Tag Archives: Raspberry Pi Zero/Zero W

Cats and lasers and (Raspberry) Pi, OH MY!

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Keeping a modern cat entertained requires something more high-tech than a ball of yarn. The MagPi’s Phil King wonders if this is a purr-fect project…

WARNING! LASER EYE! Don’t look into a laser beam, and don’t point a laser beam at a somebody’s head. For more on things you SHOULDN’T do with a laser, visit magpi.cc/lasersafety.

Xander the cat is a much-loved family pet, but as his owners live in a flat, he can get a little bored staying indoors when they’re out at work. Seeking a way to keep his cat entertained, Enzo Calogero came up with an ingenious Raspberry Pi–powered project. “We noticed that he loves to chase a laser light, so we decided to create a device to make laser games for him,” explains Enzo.

The result is the Tri-Lasers for Felines device which, when the cat’s presence is detected by a PIR motion sensor, beams a laser dot around the room for Xander to chase between randomly generated points. Judging by the video on the project’s Hackster tutorial page, he seems to love it.

trilaser

This video is about trilaser

Pan and tilt

The laser’s main movement trajectory is handled by mounting it on a Pan-Tilt HAT, which has vertical and horizontal servo motors. “A pair of coordinates (x, y) is generated randomly,” explains Enzo. “The laser point moves from the current point to a new coordinate, following the segment that connects the two points, at a speed defined by a status variable. Once the new coordinates are reached, we loop back to point one.”

To add extra interest for Xander, its movement is randomised further by switching between three laser diodes to perform micro random movements very quickly. “Switching the active laser among the three allows extremely rapid movements of the laser dot, to create an extra variability of the light trajectories which seems more enjoyable for the cat,” says Enzo.

While the laser point is visible in daylight, it shows up better when there’s less light: “Xander prefers it when the room is completely dark.”

The device’s three laser diodes are set into a 3D-printed triangular holder that sits atop the Pan-Tilt HAT’s acrylic mount — which would normally be used to hold a Camera Module. Enzo also designed and 3D-printed a case for the PIR sensor.

Cat-a-log

In addition to handling laser movement, the Python script saves a log of Xander’s activity: “We check it now and then out for curiosity,” says Enzo. “When Xander was a kitten, he was playing with it very often. Now he is a bit older and much more prone to sleep rather than play, we switch it on when we are out in the evening to keep him busy during our prolonged absence.”

One issue that came up is that, being naturally curious animals, cats are prone to investigate any new objects. “We try to put it as high and unreachable as possible, but cats are extremely skilled,” says Enzo. “So, he was able to reach the device few times. And the best way to save the device from cat attacks is to make it as still as possible, so the cat loses interest.”

Therefore a tilt sensor was added to the device, to cause it to shut down if triggered by an inquisitive Xander, thus reducing the risk of damage.

This isn’t the only feline-focused project from Enzo, who has also built an IoT food scale to monitor when and how much Xander eats, sending the data to a Google Cloud online dashboard. He’s now working on a wheeled robot to track the cat with a camera and perform a few interactions — we wonder what Xander will make of that.

More from The MagPi

The MagPi magazine is available from newsagents in the UK, Barnes & Noble in the US, the Raspberry Pi Store here in Cambridge, and online in the Raspberry Pi Press store.

This month’s issue comes with a free stand for your Raspberry Pi 4. Yay!

A note from Alex regarding cats and lasers

Some cats don’t like lasers. They find it far too upsetting when they can’t catch what it is they’re chasing. If your cat starts to pant while chasing lasers, don’t assume it’s just exhausted. Panting can be a sign of stress in cats, and stressed is something your cat shouldn’t be. Exercise caution when playing with your cat and laser toys, and consult a vet if you’re unsure whether their behaviour is normal.

Signed,

The owner of a cat who doesn’t like laser toys

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Protect your veggies from hail with a Raspberry Pi Zero W

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Tired of losing vegetable crops to frequent summertime hail storms, Nick Rogness decided to build something to protect them. And the result is brilliant!

Digital Garden with hail protection

Tired of getting your garden destroyed by hail storms? I was, so I did something about it…maker style!

“I live in a part of the country where hail and severe weather are commonplace during the summer months,” Nick explains in his Hackster tutorial. “I was getting frustrated every year when my wife’s garden was get demolished by the nightly hail storms losing our entire haul of vegetable goodies!”

Nick drew up plans for a solution to his hail problem, incorporating liner actuators bolted to a 12ft × 12ft frame that surrounds the vegetable patch. When a storm is on the horizon, the actuators pull a heavy-duty tarp over the garden.

Nick connected two motor controllers to a Raspberry Pi Zero W. The Raspberry Pi then controls the actuators to pull the tarp, either when a manual rocker switch is flipped or when it’s told to do so via weather-controlled software.

