Tag Archives: Your Projects

Shred through Guitar Hero with a Raspberry Pi-powered robot

via Raspberry Pi

Level up your Guitar Hero gaming with Nick O’Hara’s Jon Bot Jovi Guitar Hero robot. While Nick admits this is an expensive project (around $1000 to build), it’s something that was so “ridiculous, hilarious, and awesome” he felt he just needed to do it.

While you’re not great at Guitar Hero, Nick, you ARE good at making robots

You’re halfway to shredding a Bon Jovi chorus perfectly on Guitar Hero and you can taste the fame. Problem is, you’re no Jon Bon Jovi. Or Peter Frampton. Or Slash. So you need Raspberry Pi to assist your rockstar dreams. Enter Jon Bot Jovi.

Kit list

What is a solenoid?

close up of mechanical fret board
Close-up of mechanical fretboard

A solenoid is just a coil of wire, but when you pass an electric current through it acts as an electromagnet, and a magnetic field is generated. When you turn the current off, the magnetic field goes away. Inside the coil of wire is a metal rod, when the current is on and the magnetic field is present, the rod is free to move in the direction of the field. In this way, a solenoid converts electrical energy into movement and the rod moves in or out of the coil depending on the current applied.

Here, a Raspberry Pi controls a bunch of solenoids as they press and release the buttons on the guitar controller to give Nick his god-like skills. Watch the build video on YouTube for a simple walkthrough of how this all works.

It’s tricky

Building the mechanical fingers and solenoids was one of the trickiest parts of the build. Nick ended up burning through a lot of them as he’s new to robotics and didn’t understand the relationship between power, voltage, and current, so they burnt out quickly. Luckily, he found a robotics guy to give him a 30-minute crash course, which set the project on the right path. Heroes come in all shapes and sizes.

guitar hero board up close
Fret board close-up courtesy of Jeremy Cook on hackster.io

Note recognition was also far from an easy task. Nick originally tried to look at specific pixels on the screen, which worked for slow songs, but for faster songs it would miss around 30% of the notes. He eventually turned to OpenCV, but it took a fair amount of effort to hone the perfect filtering to make the note recognition accurate. Fiddly, but worth it.

Shred, guitar hero!

Nick’s favourite part of the project?

“Seeing Jon Bot Jovi absolutely shred on the guitar. Did you see how fast he’s strumming during Through the Fire and the Flames?!”

We love seeing a maker so happy with a final build and we wish we could come and play too! (We are similarly stunted in our guitar-playing abilities.)

Nick wrote a project post on Hacker News for those who are curious about the more technical details. And the original build video on YouTube is a wild ride, so check it out and subscribe to Nick’s channel.

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Raspberry Pi Pico-controlled model railroad

via Raspberry Pi

The Orient Express. The Flying Scotsman. Ivor the Engine. All juggernauts of the rail community, but none powered by our microcontroller and all, thus, inferior in our eyes. Raspberry Pi Pico has been used in cooler and more interesting ways every day since its launch in January this year, but this is the first time we’ve seen it powering a miniature railway. KushagraK7 shared this compact application on Instructables, and we ended up down a rabbit hole of model trains enthusiasm.

The Motor Channel on YouTube is a great community for miniature railway enthusiasts

What does Raspberry Pi Pico do here?

KushagraK7’s Raspberry Pi Pico controls the track voltage to control the speed of the train using pulse-width modulation (PWM). PWM is a method of reducing the average power delivered by an electrical signal. A motor driver powers the locomotive itself.

mini railroad build kit
Photo from KushagraK7’s Instructable

You gotta speed it up and then you gotta slow it down

This particular setup is designed to make the train start off slowly then speed up gradually each time it travels over a sensored segment of the track — that is, a segment equipped with an infrared sensor to detect whether a train is there. A therapeutic loop of the speeding-up process plays from this point in KushagraK7’s YouTube video.

sensored parts of train track
The ‘sensored’ part of the train track ready to be connected

Once the train reaches its top speed, it slows down again, coming to a complete halt after it passes the sensored track section once more. The train stops for a set amount of time, then starts up again. Fast, faster, slow, stop. Fast, faster, slow, stop. And on and on and on again. All without any human interaction needed – you can just watch. Super satisfying.


