Tag Archives: Your Projects

Playback your favourite records with Plynth

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Use album artwork to trigger playback of your favourite music with Plynth, the Raspberry Pi–powered, camera-enhanced record stand.

Plynth Demo

This is “Plynth Demo” by Plynth on Vimeo, the home for high quality videos and the people who love them.

Record playback with Plynth

Plynth uses a Raspberry Pi and Pi Camera Module to identify cover artwork and play the respective album on your sound system, via your preferred streaming service or digital library.

As the project’s website explains, using Plynth is pretty simple. Just:

  • Place a n LP, CD, tape, VHS, DVD, piece of artwork – anything, really – onto Plynth
  • Plynth uses its built-in camera to scan and identify the work
  • Plynth starts streaming your music on your connected speakers or home stereo system

As for Plynth’s innards? The stand houses a Raspberry Pi 3B+ and Camera Module, and relies on “a combination of the Google Vision API and OpenCV, which is great because there’s a lot of documentation online for both of them”, states the project creator, sp_cecamp, on Reddit.

Other uses

Some of you may wonder why you wouldn’t have your records with your record player and, as such, use that record player to play those records. If you are one of these people, then consider, for example, the beautiful Damien Rice LP I own that tragically broke during a recent house move. While I can no longer play the LP, its artwork is still worthy of a place on my record shelf, and with Plynth I can still play the album as well.

In addition, instead of album artwork to play an album, you could use photographs, doodles, or type to play curated playlists, or, as mentioned on the website, DVDs to play the movies soundtrack, or CDs to correctly select the right disc in a disc changer.

Convinced or not, I think what we can all agree on is that Plynth is a good-looking bit of kit, and at Pi Towers look forward to seeing where they project leads.

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Ghost hunting in schools with Raspberry Pi | Hello World #9

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In Hello World issue 9, out today, Elliott Hall and Tom Bowtell discuss The Digital Ghost Hunt: an immersive theatre and augmented reality experience that takes a narrative-driven approach in order to make digital education accessible.The Digital Ghost Hunt - Raspberry Pi Hello World

The Digital Ghost Hunt combines coding education, augmented reality, and live performance to create an immersive storytelling experience. It begins when a normal school assembly is disrupted by the unscheduled arrival of Deputy Undersecretary Quill of the Ministry of Real Paranormal Hygiene, there to recruit students into the Department’s Ghost Removal Section. She explains that the Ministry needs the students’ help because children have the unique ability to see and interact with ghostly spirits.

The Digital Ghost Hunt - Raspberry Pi Hello World

Under the tutelage of Deputy Undersecretary Quill and Professor Bray (the Ministry’s chief scientist), the young ghost-hunters learn how to program and use their own paranormal detectors. These allow students to discover ghostly traces, translate Morse code using flickering lights, and find messages left in ultraviolet ectoplasm. Meanwhile, the ghost communicates through a mixture of traditional theatrical effects and the poltergeist potential of smart home technology. Together, students uncover the ghost’s identity, discover her reason for haunting the building, unmask a dastardly villain, find a stolen necklace, clear the ghost’s name, right an old wrong, and finally set the ghost free.

The Digital Ghost Hunt - Raspberry Pi Hello World

The project conducted two successful test performances at the Battersea Arts Centre in South London in November 2018, funded by a grant from AHRC’s New Immersive Experiences Programme, led by Mary Krell of Sussex University. Its next outing will be at York Theatre Royal in August.

Adventures in learning

The Digital Ghost Hunt arose out of a shared interest in putting experimentation and play at the centre for learners. We felt that the creative, tinkering spirit of earlier computing — learning how to program BASIC on an Atari 800XL to create a game, for example — was being supplanted by a didactic and prescriptive approach to digital learning. KIT Theatre’s practice — creating classroom adventures that cast pupils as heroes in missions — is also driven by a less trammelled, more experiment-led approach to learning.

We believe that the current Computer Science curriculum isn’t engaging enough for students. We wanted to shift the context of how computer science is perceived, from ‘something techy and boyish’ back to the tool of the imagination that it should be. We did this by de-emphasising the technology itself and, instead, placing it in the larger context of a ghost story. The technology becomes a tool to navigate the narrative world — a means to an end rather than an end in itself. This helps create a more welcoming space for students who are bored or intimidated by the computer lab: a space of performance, experiment, and play.

