Author Archives: Janina Ander

Matt’s steampunk radio jukebox

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Matt Van Gastel breathed new life into his great-grandparents’ 1930s Westinghouse with a Raspberry Pi, an amplifier HAT, Google Music, and some serious effort. The result is a really beautiful, striking piece.

Matt Van Gastel Steampunk Radio Raspberry Pi

The radio

With a background in radio electronics, Matt Van Gastel had always planned to restore his great-grandparents’ mid-30s Westinghouse radio. “I even found the original schematics glued to the bottom of the base of the main electronics assembly,” he explains in his Instructables walkthrough. However, considering the age of the piece and the cost of sourcing parts for a repair, he decided to take the project in a slightly different direction.

“I pulled the main electronics assembly out quite easily, it was held in by four flat head screws […] I decided to make a Steampunk themed Jukebox based off this main assembly and power it with a Raspberry Pi,” he writes.

The build

Matt added JustBoom’s Amp HAT to a Raspberry Pi 3 to boost the sound quality and functionality of the board.

He spent a weekend prototyping and testing the electronics before deciding on his final layout. After a little time playing around with different software, Matt chose Mopidy, a flexible music server written in Python. Mopidy lets him connect to his music-streaming service of choice, Google Music, and also allows airplay connectivity for other wireless devices.

Stripping out the old electronics from inside the Westinghouse radio easily made enough space for Matt’s new, much smaller, setup. Reserving various pieces for the final build, and scrubbing the entire unit to within an inch of its life with soap and water, he moved on to the aesthetics of the piece.

The steampunk

LED Nixie tubes, a 1950s DC voltmeter, and spray paint all contributed to the final look of the radio. It has a splendid steampunk look that works wonderfully with the vintage of the original radio.

Retrofit and steampunk Raspberry Pi builds

From old pub jukeboxes to Bakelite kitchen radios, we’ve seen lots of retrofit audio visual Pi projects over the years, with all kinds of functionality and in all sorts of styles.

Americana – does exactly what it says on the tin jukebox

For more steampunk inspiration, check out phrazelle’s laptop and Derek Woodroffe’s tentacle hat. And for more audiophile builds, Tijuana Rick’s 60s Wurlitzer and Steve Devlin’s 50s wallbox are stand-out examples.

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A Raspberry Pi Halloween projects spectacular

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Come with us on a journey to discover the 2017 Raspberry Pi Halloween projects that caught our eye, raised our hair, or sent us screaming into the night.

A clip of someone being pulled towards a trap door by hands reaching up from it - Raspberry Pi Halloween projects

Happy Halloween

Whether you’re easily scared or practically unshakeable, you can celebrate Halloween with Pi projects of any level of creepiness.

Even makers of a delicate constitution will enjoy making this Code Club Ghostbusters game, or building an interactive board game using Halloween lights with this MagPi tutorial by Mike Cook. And how about a wearable, cheerily LED-enhanced pumpkin created with the help of this CoderDojo resource? Cute, no?

Felt pumpkin with blinking LED smiley face - Raspberry Pi Halloween projects

Speaking of wearables, Derek Woodroffe’s be-tentacled hat may writhe disconcertingly, but at least it won’t reach out for you. Although, you could make it do that, if you were a terrible person.

Slightly queasy Halloween

Your decorations don’t have to be terrifying: this carved Pumpkin Pi and the Poplawskis’ Halloween decorations are controlled remotely via the web, but they’re more likely to give you happy goosebumps than cold sweats.

A clip of blinking Halloween decorations covering a house - Raspberry Pi Halloween projects

The Snake Eyes Bonnet pumpkin and the monster-face projection controlled by Pis that we showed you in our Halloween Twitter round-up look fairly friendly. Even the 3D-printed jack-o’-lantern by wermy, creator of mintyPi, is kind of adorable, if you ignore the teeth. And who knows, that AlexaPi-powered talking skull that’s staring at you could be an affable fellow who just fancies a chat, right? Right?

Horror-struck Halloween

OK, fine. You’re after something properly frightening. How about the haunted magic mirror by Kapitein Haak, or this one, with added Philips Hue effects, by Ben Eagan. As if your face first thing in the morning wasn’t shocking enough.

Haunted magic mirror demonstration - Raspberry Pi Halloween projects

If you find those rigid-faced, bow-lipped, plastic dolls more sinister than sweet – and you’re right to do so: they’re horrible – you won’t like this evil toy. Possessed by an unquiet shade, it’s straight out of my nightmares.

