Tag Archives: Your Projects

One LED Matrix Table to rule them all

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Germany-based Andreas Rottach’s multi-purpose LED table is an impressive build within a gorgeous-looking body. Play games, view (heavily pixelated) images, and become hypnotised by flashy lights, once you’ve built your own using his newly released tutorial.

LED-Matrix Table – 300 LEDs – Raspberry Pi – C++ Engine – Custom Controllers

This is a short presentation of my LED-Matrix Table. The table is controlled by a raspberry pi computer that executes a control engine, written in c++. It supports input from keyboards or custom made game controllers. A full list of all features as well as the source code is available on GitHub (https://github.com/rottaca/LEDTableEngine).

Much excitement

Andreas uploaded a video of his LED Matrix Table to YouTube back in February, with the promise of publishing a complete write-up within the coming weeks. And so the members of Pi Towers sat, eagerly waiting and watching. Now the write-up has arrived, to our cheers of acclaim for this beautful, shiny, flashy, LED-based wonderment.

Build your own LED table

In his GitHub tutorial, Andreas goes through all the stages of building the table, from the necessary components to coding the Raspberry Pi 3 and 3D printing your own controllers.

Raspberry Pi LED Table

Find files for the controllers on Thingiverse

Andreas created the table’s impressive light matrix using a strip of 300 LEDs, chained together and connected to the Raspberry Pi via an LED controller.

Raspberry Pi LED Table

The LEDs are set out in zigzags

For the code, he used several open-source tools, such as SDL for image and audio support, and CMake for building the project software.

Anyone planning to recreate Andreas’ table can compile its engine by downloading the project repository from GitHub. Again, find full instructions for this on his GitHub.


The table boasts multiple cool features, including games and visualisation tools. Using the controllers, you can play simplified versions of Flappy Bird and Minesweeper, or go on a nostalgia trip with Tetris, Pong, and Snake.

Raspberry Pi LED Table

There’s also a version of Conway’s Game of Life. Andreas explains: “The lifespan of each cell is color-coded. If the game field gets static, the animation is automatically reset to a new random cell population.”

Raspberry Pi LED Table

The table can also display downsampled Bitmap images, or show clear static images such as a chess board, atop of which you can place physical game pieces.

Raspberry Pi LED Table Raspberry Pi LED Table Raspberry Pi LED Table

Find all the 3D-printable aspects of the LED table on Thingiverse here and here, and the full GitHub tutorial and repository here. If you build your own, or have already dabbled in LED tables and displays, be sure to share your project with us, either in the comments below or via our social media accounts. What other functions would you integrate into this awesome build?

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PipeCam: the low-cost underwater camera

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Fred Fourie is building a low-cost underwater camera for shallow deployment, and his prototypes are already returning fascinating results. You can build your own PipeCam, and explore the undiscovered depths with a Raspberry Pi and off-the-shelf materials.

PipeCam underwater Raspberry Pi Camera

Materials and build

In its latest iteration, PipeCam consists of a 110mm PVC waste pipe with fittings and a 10mm perspex window at one end. Previous prototypes have also used plumbing materials for the body, but this latest version employs heavy-duty parts that deliver the good seal this project needs.

PipeCam underwater Raspberry Pi Camera

In testing, Fred and a friend determined that the rig could withstand 4 bar of pressure. This is enough to protect the tech inside at the depths Fred plans for, and a significant performance improvement on previous prototypes.

PipeCam underwater Raspberry Pi Camera PipeCam underwater Raspberry Pi Camera

Inside the pipe are a Raspberry Pi 3, a camera module, and a real-time clock add-on board. A 2.4Ah rechargeable lead acid battery powers the set-up via a voltage regulator.

Using foam and fibreboard, Fred made a mount that holds everything in place and fits snugly inside the pipe.

PipeCam underwater Raspberry Pi Camera PipeCam underwater Raspberry Pi Camera PipeCam underwater Raspberry Pi Camera

PipeCam will be subject to ocean currents, not to mention the attentions of sea creatures, so it’s essential to make sure that everything is held securely inside the pipe – something Fred has learned from previous versions of the project.


