Author Archives: Janina Ander

IoT Sleepbuddy, the robotic babysitter

via Raspberry Pi

You’re watching the new episode of Game of Thrones, and suddenly you hear your children, up and about after their bedtime! Now you’ll probably miss a crucial moment of the show because you have to put them to bed again. Or you’re out to dinner with friends and longing for the sight of your sleeping small humans. What do you do? Text the babysitter to check on them? Well, luckily for you these issues could soon be things of the past, thanks to Bert Vuylsteke and his Pi-powered Sleepbuddy. This IoT-controlled social robot could fulfil all your remote babysitting needs!

IoT Sleepbuddy – babyphone – Design concept

This is the actual concept of my robot and in what context it can be used.

A social robot?

A social robot fulfils a role normally played by a person, and interacts with humans via human language, gestures, and facial expressions. This is what Bert says about the role of the Sleepbuddy:

[For children, it] is a friend or safeguard from nightmares, but it is so much more for the babysitters or parents. The babysitters or parents connect their smartphone/tablet/PC to the Sleepbuddy. This will give them access to control all his emotions, gestures, microphone, speaker and camera. In the eye is a hidden camera to see the kids sleeping. The speaker and microphone allow communication with the kids through WiFi.

The roots of the Sleepbuddy

As a student at Ghent University, Bert had to build a social robot using OPSORO, the university’s open-source robotics platform. The developers of this platform create social robots for research purposes. They are also making all software, as well as hardware design plans, available on GitHub. In addition, you will soon be able to purchase their robot kits via a Kickstarter. OPSORO robots are designed around the Raspberry Pi, and controlled via a web interface. The interface allows you to customise your robot’s behaviour, using visual or text-based programming languages.

Sleepbuddy Bert Vuylsteke components

The Sleepbuddy’s components

Building the Sleepbuddy

Bert has provided a detailed Instructable describing the process of putting the Sleepbuddy together, complete with video walk-throughs. However, the making techniques he has used include thermoforming, laser cutting, and 3D printing. If you want to recreate this build, you may need to contact your local makerspace to find out whether they have the necessary equipment.

Sleepbuddy Bert Vuylsteke assembly

Assembling the Sleepbuddy

Finally, Bert added an especially cute touch to this project by covering the Sleepbuddy in blackboard paint. Therefore, kids can draw on the robot to really make it their own!

So many robots!

At Pi Towers we are partial to all kinds of robots, be they ones that test medical devices, play chess or Connect 4, or fight other robots. If they twerk, or are cute, tiny, or shoddy, we maybe even like them a tiny bit more.

Do you share our love of robots? Would you like to make your own? Then check out our resource for building a simple robot buggy. Maybe it will kick-start your career as the general of a robot army. A robot army that does good, of course! Let us know your benevolent robot overlord plans in the comments.

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Google Pi Intercom with the AIY Projects kit

via Raspberry Pi

When we released the Google AIY Projects kit with Issue 57 of The MagPi in May, we could hardly wait to see what you in the community would build with it. Being able to add voice interaction to your Raspberry Pi projects opens up a world of possibilities for exciting digital making.

One such project is maker Martin Mander‘s Google Pi Intercom. We love this build for its retro feel and modern functionality, a combination of characteristics shared by many of Martin’s creations.

1986 Google Pi Intercom

This is a 1986 Radio Shack Intercom that I’ve converted into a Google Home style device using a Raspberry Pi and the Google AIY (Artificial Intelligence Yourself) kit that came free with the MagPi magazine (issue 57). It uses the Google Assistant to answer questions and perform actions, using IFTTT to integrate with smart home accessories and other web services.

Inter-com again?

If you’ve paid any attention at all to the world of Raspberry Pi in the last few months, you’ve probably seen the Google AIY Projects kit that came free with The MagPi #57. It includes a practical cardboard housing, but of course makers everywhere have been upgrading their kits, for example by creating a laser-cut wooden box. Martin, however, has taken things to the next level: he’s installed his AIY kit in a wall-mounted intercom from 1986.

