Tag Archives: Third-Party Products

Google AIY Projects Kit vs Star Wars Porgs

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Here at Pi Towers, we have a love/hate relationship with the Star Wars creatures known as Porgs. Love, because anything cute and annoying will instantly get our attention; hate, primarily because of this GIF:

Star Wars Porg Raspberry Pi Google AIY Projects Kit translator

So when hackster.io tweeted about the following project, you can imagine the unfiltered excitement and fear with which I shared the link in the comms team Slack channel.

It looked a little something like this:

Star Wars Porg Raspberry Pi Google AIY Projects Kit translator

Google AIY Projects Kit

When we announced the Google AIY Projects Kit as a freebie included in issue 57 of The MagPi, I don’t think we realised how well it would do. OK, no, we knew it would do well. After we gave away a free $5 computer on the front cover of issue 40, we knew giving tech away with The MagPi would always do well. But the wave of projects and applications that started on the day of the release was a wonderful surprise, as community members across the world immediately began to implement voice control in their builds.

Star Wars Porg Raspberry Pi Google AIY Projects Kit translator

And now, twenty months later, we’re still seeing some wonderful applications of the kit, including this glorious Porg project.

Learn Spanish with a Porg — because of course

Hackster.io user Paul Trebilcox-Ruiz shared his Translation Toy project on the site yesterday, providing a step-by-step guide to hacking the motors of the Star Wars Porg toy so that it moves in time with verbal responses from the AIY kit. It’s all rather nifty, and apart from a Raspberry Pi you only need some wires and a soldering iron to complete the project yourself.

…some wires, a soldering iron, and the cold-heartedness to pull apart the innards of a stuffed toy, Paul, you monster!

“Hello” Translation Toy

Uploaded by Paul Trebilcox-Ruiz on 2018-12-10.

As soon as Paul realised that the Porg’s motors would run if he simply applied voltage, he extended the wires inside the Porg with the help of jumper leads and so attached the Porg to the GPIO pins on his Raspberry Pi.

For this setup, I hooked the two speaker wires from the Porg into the speaker connectors on the HAT, the button wires into the GPIO pin 24 and ground connectors under the ‘Servos’ heading, and for the motors I needed to hook up a relay for a 5V connection driven by the signal off of GPIO pin 26. The microphone that came with the AIY Voice Projects Kit was attached to the board using the pre-defined mic connector.

Then Paul wrote code that uses the AIY kit to translate any voice command it hears into Spanish.

For the full code and instructions, check out Paul’s hackster.io project page. And for more Porg love, here’s every Porg scene from The Last Jedi:

Porgs! Love Them Or Hate Them – Every Porg Scene in Star Wars: The Last Jedi HD

Porgs are now part of the Star Wars universe for better or worse thanks to director Rian Johnson. How do you feel about the tasty critters? Thanks for watching

Bonus facts

  • Porgs were introduced into the Star Wars universe as a means of hiding the many puffins that traipse the landscape of Skellig Michael, the location used for filming Luke Skywalker’s home, Ahch-To. Bless you.
  • A group of Porgs is called a murder.
  • A baby Porg is called a Porglet.
  • And no, you can’t get a physical copy of The MagPi issue 40 or issue 57. They’re gone now. Done. Forever. But you can still download the PDFs.

 

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Raspberry Pi vs a Raspberry Pi–powered escape room

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A few Mondays ago, the Raspberry Pi North America team visited a very special, Raspberry Pi–powered Escape Room in San Francisco. Run by Palace Games, the Edison Escape Room is an immersive experience full of lights, sensors, and plenty of surprises. This is the team’s story of how they entered, explored, and ultimately escaped this room.

At World Maker Faire this year, our very own social media star Alex Bate met Jordan Bunker, one of the Production Artists at Palace Games. Emails were sent, dates arranges, and boom, the Raspberry Pi North America team had to face the Edison Escape Room!