“Software control of the garden was accomplished by using a Raspberry Pi and MQTT to communicate via Adafruit IO to reach the mobile app on my phone,” Nick explains. The whole build is powered by a 12V Marine deep-cycle battery that’s charged using a solar panel.

You can view the full tutorial on Hackster, including the code for the project.

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IoT ugly Christmas sweaters

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If there’s one thing we Brits love, it’s an ugly Christmas sweater. Jim Bennett, a Senior Cloud Advocate at Microsoft, has taken his ugly sweater game to the next level by adding IoT-controlled, Twitter-connected LEDs thanks to a Raspberry Pi Zero.

IoT is Fun for Everyone! (Ugly Sweater Edition)

An Ugly Sweater is great-but what’s even better (https://aka.ms/IoTShow/UglySweater) is an IoT-enabled Ugly Sweater. In this episode of the IoT Show, Olivier Bloch is joined by Jim Bennett, a Senior Cloud Advocate at Microsoft. Jim has built an Ugly Sweater using Azure IoT Central, Microsoft’s IoT app platform, and a Raspberry Pi Zero.

Jim upgraded his ugly sweater to become IoT-compatible using Microsoft’s IoT app platform Azure IoT Central, Adafruit’s programmable NeoPixel LED Dots Strand and, of course, our sweet baby, the Raspberry Pi Zero W.

After sewing the LED strand into the ugly sweater and connecting it to Raspberry Pi Zero, Jim was able to control the colour of the LEDs. Taking it one step further, he then built a list of commands within Azure IoT Central and linked the Raspberry Pi Zero to a Twitter account to create the IoT element of the project.

Watch the video above for full details on the project, and find all the code on Github.

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Tracking the Brecon Beacons ultramarathon with a Raspberry Pi Zero

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On my holidays this year I enjoyed a walk in the Brecon Beacons. We set out nice and early, walked 22km through some of the best scenery in Britain, got a cup of tea from the snack van on the A470, and caught our bus home. “I enjoyed that walk,” I thought, “and I’d like to do one like it again.” What I DIDN’T think was, “I’d like to do that walk again, only I’d like it to be nearly three times as long, and it definitely ought to have about three times more ascent, or else why bother?”

Alan Peaty is a bit more hardcore than me, so, a couple of weekends ago, he set out on the Brecon Beacons 10 Peaks Ultramarathon: “10 peaks; 58 kilometres; 3000m of ascent; 24 hours”. He went with his friend Neil and a Raspberry Pi Zero in an eyecatching 3D-printed case.

A green 3D-printed case with a Raspberry Pi sticker on it, on a black backpack leaning against a cairn. In the background are a sunny mountain top, distant peaks, and a blue sky with white clouds.

“The brick”, nestling on a backpack, with sunlit Corn Du and Pen y Fan in the background

The Raspberry Pi Zero ensemble – lovingly known as the brick or, to give it its longer name, the Rosie IoT Brick or RIoT Brick – is equipped with a u-blox Neo-6 GPS module, and it also receives GPS tracking info from some smaller trackers built using ESP32 microcontrollers. The whole lot is powered by a “rather weighty” 20,000mAh battery pack. Both the Raspberry Pi and the ESP32s were equipped with “all manner of additional sensors” to track location, temperature, humidity, pressure, altitude, and light level readings along the route.

Charts showing temperature, humidity & pressure, altitude, and light levels along the route, together with a route map

Where the route crosses over itself is the most fervently appreciated snack van in Wales

Via LoRa and occasional 3G/4G from the many, many peaks along the route, all this data ends up on Amazon Web Services. AWS, among other things, hosts an informative website where family members were able to keep track of Alan’s progress along windswept ridges and up 1:2 gradients, presumably the better to appreciate their cups of tea and central heating. Here’s a big diagram of how the kit that completed the ultramarathon fits together; it’s full of arrows, dotted lines, and acronyms.

Alan, Neil, the brick, and the rest of their gear completed the event in an impressive 18 hours and one minute, for which they got a medal.

The brick, a small plastic box full of coloured jumper leads and other electronics; the lid of the box; and a medal consisting of the number 10 in large plastic characters on a green ribbon

Well earned

You can follow the adventures of this project, its antecedents, and the further evolutions that are doubtless to come, on the Rosie the Red Robot Twitter feed. And you can find everything to do with the project in this GitHub repository, so you can complete ultramarathons while weighed down with hefty power bricks and bristling with homemade tracking devices, too, if you like. Alan is raising money for Alzheimer’s Research UK with this event, and you can find his Brecon Beacons 10 Peaks JustGiving page here.

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The world’s first Raspberry Pi-powered Twitter-activated jelly bean-pooping unicorn

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When eight-year-old Tru challenged the Kids Invent Stuff team to build a sparkly, pooping, rainbow unicorn electric vehicle, they did exactly that. And when Kids Invent Stuff, also known as Ruth and Shawn, got in contact with Estefannie Explains it All, their unicorn ended up getting an IoT upgrade…because obviously.