Learn how to make a low-cost sensored track “in minutes” with this previous Instructable from the maker

How do I build it?

KushagraK7 has created an illustrated step-by-step tutorial for other miniature railway enthusiasts to follow, including when you should tidy up your wires, plus ideas to tinker with the code to adjust speed and stopping patterns.

Point us to your Raspberry Pi-powered model railway projects in the comments. Choo choooooooo.

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SleePi sounds alarm when Raspberry Pi detects sleepiness

via Raspberry Pi

SleePi is a real-time sleepiness detection and alert system developed especially for Raspberry Pi and our Raspberry Pi Camera Module 2 NoIR.

Driver drowsiness detection was the original application for this project, and Raspberry Pi was chosen for it because it’s small enough to not obstruct a driver’s view and can be powered from a vehicle’s 12 V socket or a USB port.

sleepi setup
Teeny tiny setup

Our Raspberry Pi NoIR Camera has no infrared filter and can therefore detect infrared light. It was chosen for this project to help with driver visibility by infrared illumination in low light, because night time is when people are more likely to become drowsy.

Never drive tired

Firstly, you should absolutely never drive tired. The UK’s Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency says that, by law, after every 5 hours 30 minutes of driving you must take a break of at least 30 minutes.

We’re sharing this project because we like the software behind this sleepiness detector, which can tell when your eyes narrow and alert you before you nod off. A safer application of this invention could be for exam cramming season when you don’t want to fall asleep before reading that final chapter of your revision guide. Or perhaps for the sleepier among us who need extra help staying awake for the New Year’s Eve countdown. We cannot miss another one of those. But we get SO sleepy.

How does SleePi work?

Eye Aspect Ratio (EAR)
How SleepPi uses EAR to detect sleepiness in the eyes

The camera tracks the position of the eyes and uses something called the Eye Aspect Ratio (EAR) to detect blinks. When squinting or blinking is observed, Raspberry Pi thinks you’re getting sleepy. When sleepiness is detected, a loud alarm sounds via the Raspberry Pi’s AUX port, connected to the car’s speaker system. The alarm carries on sounding until the camera detects that the user’s eyes are completely open again.

How do I build it?

Sai Sathvik is a dreamboat of a maker and left detailed instructions to help you build your own SleePi.

Are you a New Year’s Eve napper? Or a classroom snoozer? What do you need a SleePi for? Comment below telling us why you need this doziness detector.

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Raspberry Pi transforms old Wurlitzer into modern digital jukebox

via Raspberry Pi

It’s been a while since we saw a good jukebox retrofit project, so when we saw this old Wurlitzer transformed into a modern, all-in digital jukebox, we had to share it.

Maker Marc Engrie’s cousin came across an old Wurlitzer on a local online second-hand store. The seller had imported it from the US and intended to convert it himself but never got round to it, so he ended up selling it on. Marc’s cousin enticed him with some photos of the Wurlitzer and asked how much it would cost him to breathe new life into the jukebox.

Name your price

Marc already had three Raspberry Pis at home running music streaming software Volumio, so he felt confident he could harness the power of our tiny computer to bring this classic objet d’art back to life. Adding on hardware costs, he figured he could restore it to its former glory for €600 (about £500).

Once the jukebox was delivered, Marc stripped everything away, including the unfinished work of the previous restorer. The iconic enclosure was all that was left, along with the loudspeakers.

Adding new hardware

A 2GB Raspberry Pi 4 and a Raspberry Pi Touch Display form the new brain and face of the Wurlitzer. HiFiBerry‘s DAC+ Pro allows music to play from a USB stick. Other devices can play music from an auxiliary-in port.

