Tag Archives: Maker Builds

OK Google, be aesthetically pleasing

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Maker Andrew Jones took a Raspberry Pi and the Google Assistant SDK and created a gorgeous-looking, and highly functional, alternative to store-bought smart speakers.

Raspberry Pi Google AI Assistant

In this video I get an “Ok Google” voice activated AI assistant running on a raspberry pi. I also hand make a nice wooden box for it to live in.

OK Google, what are you?

Google Assistant is software of the same ilk as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana. It’s a virtual assistant that allows you to request information, play audio, and control smart home devices via voice commands.

Infinite Looping Siri, Alexa and Google Home

One can barely see the iPhone’s screen. That’s because I have a privacy protection screen. Sorry, did not check the camera angle. Learn how to create your own loop, why we put Cortana out of the loop, and how to train Siri to an artificial voice: https://www.danrl.com/2016/12/01/looping-ais-siri-alexa-google-home.html

You probably have a digital assistant on your mobile phone, and if you go to the home of someone even mildly tech-savvy, you may see a device awaiting commands via a wake word such the device’s name or, for the Google Assistant, the phrase “OK, Google”.

Homebrew versions

Understanding the maker need to ‘put tech into stuff’ and upgrade everyday objects into everyday objects 2.0, the creators of these virtual assistants have allowed access for developers to run their software on devices such as the Raspberry Pi. This means that your common-or-garden homemade robot can now be controlled via voice, and your shed-built home automation system can have easy-to-use internet connectivity via a reliable, multi-device platform.

Andrew’s Google Assistant build

Andrew gives a peerless explanation of how the Google Assistant works:

There’s Google’s Cloud. You log into Google’s Cloud and you do a bunch of cloud configuration cloud stuff. And then on the Raspberry Pi you install some Python software and you do a bunch of configuration. And then the cloud and the Pi talk the clouds kitten rainbow protocol and then you get a Google AI assistant.

It all makes perfect sense. Though for more extra detail, you could always head directly to Google.

Andrew Jones Raspberry Pi OK Google Assistant

I couldn’t have explained it better myself

Andrew decided to take his Google Assistant-enabled Raspberry Pi and create a new body for it. One that was more aesthetically pleasing than the standard Pi-inna-box. After wiring his build and cannibalising some speakers and a microphone, he created a sleek, wooden body that would sit quite comfortably in any Bang & Olufsen shop window.

Find the entire build tutorial on Instructables.

Make your own

It’s more straightforward than Andrew’s explanation suggests, we promise! And with an array of useful resources online, you should be able to incorporate your choice of virtual assistants into your build.

There’s The Raspberry Pi Guy’s tutorial on setting up Amazon Alexa on the Raspberry Pi. If you’re looking to use Siri on your Pi, YouTube has a plethora of tutorials waiting for you. And lastly, check out Microsoft’s site for using Cortana on the Pi!

If you’re looking for more information on Google Assistant, check out issue 57 of The MagPi Magazine, free to download as a PDF. The print edition of this issue came with a free AIY Projects Voice Kit, and you can sign up for The MagPi newsletter to be the first to know about the kit’s availability for purchase.

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Ms. Haughs’ tote-ally awesome Raspberry Pi bag

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While planning her trips to upcoming educational events, Raspberry Pi Certified Educator Amanda Haughs decided to incorporate the Pi Zero W into a rather nifty accessory.

Final Pi Tote bag

Uploaded by Amanda Haughs on 2017-07-08.

The idea

Commenting on the convenient size of the Raspberry Pi Zero W, Amanda explains on her blog “I decided that I wanted to make something that would fully take advantage of the compact size of the Pi Zero, that was somewhat useful, and that I could take with me and share with my maker friends during my summer tech travels.”

Amanda Haughs Raspberry Pi Tote Bag

Awesome grandmothers and wearable tech are an instant recipe for success!

