Tag Archives: Maker Builds

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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Low-tech Raspberry Pi robot

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Robot-builder extraordinaire Clément Didier is ushering in the era of our cybernetic overlords. Future generations will remember him as the creator of robots constructed from cardboard and conductive paint which are so easy to replicate that a robot could do it. Welcome to the singularity.

Bare Conductive on Twitter

This cool robot was made with the #PiCap, conductive paint and @Raspberry_Pi by @clementdidier. Full tutorial: https://t.co/AcQVTS4vr2 https://t.co/D04U5UGR0P

Simple interface

To assemble the robot, Clément made use of a Pi Cap board, a motor driver, and most importantly, a tube of Bare Conductive Electric Paint. He painted the control interface onto the cardboard surface of the robot, allowing a human, replicant, or superior robot to direct its movements simply by touching the paint.

Clever design

The Raspberry Pi 3, the motor control board, and the painted input buttons interface via the GPIO breakout pins on the Pi Cap. Crocodile clips connect the Pi Cap to the cardboard-and-paint control surface, while jumper wires connect it to the motor control board.

Raspberry Pi and bare conductive Pi Cap

Sing with me: ‘The Raspberry Pi’s connected to the Pi Cap, and the Pi Cap’s connected to the inputs, and…’

Two battery packs provide power to the Raspberry Pi, and to the four independently driven motors. Software, written in Python, allows the robot to respond to inputs from the conductive paint. The motors drive wheels attached to a plastic chassis, moving and turning the robot at the touch of a square of black paint.

Artistic circuit

Clément used masking tape and a paintbrush to create the control buttons. For a human, this is obviously a fiddly process which relies on the blocking properties of the masking tape and a steady hand. For a robot, however, the process would be a simple, freehand one, resulting in neatly painted circuits on every single one of countless robotic minions. Cybernetic domination is at (metallic) hand.

The control surface of the robot, painted with bare conductive paint

One fiddly job for a human, one easy task for robotkind

The instructions and code for Clément’s build can be found here.

Low-tech solutions

Here at Pi Towers, we love seeing the high-tech Raspberry Pi integrated so successfully with low-tech components. In addition to conductive paint, we’ve seen cardboard laptops, toilet roll robots, fruit drum kits, chocolate box robots, and hamster-wheel-triggered cameras. Have you integrated low-tech elements into your projects (and potentially accelerated the robot apocalypse in the process)? Tell us about it in the comments!

 

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Raspberry Coulis’s night vision camera

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We’ve all been there: zombies at the door, Daleks on the driveway, creatures from the Upside Down in the walls. You want to be able to monitor their movements, but how do you do that without attracting their attention? Wesley Archer (AKA Raspberry Coulis) has the answer: a Pi-powered Night Vision Camera, perfect for catching unearthly creatures on the prowl — and for wildlife spotting, birdwatching, and home security too, I guess…

Wesley's Pi-powered Night Vision Camera

Wesley’s Pi-powered Night Vision Camera

Black box

To build his Night Vision Camera, Wesley ordered an infrared Lisiparoi LED Light Ring, a Cyntech Raspberry Pi case, a Pi NoIR Camera Module, and USB WiFi adapter. He based this project around a Raspberry Pi Model B that was in need of a good home, but there’s no reason why you couldn’t use a more up-to-date model with built-in wireless networking.

Wesley set about adapting the case to hold the camera and the infrared light, cutting a hole for the camera lens and attaching the LED Light Ring to the front of the box. The light ring acts as an infrared floodlight, invisible to the zombies, but when combined with the NoIR Camera Module, capable of capturing useful images in the dark. His blog includes helpful step-by-step instructions for this process — unlike Wesley, we recommend using a metal file from your toolbox, and not a nail file belonging to another member of your family. If you’re surrounded by the undead hordes, domestic harmony is essential.

Cyntech Raspberry Pi case with a hole for the Camera Module - Night Vision Camera

Cutting holes in the case. Please don’t use your spouse’s nail file for this job …

Monitoring

When your hardware is complete, it’s time to install the software. Wesley chose MotionEyeOS to run his camera, and his blog explains the process of downloading and installing the software on your Pi. When everything is set up, and the Pi is connected to your WiFi network, all you need is the Pi’s IP address to view the feed from the camera. Type the IP address into a browser on the same WiFi network, log in, and you’ll soon be spotting intruders (supernatural or otherwise), or possibly watching the fluffy residents of your bird box. Whatever makes you happy.