Google Pi intercom Martin Mander

The components of the Google Pi Intercom

It’s all (inter)coming together

Martin already had not one, but three vintage intercoms at home. So when he snatched up an AIY Projects kit, there was no doubt in his mind about how he was going to use it:

The moment I scooped the Google AIY kit, I knew that one of these old units would be a perfect match for it – after all, both were essentially based on a button, microphone, and loudspeaker, just with different technology in between.

Preparing the intercom housing

First, Martin gutted the intercom and ground away some of the excess plastic inside. This was necessary because integrating all the components was going to be a tight fit. To overhaul its look, he then gave the housing a good scrub and a new paint job. For a splash of colour, Martin affixed a strip of paper in the palette of the Google logo.

Google Pi intercom Martin Mander

BUBBLES!

Building the Google Pi Intercom

The intercom’s speaker wasn’t going to provide good enough sound quality. Moreover, Martin quickly realised that the one included in the AIY kit was too big for this make. He hunted down a small speaker online, and set about wiring everything up.

Google Pi intercom Martin Mander

Assembling the electronics

Martin wanted the build to resemble the original intercom as closely as possible. Consequently, he was keen to use its tilting bar to activate the device’s voice command function. Luckily, it was easy to mount the AIY kit’s button behind the bar.

Google Pi intercom Martin Mander

Using the intercom’s tilting bar switch

Finally it was only a matter of using some hot glue and a few screws and bolts to secure all the components inside the housing. Once he’d done that, Martin just had to set up the software of the Google Assistant, and presto! He had a voice-controlled smart device for home automation.

A pretty snazzy-looking build, isn’t it? If you’d like to learn more about Martin’s Google Pi Intercom, head over to the Instructables page for a complete rundown.

Google Pi intercom Martin Mander

Awaiting your command

The AIY Projects Kit

Didn’t manage to snap up an AIY Projects kit? Find out how to get your hands on one over at The MagPi.

Or do you have an AIY kit at home? Lucky you! You can follow our shiny new learning resource to get started with using it. There are also lots of handy articles about the kit in The MagPi #57 – download the PDF version here. If you’re stuck, or looking for inspiration, check out our AIY Projects subforum. Ask your questions, and help others by answering theirs.

What have you built with your AIY Projects kit? Be sure to share your voice-controlled project with us in the comments.

 

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Teaching with Raspberry Pis and PiNet

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Education is our mission at the Raspberry Pi Foundation, so of course we love tools that help teachers and other educators use Raspberry Pis in a classroom setting. PiNet, which allows teachers to centrally manage a whole classroom’s worth of Pis, makes administrating a fleet of Pis easier. Set up individual student accounts, install updates and software, share files – PiNet helps you do all of this!

Caleb VinCross on Twitter

The new PiNet lab up and running. 30 raspberry pi 3’s running as fat clients for 600 + students. Much thanks to the PiNet team! @PiNetDev.

PiNet developer Andrew

PiNet was built and is maintained by Andrew Mulholland, who started work on this project when he was 15, and who is also one of the organisers of the Northern Ireland Raspberry Jam. Check out what he says about PiNet’s capabilities in his guest post here. Andrew has recently released a stable and well tested update of PiNet for Raspbian Jessie.

PiNet in class

PiNet running in a classroom

PiNet, teacher’s pet

PiNet has been available for about two years now, and the teachers using it are over the moon. Here’s what a few of them say about their experience:

We wanted a permanently set up classroom with 30+ Raspberry Pis to teach programming. Students wanted their work to be secure and backed up and we needed a way to keep the Pis up to date. PiNet has made both possible and the classroom now required little or no maintenance. PiNet was set up in a single day and was so successful we set up a second Pi room. We now have 60 Raspberry Pis which are used by our students every day. – Rob Jones, Secondary School Teacher, United Kingdom

AKS Computing on Twitter

21xRaspPi+dedicated network+PiNet server+3 geeks = success! Ready to test with a full class.

I teach Computer Science at middle school, so I have 4 classes per day in my lab, sharing 20 Raspberry Pis. PiNet gives each student separate storage space. Any changes to the Raspbian image can be done from my dashboard. We use Scratch, Minecraft Pi, Sonic Pi, and do physical computing. And when I have had issues, or have wanted to try something a little crazy, the support has been fabulous. – Bob Irving, Middle School Teacher, USA

Wolf Math on Twitter

We’re starting our music unit with @deejaydoc. My CS students are going through the @Sonic_Pi turorial on @PiNetDev.