Marc added a 2 x 2-channel audio amp (2 x 100W for the woofers plus 2 x 100W for mid/high). It’s easy to install and uninstall in case the jukebox ever needs repairing.

And as a final modern finishing touch, he swapped all the original lights for LEDs.

NEAT wire control

Lots of docs

Marc is a super diligent maker and has crafted a spreadsheet showing all the hardware, prices, and retailers. You can also get your hands on a comprehensive software setup instructions, as well as a hardware map showing you how all the Wurlitzer’s new insides fit together. Better still, there’s a whole user manual showing you how every single button and switch works. We think his middle name should be ‘Thorough’. Super, top, detailed job, Marc.

Play me!

See more from Marc

Check out more of Marc’s electronics projects here. There’s a weather station, an automated greenhouse, a chicken shed with an automatic door, and more.

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Raspberry Pi: a versatile tool for biological sciences

via Raspberry Pi

Over the nine-ish years since the release of our first model, we’ve watched grow a thriving global community of Raspberry Pi enthusiasts, hobbyists, and educators. But did you know that Raspberry Pi is also increasingly used in scientific research?

Thumbnail images of various scientific applications of Raspberry Pi
Some of the scientific applications of Raspberry Pi that Jolle found

Dr Jolle Jolles, a behavioural ecologist at the Center for Ecological Research and Forestry Applications (CREAF) near Barcelona, Spain, and a passionate Raspberry Pi user, has recently published a detailed review of the uptake of Raspberry Pi in biological sciences. He found that well over a hundred published studies have made use of Raspberry Pi hardware in some way.

How can Raspberry Pi help in biological sciences?

The list of applications is almost endless. Here are just a few:

  • Nest-box monitoring (we do love a good nest box)
  • Underwater video surveillance systems (reminds us of this marine conservation camera)
  • Plant phenotyping (These clever people made a ‘Greenotyper’ with Raspberry Pi)
  • Smart bird-feeders (we shared this one, which teaches pigeons, on the blog)
  • High-throughput behavioural recording systems
  • Autonomous ecosystem monitoring (you can listen to the Borneo rainforest with this project)
  • Closed-loop virtual reality (there are just too many VR projects using Raspberry Pi to choose from. Here’s a few)
Doctor Jolle giving a presentation on Raspberry Pi
Dr Jolles spreading the good word about our tiny computers

Onwards and upwards

Jolle’s review shows that use of Raspberry Pi is on the up, with more studies documenting the use of Raspberry Pi hardware every year, but he’s keen to see it employed even more widely.

It is really great to see the broad range of applications that already exist, with Raspberry Pi’s helping biologists in the lab, the field, and in the classroom. However, Raspberry Pi is still not the common research tool that it could be”. 

Jolle Jolles
Dr Jolles hard at work
Hard at work

How can I use Raspberry Pi in my research?

To stimulate the uptake of Raspberry Pi and help researchers integrate it into their work, the review paper offers guidelines and recommendations. Jolle also maintains a dedicated website with over 30 tutorials: raspberrypi-guide.github.io

“I believe low-cost micro-computers like the Raspberry Pi are a powerful tool that can help transform and democratize scientific research, and will ultimately help push the boundaries of science.”

Jolle Jolles

The paper, Broad-scale Applications of the Raspberry Pi: A Review and Guide for Biologists, is currently under review, but a preprint is available here.

‘Pirecorder’ for automating image and video capture

Jolle has also previously published a very handy software package especially with biological scientists in mind. It’s called pirecorder and helps with automated image and video recording using Raspberry Pi. You can check it out here: https://github.com/JolleJolles/pirecorder.

You can keep up with Jolle on Instagram, where he documents all the dreamy outdoor projects he’s working on.

Drop a comment below if you’ve seen an interesting scientific application of Raspberry Pi, at work, on TV, or maybe just in your imagination while you wait to find the time to build it!