With access to her grandmother’s “high-tech embroidery machine”, Amanda was able to incorporate various maker skills into her project.

The Tech

Amanda used five clear white LEDs and the Raspberry Pi Zero for the project. Taking inspiration from the LED-adorned Babbage Bear her team created at Picademy, she decided to connect the LEDs using female-to-female jumper wires

Amanda Haughs Pi Tote Bag

Poor Babbage really does suffer at Picademy events

It’s worth noting that she could also have used conductive thread, though we wonder how this slightly less flexible thread would work in a sewing machine, so don’t try this at home. Or do, but don’t blame me if it goes wonky.

Having set the LEDs in place, Amanda worked on the code. Unsure about how she wanted the LEDs to blink, she finally settled on a random pulsing of the lights, and used the GPIO Zero library to achieve the effect.

Raspberry Pi Tote Bag

Check out the GPIO Zero library for some great LED effects

The GPIO Zero pulse effect allows users to easily fade an LED in and out without the need for long strings of code. Very handy.

The Bag

Inspiration for the bag’s final design came thanks to a YouTube video, and Amanda and her grandmother were able to recreate the make using their fabric of choice.

DIY Tote Bag – Beginner’s Sewing Tutorial

Learn how to make this cute tote bag. A great project for beginning seamstresses!

A small pocket was added on the outside of the bag to allow for the Raspberry Pi Zero to be snugly secured, and the pattern was stitched into the front, allowing spaces for the LEDs to pop through.

Raspberry Pi Tote Bag

Amanda shows off her bag to Philip at ISTE 2017

You can find more information on the project, including Amanda’s initial experimentation with the Sense HAT, on her blog. If you’re a maker, an educator or, (and here’s a word I’m pretty sure I’ve made up) an edumaker, be sure to keep her blog bookmarked!

Make your own wearable tech

Whether you use jumper leads, or conductive thread or paint, we’d love to see your wearable tech projects.

Getting started with wearables

To help you get started, we’ve created this Getting started with wearables free resource that allows you to get making with the Adafruit FLORA and and NeoPixel. Check it out!

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Video playback on freely-arranged screens with info-beamer

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When the creator of the digital signage software info-beamer, Florian Wesch, shared this project on Reddit, I don’t think he was prepared for the excited reaction of the community. Florian’s post, which by now has thousands of upvotes, showcased the power of info-beamer. Not only can the software display a video via multiple Raspberry Pis, it also automatically rejigs the output to match the size and angle of the Pis’ monitors.

info-beamer raspberry pi

Wait…what?

I know, right? We’ve seen many video-based Raspberry Pi projects, but this is definitely one of the most impressive ones. While those of us with a creative streak were imagining cool visual arts installations using monitors and old televisions of various sizes, the more technically-minded puzzled over how Florian pulled this off.

It’s obvious that info-beamer has manifold potential uses. But we had absolutely zero understanding of how it works!

How does info-beamer do this?

Lucky for us, Florian returned to Reddit a few days later with a how-to video, explaining in layman’s terms how you too can get a video to play on a multi-screen, multi-Pi setup.

Automatic video wall configuration with info-beamer hosted

This is an exciting new feature I’ve made available for the info-beamer hosted digital signage system: You can create a video wall consisting of freely arranged screens in seconds. The screens don’t even have to be planar. Just rotate and place them as you like.

First you’ll need to set up info-beamer, which will allow you to introduce multiple Raspberry Pis, and their attached monitors, into a joint network. To make the software work, there’s some Python code you have to write yourself, but hands-on tutorials and example code exist to make this fairly easy, even if you have little experience in Python.

info-beamer raspberry pi

As you can see in Florian’s video, info-beamer assigns each monitor its own, unique section of video. Taking a photo of the monitors and uploading it to a site provides enough information for the software to play a movie trailer split across multiple screens.

info-beamer raspberry pi

A step that’s missing in the video, but that Florian described on Reddit, is how to configure the screens via a drag-and-drop interface so that the software recognizes them. Once this is done, your video display is good to go.