Escape rooms

In case you’re not familiar, an escape room is a physical adventure game in which players solve a series of puzzles and riddles using clues, logic, and strategy to complete the game’s objectives. Many escape room designers use physical computing to control the many sensors and triggers involved in the player experience.

Palace Games Edison Escape Room

The team vs Edison

Upon entering the Edison Escape Room, my team and I quickly realized that we were within a complex system built like a giant computer! So even though it was our first-ever time in an escape room, that would not be a disadvantage for us.

Palace Games Edison Escape Room

Our goal was to accomplish a variety of tasks, including solving many puzzles, looking for hidden clues when anything could be a clue, completing circuits, moving with the floor, and getting a bit of a workout.

The true test, however, was how well we communicated and worked with each other — which we did an awesome job at: at times we split up the work to effectively figure out the many different puzzles and clues; there was a lot “try it this way”, “maybe it means this”, and “what if it’s supposed to go that way” being yelled across the room. Everyone had their Edison thinking hat on that day, and we were so ecstatic when we completed the last challenge and finally escaped!

Palace Games Edison Escape Room

The inner workings

After escaping the room, we got the chance to explore behind the scenes. We found a local network of many Raspberry Pis that are coordinated by a central Raspberry Pi server. The Python Banyan framework is the connective tissue between the Raspberry Pis and their attached components.

Palace Games Edison Escape Room

The framework facilitates the communication between the Pis and the central server via Ethernet. The Raspberry Pis are used to read various types of sensors and to drive actuators that control lights, open doors, or play back media. And Raspberry Pis also drive the control panels that employees use to enter settings and keep tabs on the game.

“Raspberry Pi keeps us going. It’s the heart and soul of our rooms.”  – Elizabeth Sonder, Design Engineer & Production Manager

We highly recommend heading over to Palace Games and exploring one of their many escape rooms. It’s a great team-building exercise and definitely allows you to learn a lot about the people you work with. Thank you to the Palace Games team for hosting us, and we hope to return and escape one of their rooms again soon!

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From inspiration to innovation: Hands-On Coding blocks

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Marcos Navas is a Union City Technology Facilitator with Union City school district in New Jersey and an active member of the maker, STEM, and coding communities. He was part of the first cohort of Raspberry Pi Certified Educators in the United States. Recently, he completed a fellowship with IDEO’s Teachers Guild and launched Hands-on Coding, a company that makes physical coding blocks for learners. Hands-On Coding blocks allow students to physically build computer programs and act out their code in the real world. They turn the human into a computer and teach children not only how to solve problems, but also how to express themselves.

In this blog post, Marcos shares how his experience at Picademy helped him successfully combine his skills as a teacher with an entrepreneurial drive.

Marcos Navas — Hands-On Coding

At Picademy North America

The day before my flight to San Jose Airport to the Computer History Museum in Mountain View, I was busy in my garage makerspace. It’s strange when and how inspiration strikes, but it did — at 1am while I was preparing for Picademy. While looking at the Raspberry Pi and all the coding languages, I began thinking, “Wouldn’t it be cool if I could hold the code in my hands and manipulate it?” So I began tinkering with the 3D printer and created a repeat block — and that’s how the story of Hands-On Coding begins.

A girl playing with hands-on coding blocks at a desk

The following day, I was part of the first cohort of Raspberry Pi Certified Educators (RCEs) in America. I walked into a room full of innovative and creative teachers from all over the country. Over the next two days, we were introduced to the world of Raspberry Pi and the coding basics we needed to create our first project. It was here that I understood the power of coding and how it is the language of the future. I truly believed then — and now! — how impactful coding could be if integrated into schools.

With so many talented people in attendance, I decided to share my 3D-printed coding blocks. After receiving many “oohs” and “aahs” from my peers along with several order requests, I realized that my idea could turn into something much bigger!