Visibility

While a camera with night vision is obviously useful, both the Lisiparoi Light Ring and the Camera Module are available for use with the visible spectrum. You can order the Light Ring with infrared or standard white LEDs, and the standard Camera Module works with visible light. If you don’t mind attracting attention, both options could be used to monitor your perimeter for threats.

Saving the world

We think this project would be an amazing inspiration for the current Pioneers challenge, Only you can save us! Set up a camera to control entry to your secret bunker, even when the lights fail. Fend off attacks from zombies, Daleks, or giant spiders, and help save humanity from catastrophe!

Cute knitted zombies dancing - Night Vision Camera

Save yourselves!

Have you built a security system to keep your property safe from marauding zombies? Or even from regular burglars? Has your Pioneers team used infrared monitoring in your build? Tell us about it in the comments!

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Spooktacular Halloween Haunted Portrait

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October has come at last, and with it, the joy of Halloween is now upon us. So while I spend the next 30 days quoting Hocus Pocus at every opportunity, here’s Adafruit’s latest spooky build … the spooktacular Haunted Portrait.

Adafruit Raspberry Pi Haunted Portrait

Haunted Portraits

If you’ve visited a haunted house such as Disney’s Haunted Mansion, or walked the halls of Hogwarts at Universal Studios, you will have seen a ‘moving portrait’. Whether it’s the classic ‘did that painting just blink?’ approach, or occupants moving in and out of frame, they’re an effective piece of spooky decoration – and now you can make your own!

Adafruit’s AdaBox

John Park, maker extraordinaire, recently posted a live make video where he used the contents of the Raspberry Pi-themed AdaBox 005 to create a blinking portrait.

AdaBox 005 Raspberry Pi Haunted Portrait

The Adabox is Adafruit’s own maker subscription service where plucky makers receive a mystery parcel containing exciting tech and inspirational builds. Their more recent delivery, the AdaBox 005, contains a Raspberry Pi Zero, their own Joy Bonnet, a case, and peripherals, including Pimoroni’s no-solder Hammer Headers.

AdaBox 005 Raspberry Pi Haunted Portrait

While you can purchase the AdaBoxes as one-off buys, subscribers get extra goodies. With AdaBox 005, they received bonus content including Raspberry Pi swag in the form of stickers, and a copy of The MagPi Magazine.

AdaBox 005 Raspberry Pi Haunted Portrait

The contents of AdaBox 005 allows makers to build their own Raspberry Pi Zero tiny gaming machine. But the ever-working minds of the Adafruit team didn’t want to settle there, so they decided to create more tutorials based on the box’s contents, such as John Park’s Haunted Portrait.

Bringing a portrait to life

Alongside the AdaBox 005 content, all of which can be purchased from Adafruit directly, you’ll need a flat-screen monitor and a fancy frame. The former could be an old TV or computer screen while the latter, unless you happen to have an ornate frame that perfectly fits your monitor, can be made from cardboard, CNC-cut wood or gold-painted macaroni and tape … probably.

Adafruit Raspberry Pi Haunted Portrait

You’ll need to attach headers to your Raspberry Pi Zero. For those of you who fear the soldering iron, the Hammer Headers can be hammered into place without the need for melty hot metal. If you’d like to give soldering a go, you can follow Laura’s Getting Started With Soldering tutorial video.

Adafruit Raspberry Pi Haunted Portrait Hammer Header

In his tutorial, John goes on to explain how to set up the Joy Bonnet (if you wish to use it as an added controller), set your Raspberry Pi to display in portrait mode, and manipulate an image in Photoshop or GIMP to create the blinking effect.

Adafruit Raspberry Pi Haunted Portrait

Blinking eyes are just the start of the possibilities for this project. This is your moment to show off your image manipulation skills! Why not have the entire head flash to show the skull within? Or have an ethereal image appear in the background of an otherwise unexceptional painting of a bowl of fruit?

In the final stages of the tutorial, John explains how to set an image slideshow running on the Pi, and how to complete the look with the aforementioned ornate frame. He also goes into detail about the importance of using a matte effect screen or transparent gels to give a more realistic ‘painted’ feel.

You’ll find everything you need to make your own haunted portrait here, including a link to John’s entire live stream.

Get spooky!

We’re going to make this for Pi Towers. In fact, I’m wondering whether I could create an entire gallery of portraits specifically for our reception area and see how long it takes people to notice …

… though I possibly shouldn’t have given my idea away on this rather public blog post.