It’s straightforward to write time-lapse code for a Raspberry Pi using Python and one of our free online resources, but Fred has more ambitious plans for PipeCam. As well as a Python script to control the camera, Fred made a web page to display the health of the device. It shows battery level and storage availability, along with the latest photo taken by the camera. He also made adjustments to the camera’s exposure settings using raspistill. You can see the effect in this side-by-side comparison of the default python-picam image and the edited raspistill one.

PipeCam underwater Raspberry Pi Camera PipeCam underwater Raspberry Pi Camera

Underwater testing

Fred has completed the initial first test of PipeCam, running the device under water for an hour in two-metre deep water off the coast near his home. And the results? Well, see for yourself:

PipeCam underwater Raspberry Pi Camera PipeCam underwater Raspberry Pi Camera PipeCam underwater Raspberry Pi Camera

PipeCam is a work in progress, and you can read Fred’s build log at the project’s Hackaday.io page, so be sure to follow along.

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LED cubes and how to map them

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Taking inspiration from a cube he had filmed at the 34th Chaos Communication Congress in Leipzig, Germany, polyfloyd gathered friends Sebastius and Boekenwuurm together to create their own.

The build

As polyfloyd’s blog post for the project notes, Sebastius led the way with the hardware portion of the build. The cube is made from six LED panels driven by a Raspberry Pi, and uses a breakout board to support the panels, which are connected in pairs:

The displays are connected in 3 chains, the maximum number of parallel chains the board supports, of 2 panels each. Having a higher degree of parallelization increases the refresh rate which in turn improves the overall image quality.

The first two chains make up the 4 sides. The remaining chain makes up the top and bottom of the cube.

Sebastius removed the plastic frames that come as standard on the panels, in order to allow them to fit together snugly as a cube. He designed and laser-cut a custom frame from plywood to support the panels instead.

Raspberry Pi LED Cube


The team used hzeller’s software to drive the panels, and polyfloyd wrote their own program to “shove the pixels around”. polyfloyd used Ledcat, software they had made to drive previous LED projects, and adapted this interface so programs written for Ledcat would also work with hzeller’s library.

The full code for the project can be found on polyfloyd’s GitHub profile. It includes the ability to render animations to gzipped files, and to stream animations in real time via SSH.

Mapping 2D and spherical images with shaders

“One of the programs that could work with my LED-panels through [Unix] pipes was Shady,” observes polyfloyd, explaining the use of shaders with the cube. “The program works by rendering OpenGL fragment shaders to an RGB24 format which could then be piped to wherever needed. These shaders are small programs that can render an image by calculating the color for each pixel on the screen individually.”

The team programmed a shader to map the two-dimensional position of pixels in an image to the three-dimensional space of the cube. This then allowed the team to apply the mapping to spherical images, such as the globe in the video below:

The team has interesting plans for the cube moving forward, including the addition of an accelerometer and batteries. Follow their progress on the polyfloyd blog.

Fun with LED panels

The internet is full of amazing Raspberry Pi projects that use LED panels. This recent project available on Instructables shows how to assemble and set up a particle generator, while this one, featured on this blog last year, tracks emojis used on the Chelsea Handler: Gotta Go! app.

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Voice-controlled magnification glasses

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Go hands-free in the laboratory or makerspace with Mauro Pichiliani’s voice-controlled magnification glasses.

Voice Controlled Glasses With Magnifying Lens

This video presents the project MoveLens: a voice controlled glasses with magnifying lens. It was the my entry for the Voice Activated context on unstructables. Check the step by step guide at Voice Controlled Glasses With Magnifying Lens. Source code: https://github.com/pichiliani/MoveLens Step by Step guide: https://www.instructables.com/id/Voice-Controlled-Glasses-With-Magnifying-Lens/

It’s a kind of magnification

We’ve all been there – that moment when you need another pair of hands to complete a task. And while these glasses may not hold all the answers, they’re a perfect addition to any hobbyist’s arsenal.