Earlier this month we covered Adafruit’s haunted portrait how-to. This build by Dominick Marino takes that concept to new, terrifying, heights.

Haunted portrait project demo - Raspberry Pi Halloween projects

Why not add some motion-triggered ghost projections to your Halloween setup? They’ll go nicely with the face-tracking, self-winding, hair-raising jack-in-the-box you can make thanks to Sean Hodgins’ YouTube tutorial.

And then, last of all, there’s this.

The Saw franchise's Billy the puppet on a tricycle - Raspberry Pi Halloween projects

NO.

This recreation of Billy the Puppet from the Saw franchise is Pi-powered, it’s mobile, and it talks. You can remotely control it, and I am not even remotely OK with it. That being said, if you’re keen to have one of your own, be my guest. Just follow the guide on Instructables. It’s your funeral.

Make your Halloween

It’s been a great year for scary Raspberry Pi makes, and we hope you have a blast using your Pi to get into the Halloween spirit.

And speaking of spirits, Matt Reed of RedPepper has created a Pi-based ghost detector! It uses Google’s Speech Neural Network AI to listen for voices in the ether, and it’s live-streaming tonight. Perfect for watching while you’re waiting for the trick-or-treaters to show up.

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Derek Woodroffe’s steampunk tentacle hat

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Halloween: that glorious time of year when you’re officially allowed to make your friends jump out of their skin with your pranks. For those among us who enjoy dressing up, Halloween is also the occasion to go all out with costumes. And so, dear reader, we present to you: a steampunk tentacle hat, created by Derek Woodroffe.

Finished Tenticle hat

Finished Tenticle hat

Extreme Electronics

Derek is an engineer who loves all things electronics. He’s part of Extreme Kits, and he runs the website Extreme Electronics. Raspberry Pi Zero-controlled Tesla coils are Derek’s speciality — he’s even been on one of the Royal Institution’s Christmas Lectures with them! Skip ahead to 15:06 in this video to see Derek in action:

Let There Be Light! // 2016 CHRISTMAS LECTURES with Saiful Islam – Lecture 1

The first Lecture from Professor Saiful Islam’s 2016 series of CHRISTMAS LECTURES, ‘Supercharged: Fuelling the future’. Watch all three Lectures here: http://richannel.org/christmas-lectures 2016 marked the 80th anniversary since the BBC first broadcast the Christmas Lectures on TV. To celebrate, chemist Professor Saiful Islam explores a subject that the lectures’ founder – Michael Faraday – addressed in the very first Christmas Lectures – energy.

Wearables

Wearables are electronically augmented items you can wear. They might take the form of spy eyeglasses, clothes with integrated sensors, or, in this case, headgear adorned with mechanised tentacles.

Why did Derek make this? We’re not entirely sure, but we suspect he’s a fan of the Cthulu mythos. In any case, we were a little astounded by his project. This is how we reacted when Derek tweeted us about it:

Raspberry Pi on Twitter

@ExtElec @extkits This is beyond incredible and completely unexpected.

In fact, we had to recover from a fit of laughter before we actually managed to type this answer.

Making a steampunk tentacle hat

Derek made the ‘skeleton’ of each tentacle out of a net curtain spring, acrylic rings, and four lengths of fishing line. Two servomotors connect to two ends of fishing line each, and pull them to move the tentacle.

net curtain spring and acrylic rings forming a mechanic tentacle skeleton - steampunk tentacle hat by Derek Woodroffe Two servos connecting to lengths of fishing line - steampunk tentacle hat by Derek Woodroffe

Then he covered the tentacles with nylon stockings and liquid latex, glued suckers cut out of MDF onto them, and mounted them on an acrylic base. The eight motors connect to a Raspberry Pi via an I2C 8-port PWM controller board.

artificial tentacles - steampunk tentacle hat by Derek Woodroffe 8 servomotors connected to a controller board and a raspberry pi- steampunk tentacle hat by Derek Woodroffe

The Pi makes the servos pull the tentacles so that they move in sine waves in both the x and y directions, seemingly of their own accord. Derek cut open the top of a hat to insert the mounted tentacles, and he used more liquid latex to give the whole thing a slimy-looking finish.

steampunk tentacle hat by Derek Woodroffe

Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn!

You can read more about Derek’s steampunk tentacle hat here. He will be at the Beeston Raspberry Jam in November to show off his build, so if you’re in the Nottingham area, why not drop by?