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Go down a Raspberry Pi YouTube rabbit hole

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We here at Virtual Raspberry Pi Towers are looking forward to our weekends getting warmer, now that we are officially in British Summer Time. But we wanted to make the most of these last Saturdays and Sundays in which we have no choice but to cosy up against the typically British spring weather with a good old-fashioned YouTube rabbit hole.

Here are a few channels we think you’ll like. Some we’ve known about for a while, others are new friends we’ve made over the last year or so, and one is almost brand new so we’re putting you ahead of the curve there. You’re welcome.

Sophy Wong

Subscribe to Sophy Wong’s channel if you love the idea of wearing the tech you create. She collaborated with HackSpace magazine to publish a book, Wearable Tech Projects, which is currently on sale at the Raspberry Pi Press online store for just £7.

This is one of the projects Sophy shared in her Wearable Tech Projects book

Sophy describes herself as a “maker, designer, geek, addicted to learning how to do new things.” And she even visited NASA to watch a SpaceX launch.

Subscribe to Sophy’s channel here.

Blitz City DIY

Blitz City DIY (aka Liz) is a “DIY-er on a quest to gather and share knowledge” and has already built something cool with our newest baby, Raspberry Pi Pico. Her busy channel features computing, audio, video, coding, and more.

Check out Raspberry Pi Pico in action in this recent video from Blitz City DIY

We love Liz an extra lot because her channel features on entire playlist dedicated to Raspberry Pi Adventures. She also shares a healthy dose of festive content showing you how to Tech the Halls. No, April is NOT too early for Christmas stuff.

Subscribe to Blitz City DIY here.


Our new friends at Electromaker share tutorials, community projects, and contests where subscribers win hardware and massive cash prizes. Flat cap aficionado Ian Buckley also hosts The Electromaker Show – a weekly roundup of all that’s new and interesting in the maker community.

Electromakers assemble!

You can also swing by the super useful online shop where you can buy everything you need to recreate some of the projects featured. If you’re daunted by shopping for every little bit you need to create something awesome, you can choose one of these electro {maker KITS} and get right to it. We especially like the Lightsaber and Daft Punk-esque helmet kits.

Follow Electromaker here.

Estefannie Explains It All

You must have seen an Estefannie Explains It All video by now. But did you know about the weekly livestreams she hosts on Instagram? We know you’ll watch just because she’s cool and sometimes holds her pet cat up to the camera, but you’ll definitely want to tune in to try and win one of her tech giveaways. Some lucky viewers even got their hands on a Raspberry Pi 400.

Fond memories of when Estefannie visited Raspberry Pi Towers

Estefannie is another top collaborator whose channel has a dedicated Raspberry Pi playlist. Some of the things she has created using our tiny computers include Jurassic Park goggles, an automated coffee press, and a smart gingerbread house.

And as if all that wasn’t enough, Estefannie graced the Princesses with Power Tools calendar this year as Rey from Star Wars. You can buy a copy here.

Subscribe to Estefannie Explains It All here.

Kids Invent Stuff

Ruth Amos and Shawn Brown use their channel Kids Invent Stuff to bring kids’ ideas to life by making them into real working inventions. Young people aged 4–11 can submit their ideas or take part in regular invention challenges.

The infamous pooping unicorn

We first gave this channel a shout-out when Ruth and Shawn teamed up with Estefannie Explains It All to build the world’s first Raspberry Pi-powered Twitter-activated jelly bean-pooping unicorn. For real.

The MagPi Magazine got to know Ruth a little better in a recent interview. And Ruth also features in the 2021 Princesses with Power Tools calendar, as a welding Rapunzel. Go on, you know you want to buy one.

Ellora James

We saved the best (and newest) for last. Ellora James is brand new to YouTube. Her first tutorial showing you how to use Pimoroni’s Grow HAT Mini Kit was posted just three weeks ago, and she added a project update this week.

Ella helps you differentiate between edible pie and Raspberry Pi

We really like her video showing beginners how to set up their first Raspberry Pi. But our favourite is the one above in which she tackles one of the Universe’s big questions.

Subscribe to Ellora James here.

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