For more information about info-beamer check out the website, and follow the official Twitter account for updates.

Using Raspberry Pi in video-based projects

Since it has an HDMI port, connecting your Raspberry Pi to any compatible monitor, including your television, is an easy task. And with a little tweaking and soldering you can even connect your Pi to that ageing SCART TV/Video combo you might have in the loft.

As I said earlier, there’s an abundance of Pi-powered video-based projects. Many digital art installations, and even commercial media devices, rely on the Raspberry Pi because of its low cost, small size, and high-quality multimedia capabilities.

Have you used a Raspberry Pi in a video-playback project? Share it with us below – we’d love to see it!

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The CNC Wood Burner turning heads (and wood, obviously)

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Why stick to conventional laser cutters or CNC machines for creating images on wood, when you can build a device to do the job that is a beautiful piece of art in itself? Mechanical and Computer Science student and Imgur user Tucker Shannon has created a wonderful-looking CNC Wood Burner using a Raspberry Pi and stepper motors. His project has a great vinyl-turntable-like design.

Raspberry Pi CNC Wood Burner

Tucker’s somewhat hypnotic build burns images into wood using a Raspberry Pi and stepper motors
GIF c/o Tucker Shannon

A CNC Wood Burner?

Sure! Why not? Tucker had already put the knowledge he acquired while studying at Oregon State University to good use by catching a bike thief in action with the help of a Raspberry Pi. Thus it’s obvious he has the skills he needed to incorporate our little computer into a project. Moreover, his Skittles portrait of Bill Nye is evidence of his artistic flare, so it’s not surprising that he wanted to make something a little different, and pretty, using code.

Tucker Shannon

“Bill Nye, the Skittles Guy”
Image c/o Tucker Shannon

With an idea in mind and sketches drawn, Tucker first considered using an old record player as the base of his build. Having a rotating deck and arm already in place would have made building his project easier. However, he reports on Imgur:

I thought about that! I couldn’t find any at local thrift shops though. Apparently, they’ve become pretty popular…

We can’t disagree with him. Since his search was unsuccessful, Tucker ended up creating the CNC Wood Burner from scratch.

Raspberry Pi CNC Wood Burner

Concept designs
Image c/o Tucker Shannon

Taking into consideration the lumps and bumps of the wood he would be using as a ‘canvas’, Tucker decided to incorporate a pivot to allow the arm to move smoothly over the rough surface.

The code for the make is currently in ‘spaghetti form’, though Tucker is set to release it, as well as full instructions for the build, in the near future.

The build

Tucker laser-cut the pieces for the wood burner’s box and gear out of birch and pine wood. As the motors require 12v power, the standard Raspberry Pi supply wasn’t going to be enough. Therefore, Tucker scavenged for old computer parts , and ended up rescuing a PSU (power supply unit). He then fitted the PSU and the Raspberry Pi within the box.

Raspberry Pi CNC Wood Burner

The cannibalised PSU, stepper motor controller, and Raspberry Pi fit nicely into Tucker’s handmade pine box.
Image c/o Tucker Shannon

Next, he got to work building runners for the stepper motor controlling the position of the ‘pen thing’ that would scorch the image into the wood.

Raspberry Pi CNC Wood Burner

Initial tests on paper help to align the pen
Image c/o Tucker Shannon

After a few test runs using paper, the CNC Wood Burner was good to go!

The results

Tucker has used his CNC Wood Burner to create some wonderful pieces of art. The few examples he’s shared on Imgur have impressed us with their precision. We’re looking forward to seeing what else he is going to make with it!

Raspberry Pi CNC Wood Burner

The build burns wonderfully clean-lined images into wood
Image c/o Tucker Shannon

Your turn

Image replication using Raspberry Pis and stepper motors isn’t a new thing – though doing it using a wood-burning device may be! We’ve seen some great builds in which makers set up motors and a marker pen to create massive works of art. Are you one of those makers? Or have you been planning a build similar to Tucker’s project, possibly with a new twist?