You tweet and the Unicorn poops candy! | Kids Invent Stuff

We bring kids’ inventions to life and this month we teamed up with fellow youtube Estefannie (from Estefannie Explains It All https://www.youtube.com/user/estefanniegg SHE IS EPIC!) to modify Tru’s incredible sweet pooping unicorn to be activated by the internet! Featuring the AMAZING Allen Pan https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCVS89U86PwqzNkK2qYNbk5A (Thanks Allen for your filming and tweeting!)

Kids Invent Stuff

If you’re looking for an exciting, wholesome, wonderful YouTube channel suitable for the whole family, look no further than Kids Invent Stuff. Challenging kids to imagine wonderful inventions based on monthly themes, channel owners Ruth and Shawn then make these kids’ ideas a reality. Much like the Astro Pi Challenge, Kids Invent Stuff is one of those things we adults wish existed when we were kids. We’re not jealous, we’re just…OK, we’re definitely jealous.

ANYWAY, when eight-year-old Tru’s sparkly, pooping, rainbow unicorn won the channel’s ‘crazy new vehicle’ challenge, the team got to work, and the result is magical.

Riding an ELECTRIC POOPING UNICORN! | Kids Invent Stuff

We built 8-year-old Tru’s sparkly, pooping, rainbow unicorn electric vehicle and here’s what happened when we drove it for the first time and pooped out some jelly beans! A massive THANK YOU to our challenge sponsor The Big Bang Fair: https://www.thebigbangfair.co.uk The Big Bang Fair is the UK’s biggest celebration of STEM for young people!

But could a sparkly, pooping, rainbow unicorn electric vehicle ever be enough? Is anything ever enough if it’s not connected to the internet? Of course not. And that’s where Estefannie came in.

At Maker Central in Birmingham earlier this year, the two YouTube teams got together to realise their shared IoT dream.

They ran out of chairs for their panel, so Allen had to improvise

With the help of a Raspberry Pi Zero W connected to the relay built into the unicorn, the team were able to write code that combs through Twitter, looking for mentions of @mythicalpoops. A positive result triggers the Raspberry Pi to activate the relay, and the unicorn lifts its tail to shoot jelly beans at passers-by.

You can definitely tell this project was invented by an eight-year-old, and we love it!

IoT unicorn

As you can see in the video above, the IoT upgrades to the unicorn allow Twitter users to control when the mythical beast poops its jelly beans. There are rumours that the unicorn may be coming to live with us at Pi Towers, but if these turn out to be true, we’ll ensure that this function is turned off. So no tweeting the unicorn!

You know what to do

Be sure to subscribe to both Kids Invent Stuff and Estefannie Explains It All on YouTube. They’re excellent makers producing wonderful content, and we know you’ll love them.

How to milk a unicorn

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Portable retro CTR game console: the one-thumb entertainment system

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OTES is the one-thumb entertainment system that, unsurprisingly, requires only one thumb to play.

One-Thumb Entertainment System

Uploaded by gocivici on 2019-04-29.

Retro handheld gaming

Straight out the bat, I have to admit that had this existed in the 80s, it would have been all I played with. OTES oozes gaming nostalgia, and the constant clicking would have driven my mother mad, as did the tap tap tap of my Game Boy or NES controller.

Designed to play PICO8 games, with its developers eager to see more people create one-button controlled games for the console, OTES replaces the concept of game cartridges with individual SD cards, allowing for players to swap out games as they would have with a Nintendo Game Boy, SEGA Game Gear, Atari Lynx, and other stand-alone cartridge consoles.

Building OTES

As mentioned, OTES uses the PICO-8 environment at its core and runs on a Raspberry Pi Zero W with interchangeable SD cards. And as the games designed for the project only require one button, it makes for a fairly simple setup.

For the body, the project’s maker, govinci, sources an old JVC video camera in order to cannibalise the CRT viewfinder.

The most important thing first. You have to find an old camcorder which has a CRT viewfinder. It’s usually easy to tell if a camcorder has a CRT viewfinder since it’s a bulky part sticking off the side of the camcorder. I found this viewfinder on an old JVC camcorder which I bought from the flea market. To test the viewfinder I used a 9v battery to power up the camcorder. There was no image on the viewfinder but I got a static white noise which is enough to tell if the viewfinder works.

The CRT viewfinder (that’s it to the right of the battery) was then connected to the Raspberry Pi and power source, and nestled snugly into a 3D-printed body.

Close the case up, turn on the Pi, and boom: one working, single-button console game player with a very personal point of view.

Govinci says:

Currently, It has one game called ODEF (Ocean Defender) developed by me and my friends. (You can play it here.) And I hope there will be many others as people develop games that can be played with only one button on this platform.

You heard the man: go get developing. (I can think of plenty of circumstances where only needing one free finger to fit in a spot of gaming would be really, really convenient.) You can make your own console by following the build diary at Instructables. Let us know if you give it a whirl!

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