Wearables for Halloween

This build is already pretty creepy, but just imagine it with a sensor- or camera-powered upgrade that makes the tentacles reach for people nearby. You’d have nightmare fodder for weeks.

With the help of the Raspberry Pi, any Halloween costume can be taken to the next level. How could Pi technology help you to win that coveted ‘Scariest costume’ prize this year? Tell us your ideas in the comments, and be sure to share pictures of you in your get-up with us on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

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Manufacturing Astro Pi case replicas

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Tim Rowledge produces and sells wonderful replicas of the cases which our Astro Pis live in aboard the International Space Station. Here is the story of how he came to do this. Over to you, Tim!

When the Astro Pi case was first revealed a couple of years ago, the collective outpouring of ‘Squee!’ it elicited may have been heard on board the ISS itself. People wanted to buy it or build it at home, and someone wanted to know whether it would blend. (There’s always one.)

The complete Astro Pi

The Sense HAT and its Pi tucked snugly in the original Astro Pi flight case — gorgeous, isn’t it?

Replicating the Astro Pi case

Some months later the STL files for printing your own Astro Pi case were released, and people jumped at the chance to use them. Soon reports appeared saying you had to make quite a few attempts before getting a good print — normal for any complex 3D-printing project. A fellow member of my local makerspace successfully made a couple of cases, but it took a lot of time, filament, and post-print finishing work. And of course, a plastic Astro Pi case simply doesn’t look or feel like the original made of machined aluminium — or ‘aluminum’, as they tend to say over here in North America.

Batch of tops of Astro Pi case replicas by Tim Rowledge

A batch of tops designed by Tim

I wanted to build an Astro Pi case which would more closely match the original. Fortunately, someone else at my makerspace happens to have some serious CNC machining equipment at his small manufacturing company. Therefore, I focused on creating a case design that could be produced with his three-axis device. This meant simplifying some parts to avoid expensive, slow, complex multi-fixture work. It took us a while, but we ended up with a design we can efficiently make using his machine.

Lasered Astro Pi case replica by Tim Rowledge

Tim’s first lasered case

And the resulting case looks really, really like the original — in fact, upon receiving one of the final prototypes, Eben commented:

“I have to say, at first glance they look spectacular: unless you hold them side by side with the originals, it’s hard to pinpoint what’s changed. I’m looking forward to seeing one built up and then seeing them in the wild.”

Inside the Astro Pi case

Making just the bare case is nice, but there are other parts required to recreate a complete Astro Pi unit. Thus I got my local electronics company to design a small HAT to provide much the same support the mezzanine board offers: an RTC and nice, clean connections to the six buttons. We also added well-labelled, grouped pads for all the other GPIO lines, along with space for an ADC. If you’re making your own Astro Pi replica, you might like the Switchboard.

The electronics supply industry just loves to offer *some* of what you need, so that one supplier never has everything: we had to obtain the required stand-offs, screws, spacers, and JST wires from assorted other sources. Jeff at my nearby Industrial Paint & Plastics took on the laser engraving of our cases, leaving out copyrighted logos etcetera.

Lasering the top of an Astro Pi case replica by Tim Rowledge

Lasering the top of a case

Get your own Astro Pi case

Should you like to buy one of our Astro Pi case kits, pop over to www.astropicase.com, and we’ll get it on its way to you pronto. If you’re an institutional or corporate customer, the fully built option might make more sense for you — ordering the Pi and other components, and having a staff member assemble it all, may well be more work than is sensible.

Astro Pi case replica Tim Rowledge

Tim’s first full Astro Pi case replica, complete with shiny APEM buttons

To put the kit together yourself, all you need to do is add a Pi, Sense HAT, Camera Module, and RTC battery, and choose your buttons. An illustrated manual explains the process step by step. Our version of the Astro Pi case uses the same APEM buttons as the units in orbit, and whilst they are expensive, just clicking them is a source of great joy. It comes in a nice travel case too.

Tim Rowledge holding up a PCB

This is Tim. Thanks, Tim!

Take part in Astro Pi

If having an Astro Pi replica is not enough for you, this is your chance: the 2017-18 Astro Pi challenge is open! Do you know a teenager who might be keen to design a experiment to run on the Astro Pis in space? Are you one yourself? You have until 29 October to send us your Mission Space Lab entry and become part of the next generation of space scientists? Head over to the Astro Pi website to find out more.

