Tag Archives: Raspberry Pi Zero/Zero W

Robotic waiter learning to serve drinks

via Raspberry Pi

The maker of this robotic waiter had almost all of the parts for this project just sat around collecting dust on a shelf. We’re delighted they decided to take the time to pick up the few extra bits they needed online, then take the extra hour (just an hour?!) to write a program in Python to get this robotic waiter up and running.

It’s learning! Bartending is hard

We are also thrilled to report (having spotted it in the reddit post we found this project on) that the maker had “so much fun picking up and sometimes crushing small things with this claw.” The line between serving drinks and wanting to crush things is thinner than you might imagine.

And in even better news, all the code you need to recreate this build is on GitHub.

Robo arm, HAT, and Raspberry Pi all together

Parts list

First successful straw-drop. Perfecto!

reddit comments bantz

One of our favourite things about finding Raspberry Pi-powered projects on reddit is the comments section. It’s (usually) the perfect mix of light adoration, constructive suggestions, and gateways to tangents we cannot ignore.

Like this one recalling the Rick and Morty sketch in which a cute tiny robot realises their sole purpose is to pass butter:

No swears in this scene! But it is an adult cartoon in general

And also this one pointing us to another robotic arm having a grand old time picking up a tiny ball, sending it down a tiny slide, and then doing it all over again. Because it’s important we know how to make our own fun:

We also greatly enjoyed the fact that the original maker couldn’t use the Rick and Morty “what is my purpose” line to share this project because they are such an uber fan that they already used it for a project they posted just the day before. This cute creation’s sole reason for existing is to hold an Apple pencil while looking fabulous. And we are HERE for it:

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Raspberry Pi makes your retro analogue camera digital

via Raspberry Pi

Befinitiv has built a custom film cartridge, using a Raspberry Pi Zero W, that turned their gorgeous old analogue camera into a digital one, and enabled it to take digital photos, videos, and even wirelessly live stream to the Internet.

A quick, simple build video for a smooth-running project

The analogue camera they used in the build was considered state-of-the-art around fifty years ago, but it lives on to capture another day, all thanks to a tiny computer we made just a few years ago.

analogue to digital camera original model hero shot
It’s a beauty

The maker replaced the old-fashioned camera film roll with a digital cartridge housing a tiny Raspberry Pi camera — with the lens removed — and a Raspberry Pi Zero W. The housing was designed to fit in the back of the camera where original photographers would have clipped the film roll in, and then spooled it over.

analogue to digital camera film with raspberry pi stuff in
Designed to fit

Along with the camera and the Raspberry Pi Zero W, the custom-built cartridge also houses a LiPo battery and a DC to DC converter, used to boost the power supply to the Raspberry Pi up to +5V.

analogue to digital camera insides
Teeny tech packed into a teeny space

The whole project took just two hours to complete from start to finish, everything worked first time. Befinitiv had wanted to use the Raspberry Pi High Quality Camera, but space inside the housing was just too tight. Maybe next time? Perhaps they can use one of those giant ancient cameras, where the photographer had to flip a blanket over their head, all while holding a stick in the air with the flash.

analogue to digital camera looking out the window
This old analogue camera is now fully digital

More retro projects from the maker

Fancy more where this retrofit goodness came from? The maker has also upgraded a flip phone from the year 2000. Oh! I just realised the year 2000 was more than 20 years ago. Watch the build video while I go and burn all of my skater boy jeans and slogan t-shirts…

Don’t let your old flip phone die

They also did something weird but cool sounding with this noisy teletype machine. Is it a teletype machine? What’s a teletype machine? I saw a fax machine once..?

I know EXACTLY what a “teletype message” is…

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Bluebot Shoal Fish Robot

via Raspberry Pi

If you loved the film Finding Dory, you might just enjoy the original story of these underwater robots, fresh out of the latest issue of The MagPi Magazine.

It’s no coincidence that the shoal of robot fish in this Raspberry Pi Zero W project look more than a little like Dory from Pixar’s movie. As with the film character, the Bluebot robot fish are based on the blue tang or surgeonfish. Unlike Dory, however, these robot fish are designed to be anything but loners. They behave collectively, which is the focus of the Blueswarm research project that began in 2016 at Harvard University.

Linked cameras attached to Raspberry Pi Zero W monitor what surrounding fish are doing. The Bluebot robot then mimics their behaviour, such as moving its fins
The Blueswarm team designed a PCB and wrote custom Python code for their subterranean Raspberry Pi experiments

Florian Berlinger and his PhD research project colleagues Radhika Nagpal, Melvin Gauci, Jeff Dusek, and Paula Wulko set out to investigate the behaviour of a synchronised group of underwater robots and how groups of such robot fish are co‑ordinated by observing each other’s movements. In the wild, birds, fish, and some animals co-ordinate in this way when migrating, looking for food and as a means of detecting and collectively avoiding predators. Simulations of such swarm behaviour exist, but Blueswarm has the additional challenge of operating underwater. Raspberry Pi Zero W works well here because multiple Bluebot robots can be accessed remotely over a secure wireless connection, and Raspberry Pi Zero W is physically small and light enough to fit inside a palm-sized robot. 