Marcos Navas selfie — Hands-On Coding

FAIL: First Attempt In Learning

One of the major takeaways from Picademy was Carrie Anne Philbin’s intro slide titled “FAIL: First Attempt In Learning.” But, for me, the word ‘fail’ turned into ‘fear’: being new to coding and the Raspberry Pi was daunting. Through persistence, though, I embraced growth, and worked my way out of those fears; I began to gain more confidence, which led to new ideas and experiences. And I learned that changing my perspective on failure was the key to embracing it. Some time after Picademy, this same message was repeated to me by Reshma Suajani, founder and CEO of Girls Who Code, who saw my coding blocks and said: “Don’t let the fear of failure get in your way.” So I let failure drive me instead.

kids playing with hands-on coding blocks

Hands-On Coding blocks

After Picademy, I met with Sam Patterson, another amazing RCE, at his local makerspace. During our conversation, I handed him one of my first coding block prototypes and asked for his thoughts. His words got me thinking about kinesthetic coding and the physical movements of acting out code to build understanding.

Two years later, in July 2018, after developing partnerships, distribution channels, and a fantastic shipping department (me), we delivered our first Hands-On Coding blocks! Hands-On Coding now consists of me and my partners Laura Fleming and Joann Presby, and our goal is to revolutionize coding by making it a more physical and tangible educational idea open to various types of learners. We hope to teach the fundamentals of computational thinking and computer science through the use of blocks and the absence of any technological device; you don’t need to learn coding in front of a screen. Our endgame is to help humanity learn to design solutions to problems in our world.

Kids playing with hands-on coding blocks

After Picademy

My experience at Picademy was just the start of my journey. I not only gained an understanding of the importance of coding in education and the versatility of the Raspberry Pi computer, but also grew out my shell and gained the confidence I needed to put ideas into actions. I became a TED Innovative Educator and an IDEO Teachers Guild Fellow, I launched Hands-on Coding, and I created numerous relationships and ambassadorships with an array of edtech companies. I understood that just because I am an educator or teacher that doesn’t mean I can’t follow my own dreams and aspirations and be a teacherpreneur! I do not have any secrets or magic to this process. Rather, a dream, action, and hard work can lead you to many worlds of possibilities.

Picademy and online training

Keep up to date with Picademy, including the release of 2019 dates, by following the #Picademy hashtag on Twitter. You’ll also find more information on our Picademy page.

Our free online training courses offer another way to learn about introducing coding into the classroom, and much more. And you can discover more stories and support from educators like Marcos in Hello World, the computing and digital making magazine for educators, which is available for free.

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Can’t Drive This, the 4D arcade machine

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A Raspberry Pi–powered arcade display with hidden interactive controls won over the crowds at Gamescom. Rosie Hattersley and Rob Zwetsloot got the inside scoop.

Pixel Maniacs is a Nuremberg-based games maker that started out making mobile apps. These days it specialises in games for PC, Xbox One, PlayStation, and Nintendo Switch. You Can’t Drive is its first foray into gaming with a Raspberry Pi.

If you’re going to add a little something extra to wow the crowd at the Gamescom video games trade fair, a Raspberry Pi is a surefire way of getting you noticed. And that’s the way Pixel Maniacs went about it.

The Nuremberg-based games developer retrofitted an arcade machine with a Raspberry Pi to showcase its intentionally silly Can’t Drive This precarious driving game at Gamescom.

This two-player co-operative game involves one player building the track while the other drives along it.

Complete with wrecking balls, explosions, an inconvenient number of walls, and the jeopardy of having to construct your road as you negotiate your way, at speed, across an ocean to the relative safety of the next lump of land, Can’t Drive This is a fast‑paced racing game.

Splash action

Pixel Maniacs then took things up a notch by providing interactive elements, building a mock 4D arcade game (so-named because they feature interactive elements such as motion cabinets). The fourth dimension, in this case, saw the inclusion of a water spray, fan, and console lights. For its Gamescom debut, Pixel Maniacs presented Can’t Drive This in a retro arcade cabinet, where hordes of gaming fans gathered round its four-way split screen to enjoy the action.