I teach computer classes for about 600 students between the ages of 5 and 13. PiNet has really made it possible to expand our technology curriculum beyond the simple web-based applications that our Chromebooks were limited to. I’m now able to use Arduino boards to do basic physical computing with LEDs and sensors. None of this could have happened without PiNet making it easy to have an affordable, stable, and maintainable way of managing 30 Linux computers in our lab. – Caleb VinCross, Primary School Teacher, USA

More for educators

If you’re involved in teaching computing, be that as a professional or as a volunteer, check out the new free magazine Hello World, brought to you by Computing At School, BCS Academy of Computing, and Raspberry Pi working in partnership. It is written by educators for educators, and available in print and as a PDF download. And if you’d like to keep up to date with what we are offering to educators and learners, sign up for our education newsletter here.

Are you a teacher who uses Raspberry Pis in the classroom, or another kind of educator who has used them in a group setting? Tell us about your experience in the comments below.

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The Heart of Maker Faire

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We at the Raspberry Pi Foundation find it incredibly rewarding to help people make and share things they love. It’s amazing to be part of an incredibly creative community of makers. And we’re not the only ones who feel this way: for this year’s Maker Faire UK, the team over at NUSTEM created the Heart of Maker Faire, a Pi-powered art installation that is a symbol of this unique community. And to be perfectly frank, it’s bloody gorgeous.

The Heart of Maker Faire

NUSTEM’s new installation for Maker Faire UK 2017, held on 1st & 2nd April at the Centre for Life, Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Visitors wrote notes about things they love, and sealed them in jars. They then read their heart rates, and used the control boxes to associate their jar and heart rate with a space on the shelves.

A heart for the community

NUSTEM is a STEM outreach organisation from Northumbria University, and the makers there are always keen to build interactive projects that get people excited about technology. So at this year’s Faire, attendees passing their installation were invited to write down something close to their heart, put that note in a jar, and measure their heart rate. Then they could connect their heart rate, via a QR code, to a space on a shelf lined with LEDs. Once they placed the jar in their space, the LEDs started blinking to imitate their heart beat. With this art piece, the NUSTEM team wants to say something about “how we’re all individuals, but about our similarities too”.

NUSTEM on Twitter

Still beating. Heart of #MakerFaireUK

Making the heart beat

This is no small build – it uses more than 2,000 NeoPixel LEDs, as well as five Raspberry Pis, among other components. Two Pi 3s are in charge of registering people’s contributions and keeping track of their jars. A Pi Zero W acts as a central hub, connecting its bigger siblings via WiFi, and storing a MySQL database of the jars’ data. Finally, two more Pi 3s control the LEDs of the Heart via a script written in Processing. The NUSTEM team has made the code available here for you “to laugh at” (their words, not mine!)

Heart of Maker Faire shelf

The heart, ready to be filled with love

A heart for art

Processing is an open-source programming language used to create images, graphs, and animations. It can respond to keyboard and mouse input, so you can write games with it as well. Moreover, it runs on the Pi, and you can use it to talk to the Pi’s GPIO pins, as the Heart of Maker Faire team did. Hook up buttons, sensors, and LEDs, and get ready to create amazing interactive pieces of art! If you’d like to learn more, read Matt’s blog post, or watch the talk he gave about Processing at our fifth birthday party earlier this year.

Matt Richardson: Art with Processing on the Raspberry Pi – Raspberry Pi Birthday Event 2017 – Talks

Matt Richardson: Art with Processing on the Raspberry Pi Sunday 5th March 2017 Raspberry Pi Birthday Event 2017 Filmed and edited by David and Andrew Ferguson. This video is not an official video published by the Raspberry Pi Foundation. No copyright infringement intended.

To help you get started, we’re providing a free learning resource introducing you to the basics of Processing. We’d love to see what you create, so do share a link to your masterworks in the comments!

World Maker Faire

We’ll be attending World Maker Faire in New York on the 23rd and 24th of September. Will you be there?

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Ultrasonic pi-ano

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At the Raspberry Pi Foundation, we love a good music project. So of course we’re excited to welcome Andy Grove‘s ultrasonic piano to the collection! It is a thing of beauty… and noise. Don’t let the name fool you – this build can do so much more than sound like a piano.