Share your project with us below, whether it is complete or still merely sketches in a notebook. We’d love to see what you’re getting up to!

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Darth Beats: Star Wars LEGO gets a musical upgrade

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Dan Aldred, Raspberry Pi Certified Educator and creator of the website TeCoEd, has built Darth Beats by managing to fit a Pi Zero W and a Pimoroni Speaker pHAT into a LEGO Darth Vader alarm clock! The Pi force is strong with this one.

Darth Beats MP3 Player

Pimoroni Speaker pHAT and Raspberry Pi Zero W embedded into a Lego Darth Vader Alarm clock to create – “Darth Beats MP3 Player”. Video demonstrating all the features and functions of the project. Alarm Clock – https://goo.gl/VSMhG4 Speaker pHAT – https://shop.pimoroni.com/products/speaker-phat

Darth Beats inspiration: I have a very good feeling about this!

As we all know, anything you love gets better when you add something else you love: chocolate ice cream + caramel sauce, apple tart + caramel sauce, pizza + caramel sau— okay, maybe not anything, but you get what I’m saying.

The formula, in the form of “LEGO + Star Wars”, applies to Dan’s LEGO Darth Vader alarm clock. His Darth Vader, however, was sitting around on a shelf, just waiting to be hacked into something even cooler. Then one day, inspiration struck: Dan decided to aim for exponential awesomeness by integrating Raspberry Pi and Pimoroni technology to turn Vader into an MP3 player.

Darth Beats assembly: always tell me the mods!

The space inside the LEGO device measures a puny 6×3×3 cm, so cramming in the Zero W and the pHAT was going to be a struggle. But Dan grabbed his dremel and set to work, telling himself to “do or do not. There is no try.”

Darth Beats dremel

I find your lack of space disturbing.

He removed the battery compartment, and added two additional buttons in its place. Including the head, his Darth Beats has seven buttons, which means it is fully autonomous as a music player.

Darth Beats back buttons

Almost ready to play a silly remix of Yoda quotes

Darth Beats can draw its power from a wall socket, or from a portable battery pack, as shown in Dan’s video. Dan used the GPIO Zero Python library to set up ‘on’ and ‘off’ switches, and buttons for skipping tracks and controlling volume.

For more details on the build process, read his blog, and check out his video log:

Making Darth Beats

Short video showing you how I created the “Darth Beats MP3 Player”.

Accessing Darth Beats: these are the songs you’re looking for

When you press the ‘on’ switch, the Imperial March sounds before Darth Beats asks “What is thy bidding, my master?”. Then the device is ready to play music. Dan accomplished this by using Cron to run his scripts as soon as the Zero W boots up. MP3 files are played with the help of the Pygame library.

Of course, over time it would become boring to only be able to listen to songs that are stored on the Zero W. However, Dan got around this issue by accessing the Zero W remotely. He set up an online file upload system to add and remove MP3 files from the player. To do this, he used Droopy, an file sharing server software package written by Pierre Duquesne.

IT’S A TRAP!

There’s no reason to use this quote, but since it’s the Star Wars line I use most frequently, I’m adding it here anyway. It’s my post, and I can do what I want!

As you can imagine, there’s little that gets us more excited at Pi Towers than a Pi-powered Star Wars build. Except maybe a Harry Potter-themed project? What are your favourite geeky builds? Are you maybe even working on one yourself? Be sure to send us nerdy joy by sharing your links in the comments!

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Awesome Raspberry Pi cases to 3D print at home

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Unless you’re planning to fit your Raspberry Pi inside a build, you may find yourself in need of a case to protect it from dust, damage and/or the occasional pet attack. Here are some of our favourite 3D-printed cases, for which files are available online so you can recreate them at home.