Getting to the heart of the matter and replacing the original 1980s kit with modern-day processors and Pi-powered additions

Adding Raspberry Pi gaming to the mix was about aiding the game development process as much as anything. Andy Holtz, Pixel Maniacs’ software engineer, told The MagPi that the team wanted an LED matrix with 256 RGB LEDs to render sprite-sheet animations. “We knew we needed a powerful machine with enough RAM, and a huge community, to get the scripts running.”

Pixel Maniacs’ offices have several Raspberry Pi–controlled monitors and a soundboard, so the team knew the Pi’s potential.

The schematic for the 4D arcade machine, showing the importance of the Raspberry Pi as a controller.

The arcade version of the game runs off a gaming laptop cunningly hidden within the walls of the cabinet, while the Raspberry Pi delivers the game’s surprise elements such as an unexpected blast from a water spray. A fan can be triggered to simulate stormy weather, and lights start flashing crazily when the cars crash. Holtz explains that the laptop “constantly sends information about the game’s state to the Raspberry Pi, via a USB UART controller. The Pi reads these state messages, converts them, and sends according commands to the fans, water nozzle, camera, and the LED light matrix. So when players drive through water, the PC sends the info to the Pi, and [the latter] turns on the nozzle, spraying them.”

Having played your heart out, you get a photo-booth-style shot of you in full-on gaming action.

The arcade idea came about when Pixel Maniacs visited the offices of German gaming magazine M! Games and spied an abandoned, out-of-order 1980s arcade machine lurking unloved in a corner. Pixel Maniacs set about rejuvenating it, Da Doo Ron Ron soundtrack and all.

Sustained action

Ideas are one thing; standing up to the rigours of a full weekend’s uninterrupted gameplay at the world’s biggest games meet is something else. Holtz tells us, “The Raspberry Pi performed like a beast throughout the entire time. Gamescom was open from 9am till 8pm, so it had to run for eleven hours straight, without overheating or crashing. Fortunately, it did. None of the peripherals connected to the Pi had any problems, and we did not have a single crash.”

A Raspberry Pi 3B+ was used to trigger the water spray, lights, and fans, bringing an extra element to the gameplay, as well as rendering the arcade machine’s graphics.

Fans were enthusiastic too, with uniformly positive feedback, and one Gamescom attendee attempting to buy the arcade version there and then. As Andy Holtz says, though, you don’t sell your baby. Instead, Pixel Maniacs is demoing it at games conventions in Germany this autumn, before launching Can’t Drive This across gaming platforms at the end of the year.

This article was printed in The MagPi issue 75. Get your copy of The MagPi in stores now, or download it as a free PDF here.

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Build your own robotic cat: Petoi returns

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Who wouldn’t want a robot kitten? Exactly — we knew you’d understand! And so does the Petoi team, hence their new crowdfunding campaign for Petoi Nybble.

Petoi Nybble

Main campaign video. Back our Indiegogo campaign to adopt Nybble the robo kitten! Share with your friends who may love it! Indiegogo: https://igg.me/at/nybble A more technical post: https://www.hackster.io/RzLi/petoi-nybble-944867 Don’t forget to follow Twitter @PetoiCamp and subscribe to Petoi.com for our newsletters! Most importantly, enjoy our new kitten!

Petoi mark 2

Earlier this year, we shared the robotic cat project Petoi by Rongzhong Li. You all loved it as much as we did, and eagerly requested more information on making one.

Petoi Raspberry Pi Robot Cat

Rongzhong’s goal always was for Petoi to be open-source, so that it can be a teaching aid as much as it is a pet. And with his team’s crowdfunding campaign, he has made building your own robot cat even easier.

Petoi the laser-cut robotic cat

Laser kitty

In the new Nybble version of Petoi, the team replaced 3D-printed parts with laser-cut wood, and cut down the parts list to be more manageable: a Raspberry Pi 3B+, a Sparkfun Arduino Pro Mini, and the Nybble kit, available in the Nybble IndieGoGo campaign.

