I’ve been waiting for…ooh, just over a year, for someone to do this. Recantha, an old hand here in the comments and on the forums, has built a tricorder.
There surely can’t be anyone here without a passing familiarity with Star Trek, but just in case: the tricorder is a made-up thing used by the crew of the Enterprise to measure stuff, store data and scout ahead remotely when exploring strange new worlds, seeking out new life and new civilisations, and all that jazz. Despite its made-up-ness, the tricorder remains a terribly desirable thing. I’ve always wanted to be able to tell whether my planet is M-class or not.
Recantha has bodged together his home-made tricorder using a Pi, some sensors (two for temperature, and one each for magnetism and distance), an LCD display, some switches, a light-resistant resistor, a thermistor and an Arduino Leonardo clone. We hope he keeps adding sensors to it, and maybe, later on, a camera board, until he runs out of space. How about a Geiger counter (this one already works with the Pi)?
Here’s a spot of video explaining what everything on the Picorder does:
(Best of all, the whole thing is cased in LEGO.)
And here’s some more video, showing the thing in action.
If you’re interested in reproducing or building on this project, Recantha’s blogged about it (he has an excellent website, all about Raspberry Pi), and has left a guide to the project over at Pideas, the new site for collecting Raspberry Pi projects. (Go and add something of your own!) Thanks very much for this, Recantha; our office costume parties will now have a dash of added realism. Jamesh has drawn the short straw and will be dressed as Nog.
Apparently, it’s the most wonderful time of the year. We have been thinking about what to get for the Raspberry Pi owner in your life. Happily, MakeZine have done the hard work for us, and have come up with a terrific gift guide. Head over and check it out – once, of course, you’ve stopped by our own store and bought your Raspberry Pi fan a branded t-shirt, lovingly hand-knitted from Santa’s beard hair by elves*. All profits on the shirts go to support the charitable work of the Raspberry Pi Foundation.
*Details about t-shirt production may or may not be strictly speaking true.
Here’s something I’ve been hoping one of you would produce for a while now. If you’ve got kids, you’ll know that many baby monitors are disgustingly expensive bits of kit, whose price remains as high as it is in a pretty unpleasant bit of exploitation of the fear and worry that every new parent experiences. So I was really pleased to see Matt Kaar, a Pi owner from Virginia, make his own networked, high-fidelity monitor from a Pi and a USB microphone. He’s very pleased with the results: “You can hear a pin drop.” You can follow Matt’s detailed instructions on his website if you’d like to make your own. (Thanks very much for responding to my request to write about it, Matt!)
These are all the parts you’ll need to make your own. Matt says the whole setup was “easier than I’d thought” – this is a project that even beginners will be able to approach.
I’m sure that once the $25 camera board is released in the new year we’ll start to see some cheap camera monitors being hacked too.
We’re very pleased to see that Plan 9 has been ported to the Pi. Plan 9 is an open-source Unix-type operating system, which was originally developed at Bell Labs as a research OS. What’s particularly interesting about Plan 9 is that everything behaves like a file, whether it’s a local or a network resource. We recommend you have a play with it!
More than a year ago, people on our forums started talking about using the Raspberry Pi in a very specific piece of cosplay. If you’ve played Fallout, you’ll know that no self-respecting apocalypse survivor goes anywhere without her Pipboy. People were wondering whether a Raspberry Pi could be used to drive a working piece of costume, perhaps with a GPS, and definitely with a small screen and lots of blinkenlights.
I thought that particular thread of conversation had died quietly: I was wrong. Ryan Grieve has made a really nice example using a car reversing panel, a tub of polymer pellets, a handful of leds and an Adafruit cobbler.
His Pipboy has functionality including a world map, local map, radio and a twitter client – or at least it did before some shonky home-wiring caused the whole arrangement to burst into flames. Happily, the Pi survived, and photos were taken before the disaster. Ryan also has code so you can put your own together – just please be more careful with the wiring if you make one yourself. Electricity’s not a toy, kids.
Good luck in fixing her back together, Ryan! We congratulate you on your flameproofness.
Here’s a project with a more practical application. Gasser is a Pi-based, networked, mobile pollutant sensor for detecting nitrogen dioxide, ozone and sulphur dioxide, developed in Paris.
Gasser v2 prototype
This self-contained unit’s BOM cost comes in at €255 (the majority of that cost is taken up by the very accurate sensor); this is cheaper and smaller than equivalent devices – and it’s still only a prototype! We wish LaboCitoyen all success with the project; it’s great to see a Pi being used to make our cities healthier places.