Introducing Mauro Pichilliani’s voice-activated glasses: a pair of frames with magnification lenses that can flip up and down in response to a voice command, depending on the task at hand. No more needing to put down your tools in order to put magnifying glasses on. No more trying to re-position a magnifying glass with the back of your left wrist, or getting grease all over your lenses.

As Mauro explains in his tutorial for the glasses:

Many professionals work for many hours looking at very small areas, such as surgeons, watchmakers, jewellery designers and so on. Most of the time these professionals use some kind of magnification glasses that helps them to see better the area they are working with and other tiny items used on the job. The devices that had magnifications lens on a form factor of a glass usually allow the professional to move the lens out of their eye sight, i.e. put aside the lens. However, in some scenarios touching the lens or the glass rim to move away the lens can contaminate the fingers. Also, it is cumbersome and can break the concentration of the professional.

Voice-controlled magnification glasses

Using a Raspberry Pi Zero W, a servo motor, a microphone, and the IBM Watson speech-to-text service, Mauro built a pair of glasses that lets users control the position of the magnification lenses with voice commands.

Magnification glasses, before modification and addition of Raspberry Pi

The glasses Mauro modified, before he started work on them; you have to move the lenses with your hands, like it’s October 2015

Mauro started by dismantling a pair of standard magnification glasses in order to modify the lens supports to allow them to move freely. He drilled a hole in one of the lens supports to provide a place to attach the servo, and used lollipop sticks and hot glue to fix the lenses relative to one another, so they would both move together under the control of the servo. Then, he set up a Raspberry Pi Zero, installing Raspbian and software to use a USB microphone; after connecting the servo to the Pi Zero’s GPIO pins, he set up the Watson speech-to-text service.

Finally, he wrote the code to bring the project together. Two Python scripts direct the servo to raise and lower the lenses, and a Node.js script captures audio from the microphone, passes it on to Watson, checks for an “up” or “down” command, and calls the appropriate Python script as required.

Your turn

You can follow the tutorial on the Instructables website, where Mauro entered the glasses into the Instructables Voice Activated Challenge. And if you’d like to take your first steps into digital making using the Raspberry Pi, take a look at our free online projects.

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Barcode reader for visually impaired shoppers

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To aid his mother in reading the labels of her groceries, Russell Grokett linked a laser barcode reader to a Raspberry Pi Zero W to read out the names of scanned item.


My mom is unable to read labels on grocery items anymore, so I went looking for solutions. After seeing that bar code readers for the blind run many hundreds of dollars, I wanted to see what could be done using a Raspberry Pi and a USB Barcode reader.

Exploring accessibility issues

As his mother is no longer able to read the labels on her groceries, Russell Grokett started exploring accessibility devices to help her out. When he came across high-priced barcode readers, he decided to take matters into his own hands.

Camera vs scanner

Originally opting for a camera to read the codes, Russell encountered issues with light and camera angle. This forced him to think of a new option, and he soon changed his prototype to include a laser barcode reader for around $30. The added bonus was that Raspbian supported the reader out of the box, reducing the need for configuration — always a plus for any maker.

A screenshot from the video showing the laser scanner used for the Raspberry Pi-powered barcode reader

Russell’s laser barcode scanner, picked up online for around $30

No internet, please

With the issues of the camera neatly resolved, Russell had another obstacle to overcome: the device’s internet access, or lack thereof, when his mother was out of range of WiFi, for example at a store.

Another key requirement was that this should work WITHOUT an internet connection (such as at a store or friend’s house). So the database and text-to-speech had to be self-contained.

Russell tackled this by scouring the internet for open-source UPC code databases, collecting barcode data to be stored on the Raspberry Pi. Due to cost (few databases are available for free), he was forced to stitch together bits of information he could find, resigning himself to inputting new information manually in the future.

I was able to put a couple open-source databases together (sources in appendix below), but even with nearly 700000 items in it, a vast number are missing.