If you make the Haunted Portrait, or any other Halloween-themed Pi build, make sure you share it with us via social media, or in the comments below.

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RaspiReader: build your own fingerprint reader

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Three researchers from Michigan State University have developed a low-cost, open-source fingerprint reader which can detect fake prints. They call it RaspiReader, and they’ve built it using a Raspberry Pi 3 and two Camera Modules. Joshua and his colleagues have just uploaded all the info you need to build your own version — let’s go!

GIF of fingerprint match points being aligned on fingerprint, not real output of RaspiReader software

Sadly not the real output of the RaspiReader

Falsified fingerprints

We’ve probably all seen a movie in which a burglar crosses a room full of laser tripwires and then enters the safe full of loot by tricking the fingerprint-secured lock with a fake print. Turns out, the second part is not that unrealistic: you can fake fingerprints using a range of materials, such as glue or latex.

Examples of live and fake fingerprints collected by the RaspiReader team

The RaspiReader team collected live and fake fingerprints to test the device

If the spoof print layer capping the spoofer’s finger is thin enough, it can even fool readers that detect blood flow, pulse, or temperature. This is becoming a significant security risk, not least for anyone who unlocks their smartphone using a fingerprint.

The RaspiReader

This is where Anil K. Jain comes in: Professor Jain leads a biometrics research group. Under his guidance, Joshua J. Engelsma and Kai Cao set out to develop a fingerprint reader with improved spoof-print detection. Ultimately, they aim to help the development of more secure commercial technologies. With their project, the team has also created an amazing resource for anyone who wants to build their own fingerprint reader.

So that replicating their device would be easy, they wanted to make it using inexpensive, readily available components, which is why they turned to Raspberry Pi technology.

RaspiReader fingerprint scanner by PRIP lab

The Raspireader and its output

Inside the RaspiReader’s 3D-printed housing, LEDs shine light through an acrylic prism, on top of which the user rests their finger. The prism refracts the light so that the two Camera Modules can take images from different angles. The Pi receives these images via a Multi Camera Adapter Module feeding into the CSI port. Collecting two images means the researchers’ spoof detection algorithm has more information to work with.

Comparison of live and spoof fingerprints

Real on the left, fake on the right

RaspiReader software

The Camera Adaptor uses the RPi.GPIO Python package. The RaspiReader performs image processing, and its spoof detection takes image colour and 3D friction ridge patterns into account. The detection algorithm extracts colour local binary patterns … please don’t ask me to explain! You can have a look at the researchers’ manuscript if you want to get stuck into the fine details of their project.

Build your own fingerprint reader

I’ve had my eyes glued to my inbox waiting for Josh to send me links to instructions and files for this build, and here they are (thanks, Josh)! Check out the video tutorial, which walks you through how to assemble the RaspiReader:

RaspiReader: Cost-Effective Open-Source Fingerprint Reader

Building a cost-effective, open-source, and spoof-resilient fingerprint reader for $160* in under an hour. Code: https://github.com/engelsjo/RaspiReader Links to parts: 1. PRISM – https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00WL3OBK4/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o05_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1 (Better fit) https://www.thorlabs.com/thorproduct.cfm?partnumber=PS611 2. RaspiCams – https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B012V1HEP4/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o00_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1 3. Camera Multiplexer https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B012UQWOOQ/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o04_s01?ie=UTF8&psc=1 4. Raspberry Pi Kit: https://www.amazon.com/CanaKit-Raspberry-Clear-Power-Supply/dp/B01C6EQNNK/ref=sr_1_6?ie=UTF8&qid=1507058509&sr=8-6&keywords=raspberry+pi+3b Whitepaper: https://arxiv.org/abs/1708.07887 * Prices can vary based on Amazon’s pricing. P.s.

You can find a parts list with links to suppliers in the video description — the whole build costs around $160. All the STL files for the housing and the Python scripts you need to run on the Pi are available on Josh’s GitHub.

Enhance your home security

The RaspiReader is a great resource for researchers, and it would also be a terrific project to build at home! Is there a more impressive way to protect a treasured possession, or secure access to your computer, than with a DIY fingerprint scanner?

Check out this James-Bond-themed blog post for Raspberry Pi resources to help you build a high-security lair. If you want even more inspiration, watch this video about a laser-secured cookie jar which Estefannie made for us. And be sure to share your successful fingerprint scanner builds with us via social media!

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