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Sean Hodgins’ Haunted Jack in the Box

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After making a delightful Bitcoin lottery using a Raspberry Pi, Sean Hodgins brings us more Pi-powered goodness in time for every maker’s favourite holiday: Easter! Just kidding, it’s Halloween. Check out his hair-raising new build, the Haunted Jack in the Box.

Haunted Jack in the Box – DIY Raspberry Pi Project

This project uses a raspberry pi and face detection using the pi camera to determine when someone is looking at it. Plenty of opportunities to scare people with it. You can make your own!

Haunted jack-in-the-box?

Imagine yourself wandering around a dimly lit house. Your eyes idly scan a shelf. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a twangy melody! What was that? You take a closer look…there seems to be a box in jolly colours…with a handle that’s spinning by itself?!

Sidling up to Sean Hodgins' Haunted Jack in the Box

What’s…going on?

You freeze, unable to peel your eyes away, and BAM!, out pops a maniacally grinning clown. You promptly pee yourself. Happy Halloween, courtesy of Sean Hodgins.

Clip of Sean Hodgins' Haunted Jack in the Box

Eerie disembodied voice: You’re welco-o-o-ome!

How has Sean built this?

Sean purchased a jack-in-the-box toy and replaced its bottom side with one that would hold the necessary electronic components. He 3D-printed this part, but says you could also just build it by hand.

The bottom of the box houses a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B and a servomotor which can turn the windup handle. There’s also a magnetic reed switch which helps the Pi decide when to trigger the Jack. Sean hooked up the components to the Pi’s GPIO pins, and used an elastic band as a drive belt to connect the pulleys on the motor and the handle.

Film clip showing the inside of Sean Hodgin's Haunted Jack in the Box

Sean explains that he has used a lot of double-sided tape and superglue in this build. The bottom and top are held together with two screws, because, as he describes it, “the Jack coming out is a little violent.”

In addition to his video walk-through, he provides build instructions on Instructables, Hackaday, Hackster, and Imgur — pick your poison. And be sure to subscribe to Sean’s YouTube channel to see what he comes up with next.

Wait, how does the haunted part work?

But if I explain it, it won’t be scary anymore! OK, fiiiine.

With the help of a a Camera Module and OpenCV, Sean implemented facial recognition: Jack knows when someone is looking at his box, and responds by winding up and popping out.

View of command line output of the Python script for Sean Hodgins' Haunted Jack in the Box

Testing the haunting script

Sean’s Python script is available here, but as he points out, there are many ways in which you could adapt this code, and the build itself, to be even more frightening.

So very haunted

What would you do with this build? Add creepy laughter? Soundbites from It? Lighting effects? Maybe even infrared light and a NoIR Camera Module, so that you can scare people in total darkness? There are so many possibilities for this project — tell us your idea in the comments.

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BrailleBox: Android Things Braille news display

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Joe Birch has built a simple device that converts online news stories to Braille, inspired by his family’s predisposition to loss of eyesight. He has based his BrailleBox on Android Things, News API, and a Raspberry Pi 3.

Demonstation of Joe Birch's BrailleBox

The background

Braille is a symbol system for people with visual impairment which represents letters and numbers as raised points. Commercial devices that dynamically produce Braille are very expensive, so Joe decided to build a low-cost alternative that is simple to recreate.

Braille alphabet

Image by DIPF CC BY-SA 3.0

News API is a tool for fetching JSON metadata from over 70 online news sources. You can use it to integrate headlines or articles into websites and text-based applications.

The BrailleBox

To create the six nubs necessary to form Braille symbols, Joe topped solenoids with wooden balls. He then wired them up to GPIO pins of the Pi 3 via a breadboard.

One of the solenoids of Joe Birch's BrailleBox

One of the solenoids Joe built into the BrailleBox

Next, he took control of the solenoids using Android Things. He set up the BrailleBox software to start running on boot, and added a push button. When he presses the button, the program fetches a news story using News API, and the solenoids start moving.

BrailleBox Demo

Uploaded by Joe Birch on 2017-06-20.

Since Joe is an Android Engineer, looking through his write-up and code for BrailleBox might be useful for anyone interested in Android Things.

If you like this project, make sure you keep an eye on Joe’s Twitter, since he has plans to update the BrailleBox design. His next step is to move on from the prototyping stage and house all the hardware inside the box. Moreover, he is thinking about adding a potentiometer so that users can choose their preferred reading speed.

Accessibility

If you want to find our community’s conversation about accessibility and assistive technology, head to the forums. And if you’re working to make computing more accessible, or if you’ve built an assistive project, let us know in the comments or on social media, so that we can boost the signal!

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