To this end, I have done two things: one is to focus on grocery items specifically, and the other is to add a webserver to the Raspberry Pi to allow adding new UPC codes manually, though this does require at least local network connectivity.

Read it aloud

For the text-to-speech function of the project, Russell used Flite, as this interface makes a healthy compromise between quality of audio and speed. As he explains in his Instructables tutorial, you can find out more about using Flite on the Adafruit website.

A screenshot from the video showing the laser scanner used for the Raspberry Pi-powered barcode reader scanned an item

When an item is scanned, the Raspberry Pi plays back audio of its name

In order to maintain the handheld size of the scanner, Russell used a Raspberry Pi Zero W for the project, and he repurposed his audio setup of a previous build, the Earthquake Pi.

Make your own

Find a full breakdown of the build, including ingredients, code, and future plans on Instructables. And while you’re there, be sure to check out Russell’s other Raspberry Pi–based projects, such as PiTextReader, a DIY text-to-speech reader; and the aforementioned Earthquake Pi, a light-flashing, box-rattling earthquake indicator for your desk.

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Petoi: a Pi-powered kitty cat

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A robot pet is the dream of many a child, thanks to creatures such as K9, Doctor Who’s trusted companion, and the Tamagotchi, bleeping nightmare of parents worldwide. But both of these pale in comparison (sorry, K9) to Petoi, the walking, meowing, live-streaming cat from maker Rongzhong Li.

Petoi: OpenCat Demo

Mentioned on IEEE Spectrum: https://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/robotics/humanoids/video-friday-boston-dynamics-spotmini-opencat-robot-engineered-arts-mesmer-uncanny-valley More reads on Hackster: https://www.hackster.io/petoi/opencat-845129 优酷: http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XMzQxMzA1NjM0OA==.html?spm=a2h3j.8428770.3416059.1 We are developing programmable and highly maneuverable quadruped robots for STEM education and AI-enhanced services. Its compact and bionic design makes it the only affordable consumer robot that mimics various mammal gaits and reacts to surroundings.


Not only have cats conquered the internet, they also have a paw firmly in the door of many makerspaces and spare rooms — rooms such as the one belonging to Petoi’s owner/maker, Rongzhong Li, who has been working on this feline creation since he bought his first Raspberry Pi.

Petoi Raspberry Pi Robot Cat

Petoi in its current state – apple for scale in lieu of banana

Petoi is just like any other housecat: it walks, it plays, its ribcage doubles as a digital xylophone — but what makes Petoi so special is Li’s use of the project as a platform for study.

I bought my first Raspberry Pi in June 2016 to learn coding hardware. This robot Petoi served as a playground for learning all the components in a regular Raspberry Pi beginner kit. I started with craft sticks, then switched to 3D-printed frames for optimized performance and morphology.

Various iterations of Petoi have housed various bits of tech, 3D-printed parts, and software, so while it’s impossible to list the exact ingredients you’d need to create your own version of Petoi, a few components remain at its core.

Petoi Raspberry Pi Robot Cat — skeleton prototype

An early version of Petoi, housed inside a plastic toy helicopter frame

A Raspberry Pi lives within Petoi and acts as its brain, relaying commands to an Arduino that controls movement. Li explains:

The Pi takes no responsibility for controlling detailed limb movements. It focuses on more serious questions, such as “Who am I? Where do I come from? Where am I going?” It generates mind and sends string commands to the Arduino slave.

Li is currently working on two functional prototypes: a mini version for STEM education, and a larger version for use within the field of AI research.

A cat and a robot cat walking upstairs Petoi Raspberry Pi Robot Cat

You can read more about the project, including details on the various interactions of Petoi, on the hackster.io project page.

Not quite ready to commit to a fully grown robot pet for your home? Why not code your own pixel pet with our free learning resource? And while you’re looking through our projects, check out our other pet-themed tutorials such as the Hamster party cam, the Infrared bird box, and the Cat meme generator.

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