Mimicking movements

The team designed the fish-inspired, 3D-printed robot body as well as the fin-like actuators and the on-board printed circuit board which connects to all the electronics and communicates with Raspberry Pi Zero W. Designing the robot fish took the team four years, from working out how each robot fish would move and adding sensing capabilities, to refining the design and implementing collective behaviours, coded using Python 3. 

The Blueswarm team designed a PCB and wrote custom Python code for their subterranean Raspberry Pi experiments
The Blueswarm team designed a PCB and wrote custom Python code for their subterranean Raspberry Pi experiments

They used as many off-the-shelf electronics as possible to keep the robots simple, but adapted existing software algorithms for the purposes of their investigations, “with several clever twists on existing algorithms to make them run fast on Raspberry Pi,” adds Florian. 

On-board cameras that offer “an amazing 360-degree field of view” are one of the project’s real triumphs. These cameras are connected to Raspberry Pi via a duplexer board (so two cameras can operate as one) the project team co-designed with Arducam. Each Raspberry Pi Zero W inside follows the camera images and instructs the fins to move accordingly. The team developed custom algorithms for synchronisation, flocking, milling, and search behaviours to simulate how real fish move individually and as a group. As a result, says Florian, “Blueswarm can be used to study inter-robot co-ordination in the laboratory and to learn more about collective intelligence in nature.” He suggests other robot-based projects could make use of a similar setup. 

Imitation of life

Each robot fish cost around $250 and took approximately six hours to make. To make your own, you’d need a 3D printer, Raspberry Pi Zero W, a soldering station – and a suitably large tank for your robot shoal! Although the team hasn’t made the code available, the Blueswarm project paper has recently been published in Science Robotics and by the IEEE Robots and Automation Society. Several biology researchers have also been using the Bluebot shoal as ‘fish surrogates’ in their studies of swimming and schooling.

It may look cute, but Bluebot has a serious purpose
It may look cute, but Bluebot has a serious purpose

The MagPi #107 out NOW!

MagPi 107 cover

You can grab the brand-new issue right now from the Raspberry Pi Press store, the Raspberry Pi Store, Cambridge, or via our app on Android or iOS. You can also pick it up from supermarkets and newsagents. There’s also a free PDF you can download.

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Translate dog barks with Raspberry Pi

via Raspberry Pi

I speak English. Super well. And I can read the rough, overall vibe of writing in French. I can also order beer and taxis in Spanish. Alas, my dog can do none of these things, and we are left in communication limbo. I try asking them (in English) why they’re so mean to that one Cockapoo who lives across the road, or why they don’t understand the importance of the eyedrops the vet insists I have to hold their eyelids open to administer. They just respond with a variety of noises that I cannot translate. We need to fix this, and thankfully NerdStroke has harnessed Raspberry Pi to build a solution.

NerdStroke’s YouTube channel is new, but good. Subscribe to it!
(Video features some bleeped-out strong language, as well as one unbleeped mild swear)

How does it work?

The dog wears a harness with a microphone that picks up its barks. The barks get processed through a device that determines what the dog is saying and then outputs it through speakers.

Raspberry Pi Zero is the affordable brain powering NerdStroke’s solution to this age-old human-and-pup problem. But writing code that could translate the multitude of frequencies coming out of a dog’s mouth when it barks was a trickier problem. NerdStroke tried to work it through on Twitch with fellow hobbyists, but alas, the original dream had to be modified.

dog bark translator hardware
The kit worked fine – it was the coding challenge that changed the course of this project

Spoiler alert: fast Fourier transforms did not work. You would need a clear, pure tone for that to work in a project like this, but as we said above, dogs bark in a rainbow of tones, pitches, and all the rest.

So what’s the solution?

Because of this, a time-based model was devised to predict what a dog is likely to be barking about at any given time of day. For example, if it’s early morning, they probably want to go out to pee. But if it’s mid-morning, they’re probably letting you know the postman has arrived and is trying to challenge your territory by pushing thin paper squares through the flap in your front door. It’s a dangerous world out there, and dogs just want to protect us.

Nerdstroke had his good friend record some appropriate soundbites to go with each bark, depending on what time of day it happened. And now, Nugget the dog can tell you “I want to cuddle” or “Why aren’t you feeding me?”

Same, Nugget, same

While the final project couldn’t quite translate the actual thoughts of a dog, we love the humour behind this halfway solution. And we reckon the product name, Holler Collar, would definitely sell.