Ghosts and machines

The device we built for the students was the SEEK Ghost Detector, made from a Raspberry Pi and a micro:bit, which Elliot stapled together. The micro:bit was the device’s interface, which students programmed using the block-based language MakeCode. The Raspberry Pi handled the heavier technical requirements of the show, and communicated them to the micro:bit in a form students could use. The detector had no screen, only the micro:bit’s LEDs. This meant that students’ attention was focused on the environment and what the detector could tell them about it, rather than having their attention pulled to a screen to the exclusion of the ‘real’ world around them.

In addition to the detector, we used a Raspberry Pi to make ordinary smart home technology into our poltergeist. It communicated with the students using effects such as smart bulbs that flashed in Morse code, which the students could then decode on their devices.

To program their detectors, students took part in a series of four lessons at school, focused on thinking like a programmer and the logic of computing. Two of the lessons featured significant time spent programming the micro:bit. The first focused on reading code on paper, and students were asked to look out for any bugs. The second had students thinking about what the detector will do, and acting out the steps together, effectively ‘performing’ the algorithm.

We based the process on KIT Theatre’s Adventures in Learning model, and its Theory of Change:

  • Disruption: an unexpected event grabs attention, creating a new learning space
  • Mission: a character directly asks pupils for their help in completing a mission
  • Achievement: pupils receive training and are given agency to successfully complete the mission

The Ghost Hunt

During these lessons, Deputy Undersecretary Quill kept in touch with the students via email, and the chief scientist sent them instructional videos. Their work culminated in their first official assignment: a ghost haunting the Battersea Arts Centre — a 120-year-old former town hall. After arriving, students were split into four teams, working together. Two teams analysed evidence at headquarters, while the others went out into places in the building where we’d hidden ghostly traces that their detectors would discover. The students pooled their findings to learn the ghost’s story, and then the teams swapped roles. The detectors were therefore only one method of exploring the narrative world. But the fact that they’d learned some of the code gave students a confidence in using the detectors — a sense of ownership. During one performance, one of the students pointed to a detector and said: “I made that.”

Future of the project

The project is now adapting the experience into a family show, in partnership with Pilot Theatre, premiering in York in summer 2019. We aim for it to become the core of an ecosystem of lessons, ideas, and activities — to engage audiences in the imaginative possibilities of digital technology.

You can find out more about the Digital Ghost Hunt on their website, which also includes rather lovely videos that Vimeo won’t let me embed here.

Hello World issue 9

The brand-new issue of Hello World is out today, and available right now as a free PDF download from the Hello World website.

Hello World issu 9

UK-based educators can also sign up to receive Hello World as printed magazine FOR FREE, direct to their door, by signing up here. And those outside the UK, educator or not, can subscribe to receive new issues of Hello World in their inbox on the day of release.

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Driverless cars run by Raspberry Pi

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Could the future of driverless cars be shaped by Raspberry Pi? For undergraduate researchers at the University of Cambridge, the answer is a resounding yes!

Can cars talk to each other?

A fleet of driverless cars working together to keep traffic moving smoothly can improve overall traffic flow by at least 35 percent, researchers have shown. The researchers, from the University of Cambridge, programmed a small fleet of miniature robotic cars to drive on a multi-lane track and observed how the traffic flow changed when one of the cars stopped.

So long, traffic!

By using Raspberry Pis and onboard sensors to program scale-model versions of commercially available cars, undergraduate researchers have built a fleet of driverless cars that ‘talk to each other’. They did this because they are studying how driverless technology can help reduce traffic incidents on our roads.

Cambridge University Driverless cars using Raspberry Pi

The researchers investigated how a car stalled on a multi-lane track affects the buildup of traffic, and how communication between driverless cars can prevent these buildups.

Cambridge University Driverless cars using Raspberry Pi

When the cars acted independently of each other, a stalled car caused other vehicles in the same lane to slow or stop in order to merge into the adjacent lane. This soon led to queues forming along the track. But when the cars communicated via Raspberry Pis, they could tell each other about obstacles on the track, and this allowed cars to shift lanes with the cooperation of other road users.

The researchers recently presented their paper on the subject at the International Conference on Robotics and Automation (ICRA 2019) in Montréal, Canada. You can find links to their results, plus more information, on the University of Cambridge blog.

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Retrofit a handheld Casio portable TV with a Raspberry Pi

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What do we say to the god of outdated tech? Not today! Revive an old portable television with a Raspberry Pi 3!

Pocket televisions

In the late 1980s, when I was a gadget-savvy kid, my mother bought me a pocket TV as a joint Christmas and birthday present. The TV’s image clarity was questionable, its sound tinny, and its aerial so long that I often poked myself and others in the eye while trying to find a signal. Despite all this, it was one of the coolest, most futuristic things I’d ever seen, and I treasured it. But, as most tech of its day, the pocket TV no longer needed: I can watch TV in high definition on my phone — a device half the size, with a screen thrice as large, and no insatiable hunger for AA batteries.