Ultrasonic Pi Piano – Full Demo

The Ultrasonic Pi Piano uses HC-SR04 ultrasonic sensors for input and generates MIDI instructions that are played by fluidsynth. For more information: http://theotherandygrove.com/projects/ultrasonic-pi-piano/

What’s an ultrasonic piano?

What we have here, people of all genders, is really a theremin on steroids. The build’s eight ultrasonic distance sensors detect hand movements and, with the help of an octasonic breakout board, a Raspberry Pi 3 translates their signals into notes. But that’s not all: this digital instrument is almost endlessly customisable – you can set each sensor to a different octave, or to a different instrument.

octasonic breakout board

The breakout board designed by Andy

Andy has implemented gesture controls to allow you to switch between modes you have preset. In his video, you can see that holding your hands over the two sensors most distant from each other changes the instrument. Say you’re bored of the piano – try a xylophone! Not your jam? How about a harpsichord? Or a clarinet? In fact, there are 128 MIDI instruments and sound effects to choose from. Go nuts and compose a piece using tuba, ocarina, and the noise of a guitar fret!

How to build the ultrasonic piano

If you head over to Instructables, you’ll find the thorough write-up Andy has provided. He has also made all his scripts, written in Rust, available on GitHub. Finally, he’s even added a video on how to make a housing, so your ultrasonic piano can look more like a proper instrument, and less like a pile of electronics.

Ultrasonic Pi Piano Enclosure

Uploaded by Andy Grove on 2017-04-13.

Make your own!

If you follow us on Twitter, you may have seen photos and footage of the Raspberry Pi staff attending a Pi Towers Picademy. Like Andy*, quite a few of us are massive Whovians. Consequently, one of our final builds on the course was an ultrasonic theremin that gave off a sound rather like a dying Dalek. Take a look at our masterwork here! We loved our make so much that we’ve since turned the instructions for building it into a free resource. Go ahead and build your own! And be sure to share your compositions with us in the comments.

Sonic the hedgehog is feeling the beat

Sonic is feeling the groove as well

* He has a full-sized Dalek at home. I know, right?

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Plane Spotting with Pi and Amazon Alexa

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Plane spotting, like train spotting, is a hobby enjoyed by many a tech enthusiast. Nick Sypteras has built a voice-controlled plane identifier using a Raspberry Pi and an Amazon Echo Dot.

“Look! Up in the sky! It’s a bird! It’s a plane! No, it’s Superm… hang on … it’s definitely a plane.”

What plane is that?

There’s a great write-up on Nick’s blog describing how he went about this. In addition to the Pi and the Echo, all he needed was a radio receiver to pick up signals from individual planes. So he bought an RTL-SDR USB dongle to pick up ADS-B broadcasts.

Alexa Plane Spotting Skill

Demonstrating an Alexa skill for identifying what planes are flying by my window. Ingredients: – raspberry pi – amazon echo dot – rtl-sdr dongle Explanation here: https://www.nicksypteras.com/projects/teaching-alexa-to-spot-airplanes

With the help of open-source software he can convert aircraft broadcasts into JSON data, which is stored on the Pi. Included in the broadcast is each passing plane’s unique ICAO code. Using this identifier, he looks up model, operator, and registration number in a data set of possible aircraft which he downloaded and stored on the Pi as a Mongo database.

Where is that plane going?

His Python script, with the help of the Beautiful Soup package, parses the FlightRadar24 website to find out the origin and destination of each plane. Nick also created a Node.js server in which all this data is stored in human-readable language to be accessed by Alexa.

Finally, it was a matter of setting up a new skill on the Alexa Skills Kit dashboard so that it would query the Pi in response to the right voice command.

Pretty neat, huh?

Plane spotting is serious business

Nick has made all his code available on GitHub, so head on over if this make has piqued your interest. He mentions that the radio receiver he uses picks up most unencrypted broadcasts, so you could adapt his build for other purposes as well.

Boost your hobby with the Pi

We’ve seen many builds by makers who have pushed their hobby to the next level with the help of the Pi, whether it’s astronomy, high-altitude ballooning, or making music. What hobby do you have that the Pi could improve? Let us know in the comments.

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