Follow NerdStroke’s future projects

NerdStroke is all over the socials, so follow them on your platform of choice:

TWITCH – twitch.tv/nerdstoke
INSTAGRAM – instagram.com/nerdstoke
TWITTER – twitter.com/nerdstoke
GITHUB – github.com/nerdstoke
EMAIL – nerdstoke@gmail.com

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Raspberry Pi Zero makes a xylophone play itself

via Raspberry Pi

When maker Stéphane (aka HalStar) set about building this self-playing xylophone, their goal was to learn more about robotics, and to get hands-on with some mechanical parts they had never used before, in this case solenoids.

They also wanted to experiment with Raspberry Pi to build something that reflected their love of music. This automated instrument, capable of playing hundreds of MIDI files, fits the brief.

Let me introduce you to Stéphane’s self-playing xylophone

Two factors constrained the design: Stéphane wanted to be able to do it all using parts from the local DIY store, and to use as many regular modules as possible. So, no breadboard or wires everywhere, and no custom PCB. Just something simple to assemble and neat.

This extra video goes into more detail about the build process

Hardware

Raspberry Pi Zero WH is the teeny tiny brain of the self-playing xylophone. And its maker’s build details video very helpfully labels all the parts, where they sit, and what’s connected to what.

self playing xylophone hardware
There we are (#4) working away to make the xylophone play

These three buttons select the tracks, set the tempo, and set the mode. Choose between playing all loaded tracks or just one. You can also decide whether you want all tracks to play on repeat in a loop, or stop after your selections have played through. A two-inch LCD screen shows you what’s going on.

self playing xylophone track selection buttons
Twist and click to choose your settings

The right notes

While there are thousands of MIDI files freely available online, very few of them could actually be played by the xylophone. With only 32 notes, the instrument is limited in what it can play without losing any notes. Also, even when a MIDI file uses just 32 consecutive notes, they might not be the same range of 32 notes as the xylophone has, so you need to transpose. Stéphane developed a tool in Python to filter out 32-note tunes from thousands of MIDI files and automatically transpose them so the xylophone can play them. And, yes, everything you need to copy this filtering and transposing function is on GitHub.

self playing xylophone hero
In all its glory

Now, Stéphane says that whenever friends or family visit their home, they’re curious and impressed to see this strange instrument play by itself. Sadly, we are not among Stéphane’s family or friends; fortunately, though, this project has an entire YouTube playlist, so we can still have a look and a listen to see it in action up close.

Wait, isn’t that a glockenspiel?

We know it’s technically a glockenspiel. Stéphane acknowledges it is technically a glockenspiel. But we are firm fans of their going down the xylophone route, because way more people know what one of those is. If you’re interested, the difference between a xylophone and the glockenspiel is the material used for the bars. A xylophone has wooden bars, whereas glockenspiel bars are metal.

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Low-cost Raspberry Pi Zero endoscope camera

via Raspberry Pi

Researchers at the University of Cape Town set about developing an affordable wireless endoscope camera to rival expensive, less agile options.

Endoscopic cameras are used to look at organs inside your body. A long, thin, flexible tube with a light at the end is fed down your throat (for example), and an inside view of all your organs is transmitted to a screen for medical review.

Problem is, these things are expensive to build. Also, the operator is tethered by camera wires and power cables.

Low cost endoscope camera
The prototype featured in Lazarus & Ncube research paper

With this low-cost prototype, the camera is mounted at the end with LEDs instead of fibre-optic lights. The device is battery powered, and can perform for two hours without needing a charge. Traditional endoscopes require external camera cables and a hefty monitor, so this wireless option saves space and provides much more freedom. Weighing in at just 184g, it’s also much more portable.

The prototype incorporates a 1280 × 720 pixel high-definition tube camera, and transmits video to a standard laptop for display. Perhaps this idea could be developed to support an even more agile display, such as a phone or a touchscreen tablet.

Thousands of dollars cheaper

This Raspberry Pi-powered wireless option also saves thousands of dollars. It was built for just $230, whereas contemporary wired options cost around $28,000.

Urologists at the University of Cape Town created the prototype. J. M. Lazarus & M. Ncube hope their design will be more accessible to medical settings that have less money available. You can read their research paper for an in-depth look at the whole process.

Traditional endescope camera cross section
A traditional endoscope. Image from Lazarus & Ncube’s original paper

The researchers focused on open-source resources to keep the cost low; we’ll learn more about the RaspAP software they used below. Affordability also led them to Raspberry Pi Zero W which, at just $10, is able to handle high-definition video.

What is RaspAP?

Billz, who shared the project on reddit, is one of the developers of RaspAP.

RaspAP is a wireless setup and management system that lets you get a wireless access point up and running quickly on Raspberry Pi. Here, the Raspberry Pi is receiving images sent from the camera and transmitting them to a display device.

An example of a Rasp A P dashboard
An example of a RaspAP dashboard

There is also Quick installer available for RaspAP. It creates a default configuration that “just works” on all Raspberry Pis with onboard wireless.

We wonder what other medical equipment could be greatly improved by developing an affordable wireless version?

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