentals of computational thinking and computer science through the use of blocks and the absence of any technological device; you don’t need to learn coding in front of a screen. Our endgame is to help humanity learn to design solutions to problems in our world.
My experience at Picademy was just the start of my journey. I not only gained an understanding of the importance of coding in education and the versatility of the Raspberry Pi computer, but also grew out my shell and gained the confidence I needed to put ideas into actions. I became a TED Innovative Educator and an IDEO Teachers Guild Fellow, I launched Hands-on Coding, and I created numerous relationships and ambassadorships with an array of edtech companies. I understood that just because I am an educator or teacher that doesn’t mean I can’t follow my own dreams and aspirations and be a teacherpreneur! I do not have any secrets or magic to this process. Rather, a dream, action, and hard work can lead you to many worlds of possibilities.
Picademy and online training
Keep up to date with Picademy, including the release of 2019 dates, by following the #Picademy hashtag on Twitter. You’ll also find more information on our Picademy page.
Our free online training courses offer another way to learn about introducing coding into the classroom, and much more. And you can discover more stories and support from educators like Marcos in Hello World, the computing and digital making magazine for educators, which is available for free.
A Raspberry Pi–powered arcade display with hidden interactive controls won over the crowds at Gamescom. Rosie Hattersley and Rob Zwetsloot got the inside scoop.
Pixel Maniacs is a Nuremberg-based games maker that started out making mobile apps. These days it specialises in games for PC, Xbox One, PlayStation, and Nintendo Switch. You Can’t Drive is its first foray into gaming with a Raspberry Pi.
If you’re going to add a little something extra to wow the crowd at the Gamescom video games trade fair, a Raspberry Pi is a surefire way of getting you noticed. And that’s the way Pixel Maniacs went about it.
The Nuremberg-based games developer retrofitted an arcade machine with a Raspberry Pi to showcase its intentionally silly Can’t Drive This precarious driving game at Gamescom.
This two-player co-operative game involves one player building the track while the other drives along it.
Complete with wrecking balls, explosions, an inconvenient number of walls, and the jeopardy of having to construct your road as you negotiate your way, at speed, across an ocean to the relative safety of the next lump of land, Can’t Drive This is a fast‑paced racing game.
Pixel Maniacs then took things up a notch by providing interactive elements, building a mock 4D arcade game (so-named because they feature interactive elements such as motion cabinets). The fourth dimension, in this case, saw the inclusion of a water spray, fan, and console lights. For its Gamescom debut, Pixel Maniacs presented Can’t Drive This in a retro arcade cabinet, where hordes of gaming fans gathered round its four-way split screen to enjoy the action.
Getting to the heart of the matter and replacing the original 1980s kit with modern-day processors and Pi-powered additions
Adding Raspberry Pi gaming to the mix was about aiding the game development process as much as anything. Andy Holtz, Pixel Maniacs’ software engineer, told The MagPi that the team wanted an LED matrix with 256 RGB LEDs to render sprite-sheet animations. “We knew we needed a powerful machine with enough RAM, and a huge community, to get the scripts running.”
Pixel Maniacs’ offices have several Raspberry Pi–controlled monitors and a soundboard, so the team knew the Pi’s potential.
The schematic for the 4D arcade machine, showing the importance of the Raspberry Pi as a controller.
The arcade version of the game runs off a gaming laptop cunningly hidden within the walls of the cabinet, while the Raspberry Pi delivers the game’s surprise elements such as an unexpected blast from a water spray. A fan can be triggered to simulate stormy weather, and lights start flashing crazily when the cars crash. Holtz explains that the laptop “constantly sends information about the game’s state to the Raspberry Pi, via a USB UART controller. The Pi reads these state messages, converts them, and sends according commands to the fans, water nozzle, camera, and the LED light matrix. So when players drive through water, the PC sends the info to the Pi, and [the latter] turns on the nozzle, spraying them.”
Having played your heart out, you get a photo-booth-style shot of you in full-on gaming action.
The arcade idea came about when Pixel Maniacs visited the offices of German gaming magazine M! Games and spied an abandoned, out-of-order 1980s arcade machine lurking unloved in a corner. Pixel Maniacs set about rejuvenating it, Da Doo Ron Ron soundtrack and all.
Ideas are one thing; standing up to the rigours of a full weekend’s uninterrupted gameplay at the world’s biggest games meet is something else. Holtz tells us, “The Raspberry Pi performed like a beast throughout the entire time. Gamescom was open from 9am till 8pm, so it had to run for eleven hours straight, without overheating or crashing. Fortunately, it did. None of the peripherals connected to the Pi had any problems, and we did not have a single crash.”
A Raspberry Pi 3B+ was used to trigger the water spray, lights, and fans, bringing an extra element to the gameplay, as well as rendering the arcade machine’s graphics.
Fans were enthusiastic too, with uniformly positive feedback, and one Gamescom attendee attempting to buy the arcade version there and then. As Andy Holtz says, though, you don’t sell your baby. Instead, Pixel Maniacs is demoing it at games conventions in Germany this autumn, before launching Can’t Drive This across gaming platforms at the end of the year.
This article was printed in The MagPi issue 75. Get your copy of The MagPi in stores now, or download it as a free PDF here.
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