Petoi the laser-cut robotic cat

The Nybble kit! “The wooden frame is a retro design in honor of its popstick-framed ancestor. I also borrowed the wisdom from traditional Chinese woodwork (in honor of my ancestors), to make the major frame screw-free.”

But Nybble is more than just wooden parts and servo motors! The robotic cat’s artificial intelligence lets users teach it as well as control it,  so every kitty will be unique.

Nybble’s motion is driven by an Arduino-compatible micro-controller. It stores instinctive “muscle memory” to move around. An optional AI chip, such as a Raspberry Pi, can be mounted on top of Nybble’s back, to help Nybble with perception and decision. You can program in your favorite language, and direct Nybble to walk around simply by sending short commands, such as “walk” or “turn left”!

The NyBoard

For this version, the Petoi team has created he NyBoard, an all-in-one controller board for the Raspberry Pi. It’s available to back for $45 if you don’t want to pledge $200 for the entire cat kit.

Petoi the laser-cut robotic cat

Learn more

If you’d like to learn more about Nybble, visit its IndieGoGo campaign page, find more technical details on its Hackster.io project page, or check out the OpenCat GitHub repo.

Petoi the laser-cut robotic cat

And if you’ve built your own robotic pet, such as a K-9–inspired dog, or Raspberry Pi–connected android sheep, let us know!

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Argon ONE: a super case for your Raspberry Pi

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The friendly people at Argon40, one of our Approved Resellers in Hong Kong, have an already-successful Kickstarter on the go for their Argon ONE Raspberry Pi case. I’ve got one of them on my desk at the moment. It’s a very pleasing object. “That’s quite nice,” enthuses Gordon, who isn’t very good at enthusing.

The Argon ONE: look at the shiny!

The Argon ONE is a nifty little aluminium-alloy case that offers well thought-through cable, power, and temperature management. We chatted to Joseph from Argon40 about the team’s development process, and he explained:

When we started the project, we initially designed the product to suit our needs based on our experiences of playing around with the Raspberry Pi. We wanted a case that is nice to look and at the same time has all the basic features that we loved about the Raspberry Pi: small footprint, access to GPIO, low power consumption. Then we looked into the nice-to-have stuff like good heat dissipation for better performance, a proper shut-down, and a form factor that is elegant but not extravagant.

Clicky magnets

What I find particularly satisfying about the Argon ONE is its GPIO access. It has a neat recess with clear pin labels and access to an inbuilt, colour-coded header that connects to your Pi’s GPIO pins. When you’re not using the pins, you probably want to keep them away from dust, spilled coffee, and the gross candy-corn M&Ms that Alex sometimes throws at you for literally no reason. The Argon ONE helps you out here: a cover fits perfectly over the GPIO recess, held in place by magnets that are just exactly strong enough for the job. Being a fidgeter, I find that this lends itself to compulsive clicking.

*click* *click* *click*

Injection moulding

We like the build quality here, especially at this price point (it’s HK$157, US$20, or GB£15, and early-bird pledges are cheaper). The Argon40 team was keen to use alumnium for the upper part of the case, for robustness and durability along with good looks; that proved a challenge, given that they wanted to keep the case affordable. “Fortunately, we found a factory that allowed us to do aluminum-alloy injection instead of going for the CNC option,” says Joseph.

“Have you tried turning if off and on again?”

The Raspberry Pi doesn’t have a power button, and we hear a lot from people who’d like it to. Happily, our community has come up with lots of ways to add one: this case, for example. Once you install Argon40’s shutdown script in Raspbian, pressing the case’s power button will run the script to shut the Pi down cleanly, then cut the power.

Find out more on Kickstarter — this campaign is well worth a look if you’re after a decent case. Back to Joseph for the last word, with which we heartily agree:

At the end of the day, our goal is for people to have their Raspberry Pis on top of their work desks, study tables, and workstations and in their living rooms, instead of keeping their barebones Pi tucked inside a drawer. Because as the saying goes, “Out of sight, out of mind,” which means that if they don’t see their Raspberry Pi, they won’t be able to tinker around with it or play with it to create projects.

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