TARDIS

TARDIS Raspberry PI 3 case – 3D Printing Time lapse

Every Tuesday we’ll 3D print designs from the community and showcase slicer settings, use cases and of course, Time-lapses! This week: TARDIS Raspberry PI 3 case By: https://www.thingiverse.com/Jason3030 https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2430122/ BCN3D Sigma Blue PLA 3hrs 20min X:73 Y:73 Z:165mm .4mm layer / .6mm nozzle 0% Infill / 4mm retract 230C / 0C 114G 60mm/s —————————————– Shop for parts for your own DIY projects http://adafru.it/3dprinting Download Autodesk Fusion 360 – 1 Year Free License (renew it after that for more free use!)

Since I am an avid Whovian, it’s not surprising that this case made its way onto the list. Its outside is aesthetically pleasing to the aspiring Time Lord, and it snugly fits your treasured Pi.

Pop this case on your desk and chuckle with glee every time someone asks what’s inside it:

Person: What’s that?
You: My Raspberry Pi.
Person: What’s a Raspberry Pi?
You: It’s a computer!
Person: There’s a whole computer in that tiny case?
You: Yes…it’s BIGGER ON THE INSIDE!

I’ll get my coat.

Pi crust

Yes, we all wish we’d thought of it first. What better case for a Raspberry Pi than a pie crust?

3D-printed Raspberry Pi cases

While the case is designed to fit the Raspberry Pi Model B, you will be able to upgrade the build to accommodate newer models with a few tweaks.

Just make sure that if you do, you credit Marco Valenzuela, its original baker.

Consoles

Since many people use the Raspberry Pi to run RetroPie, there is a growing trend of 3D-printed console-style Pi cases.

3D-printed Raspberry Pi cases

So why not pop your Raspberry Pi into a case made to look like your favourite vintage console, such as the Nintendo NES or N64?

You could also use an adapter to fit a Raspberry Pi Zero within an actual Atari cartridge, or go modern and print a PlayStation 4 case!

Functional

Maybe you’re looking to use your Raspberry Pi as a component of a larger project, such as a home automation system, learning suite, or makerspace. In that case you may need to attach it to a wall, under a desk, or behind a monitor.

3D-printed Raspberry Pi cases

Coo! Coo!

The Pidgeon, shown above, allows you to turn your Zero W into a surveillance camera, while the piPad lets you keep a breadboard attached for easy access to your Pi’s GPIO pins.

Functional cases with added brackets are great for incorporating your Pi on the sly. The VESA mount case will allow you to attach your Pi to any VESA-compatible monitor, and the Fallout 4 Terminal is just really cool.

Cute

You might want your case to just look cute, especially if it’s going to sit in full view on your desk or shelf.

3D-printed Raspberry Pi cases

The tired cube above is the only one of our featured 3D prints for which you have to buy the files ($1.30), but its adorable face begged to be shared anyway.

If you’d rather save your money for another day, you may want to check out this adorable monster from Adafruit. Be aware that this case will also need some altering to fit newer versions of the Pi.

Our cases

Finally, there are great options for you if you don’t have access to a 3D printer, or if you would like to help the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s mission. You can buy one of the official Raspberry Pi cases for the Raspberry Pi 3 and Raspberry Pi Zero (and Zero W)!

3D-printed Raspberry Pi cases

As with all official Raspberry Pi accessories (and with the Pi itself), your money goes toward helping the Foundation to put the power of digital making into the hands of people all over the world.

3D-printed Raspberry Pi cases

You could also print a replica of the official Astro Pi cases, in which two Pis are currently orbiting the earth on the International Space Station.

Design your own Raspberry Pi case!

If you’ve built a case for your Raspberry Pi, be it with a 3D printer, laser-cutter, or your bare hands, make sure to share it with us in the comments below, or via our social media channels.

And if you’d like to give 3D printing a go, there are plenty of free online learning resources, and sites that offer tutorials and software to get you started, such as TinkerCAD, Instructables, and Adafruit.

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