Alex from RasPi.tv has some video to show you how to use relays to turn what he calls “useful, real, BIG things” like fans and lamps on and off, according to environmental conditions – too hot and the fan will turn on, too dark and the lamp will turn on. You can also hook the devices up to the network, so you can use a connected device, like your phone, to turn them on and off; and just because he can, Alex has also added some sound effects. This is a great tutorial. If you’re interested in learning about physical computing, it’s well worth watching this video and reading Alex’s blog post. RasPi.tv has plenty of other fun tutorials – I recommend you spend a few minutes browsing through the collection!
Want to control the temperature of your barbecue, smoker, firepit or clambake over a web interface? Here’s the Raspberry Pi-powered HeaterMeter. Bryan Mayland says:
HeaterMeter for RaspberryPi joins an Arduino / AVR ATmega328 microcontroller with OpenWrt running on a RaspberryPi $35 wonder-computer for the purpose of providing oven-like control of a charcoal BBQ grill via web interface. The microcontroller controls a fan which limits airflow to the pit, displays the current status on a character LCD, and passes the data on to the RaspberyPi which streams real-time updates to connected web browsers. The website also works on mobile browsers running Android or iOS, allowing users to unchain themselves from their grills and partake in many life-enriching activities such as
Going to the grocery store to buy more beer
Going to a bar to drink more beer
Not get off the couch, where your beer is
Possibly other non-beer related hobbies
Dean Ellis has got Monogame running on his Pi. There are details of exactly what hacks he’s used to get it running so well on the YouTube page that this video comes from.
Monogame is an open source implementation of the Microsoft XNA 4 Framework – and it gives us all kinds of ideas about game development on the Pi. You can read some more about Dean and his Pi here.
Make Yourself at Home
We’ve been seeing a lot of visual artists using the Raspberry Pi in their installations. Whether you’re driving video or if you want to drive something with wheels, the Pi offers artists a much cheaper way of getting to their goals than the old “borrow someone’s old laptop” model. We’ve seen Pis being used in the Tate Gallery’s new Tanks in London; we’ve seen them being used in installations at Milton Keynes shopping centre. Most recently, I’ve heard from Martin Beha, who was working on the electronics side of an installation by Austrian artist Robert F Hammerstiel in Hannover. He used Raspberry Pis to make three lawnmower robots talk to each other. (You can see them from about two minutes into this video.) The result is curiously charming.
Click for more on the installation
The communication is established through Wireless LAN. One of the Robots is configured as a server and delivers a (completely wrong but usable) time via NTP for synchronisation. It also calculates the start time for the audio files and delivers it to the other robots via SSH and “at”. The audio is taken directly from the analog output and is amplified by an 18W amplifier module. The sound quality is quite satisfactory for speech.
The devices are powered by a second battery because the manufacturer of the lawn mower robot has built in a function that monitors if additional current is taken from the main battery and stops the robot. The 5V is generated by DC/DC-Converters for car use. Other included circuits are for example a differential amplifier against an audio ground loop and a deep discharge protector.
I chose the Raspberry Pi for reasons of flexibility, size and because there was a very limited budget. The original plan was to communicate via Bluetooth Class 1 dongles and rfcomm to get a virtual serial connection. Because of several bugs in Bluetooth I could not connect the devices and decided to choose Wi-Fi as an alternative. Depending on different (resistor) jumper settings on the GPIO-Port, the RPIs recognize their conversation role after startup and play the right file. The jumper also defines the role as server or client. So I was able to use the same SD-Card image for all robots.
The actual audio files are mp3s of a dialogue about the sense of a robot’s life, spoken by three TV announcers of Austrian national television (Austrians will surely recognize their voices).
STEM – training the teachers
There was a big Raspberry Pi event in Manchester last week, where a large group (including our very own Pete Lomas, accurately described by gocracker.com as “charismatic“) came together for a CPD/networking event for teachers at the Museum of Science and Industry.
Krisma? Bags of it.
We’re not alone in recognising that there’s a lot to be done before a new Computing syllabus arrives at schools next year in helping teachers out of the old ICT mindset and showing them how easy starting with the Pi can be. We’re really pleased to see how seriously teachers are taking the Raspberry Pi, and, as always, incredibly grateful to STEMNET for their tireless volunteering. This was the first of a series of events, where teachers were learning how to use the Pi with Manchester University’s Pi Face, getting to grips with Scratch and Python, and working on cross-curricular activities with the Raspberry Pi. A number of STEM ambassadors from industry also attended, doing that support and mentorship thing that STEMNET does so well. (I don’t think I’ve been to a single Raspberry Pi event that hasn’t been attended by at least one STEM ambassador.) We’d like to thank every one of them, and all of the teachers who are working so hard on getting to grips with a new piece of kit – we’re very grateful.