So what do we do with this old tech to save it from the tip?

We put a Raspberry Pi in it, of course!

JaguarWong’s Raspberry Pi 3 pocket TV!

“I picked up a broken Casio TV-400 for the princely sum of ‘free’ a few weeks back. And I knew immediately what I wanted to do with it,” imgur user JaguarWong states in the introduction for the project.

I got the Pi for Christmas a couple of years back and have never really had any plans for it. Not long after I got it, I picked up the little screen from eBay to play with but again, with no real purpose in mind — but when I got the pocket TV everything fell into place.

Isn’t it wonderful when things fall so perfectly into place?

Thanks to an online pinout guide, JW was able to determine how to  connect the screen and the Raspberry Pi; fortunately, only a few jumper wires were needed — “which was handy given the limits on space.”

With slots cut into the base of the TV for the USB and Ethernet ports, the whole project fit together like a dream, with little need for modification of the original housing.

The final result is wonderful. And while JW describes the project as “fun, if mostly pointless”, we think it’s great — another brilliant example of retrofitting old tech with Raspberry Pi!

10/10 would recommend to a friend.

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Quick Fix — a vending machine for likes and followers

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Sometimes we come across a project that just scores a perfect 10 on all fronts. This is one of them: an art installation using Raspberry Pi that has something interesting to say, does it elegantly, and is implemented beautifully (nothing presses our buttons like a make that’s got a professionally glossy finish like this).

Quick Fix is a vending machine (and art installation) that sells social media likes and followers. Drop in a coin, enter your social media account name, and an army of fake accounts will like or follow you. I’ll leave the social commentary to you. Here’s a video from the maker, Dries Depoorter:

Quick Fix – the vending machine selling likes and followers

Quick Fix in an interactive installation by Dries Depoorter. The artwork makes it possible to buy followers or likes in just a few seconds. For a few euros you already have 200 of likes on Instagram. “Quick Fix “is easy to use. Choose your product, pay and fill in your social media username.

There’s a Raspberry Pi 3B+ in there, along with an Arduino, powering a coin acceptor and some I2C LCD screens. Then there’s a stainless steel heavy-duty keyboard, which we’re lusting after (a spot of Googling unearthed this, which appears to be the same thing, if you’re in the market for a panel-mounted beast of a keyboard).

This piece was commissioned by Pixelache, a cultural association from Helsinki, whose work looks absolutely fascinating if you’ve got a few minutes to browse. Thanks to them and to Dries Depoorter — I have a feeling this won’t be the last of his projects we’re going to feature here.

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HeaterMeter, the open-source barbecue controller

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We spent the weekend knee-deep in marinade. (Top tip: if you’re brining something big, like a particularly plump chicken, buy a cheap kitchen bin. The depth makes it much easier than juggling near-overflowing buckets. And when you’re finished, you have a spare bin.)

meat

If you’re a serious barbecue jockey, you’ll want to know about Bryan Mayland’s HeaterMeter, a rather nifty open-source controller for your barbecue, built around a Raspberry Pi. Controlling the heat of your setup is key in low, slow cooking and smoking; you can get glorious results very inexpensively (an off-the-shelf equivalent will set you back a few hundred pounds) and have the satisfaction of knowing you built your equipment yourself. Bryan says:

Temperature data read from a standard thermistor (ThermoWorks, Maverick) or thermocouple probe is used to adjust the speed of a blower fan motor mounted to the BBQ grill to maintain a specific set temperature point (setpoint). A servo-operated damper may optionally be employed. Additional thermistor probes are used to monitor food and/or ambient temperatures, and these are displayed on a 16×2 LCD attached to the unit. Buttons or serial commands can be used to adjust configuration of the device, including adjustment of the setpoint or manually regulating fan speeds.

The Raspberry Pi adds a web interface, with graphing, archives, and SMS/email support for alarm notification, which means you can go and splash around in the kids’ paddling pool with a beer rather than spending the day standing over the grill with a temperature probe.

Heatermeter graph output

You can buy a HeaterMeter online, in kit form or pre-assembled. There’s an incredibly comprehensive wiki available to get you going with the HeaterMeter, and a very straightforward Instructable if you’re just looking for a quick setup. If you’re the type who prefers to learn by watching, Bryan also has a few videos on YouTube where he puts the kit together. To start with, see how to assemble the LCD/button board here and the base board here.

We’re hungry.

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