Last month we released an animation called What is a Raspberry Pi? which explains why the Pi exists, what it’s all about and touches on some application we’ve seen – and we recently discovered a video which points out some great ideas for what you can do with yours!
Everyone takes different kinds of inspiration before they start a Pi project – whether it’s following a guide in a book or online, seeing somebody else make something at a Jam or maker faire, or solving a real life problem and getting straight to it. Plenty of people like the idea of the Pi before they have a use for it – sometimes it’s nice just to be presented with some example applications and let one pique your interest. We hope that’s what this great video will do for some of you.
We’d love to hear about your sources of inspiration – as usual – in the comments below.
Our education team (Clive, Carrie Anne, Dave and I) will be at the Jamboree in Manchester this week. There’s an excellent line-up including talks, workshops, panels, ask an expert – and more! The conference part, focusing on Pi in education, on Thursday and Friday, will be held at the Manchester Central Conference Centre, followed by a Jam Hack Day at Edge Hill in Ormskirk. There are still tickets available, including evening sessions for those unavailable during the day – and the party on Friday night – organised by the wonderful Lisa Mather, where there are to be special badges (below) and plenty of swag up for grabs. The conference takes place adjacent to the Education Innovation Conference & Exhibition. We hope to see plenty of you at the event!
A little-known fact: Eben and I are disgustingly sentimental. So when Matt Timmons-Brown (who you may know better as The Raspberry Pi Guy from his excellent series of YouTube tutorials) sent us this video late last night, we watched it together and found that by the end we had both got salty tears on our Battenberg cake. I’m hoping this is not a totally unusual reaction to seeing two years of your life compressed into under five minutes of video.
Matt produced this for the Raspberry Pi’s second anniversary, which is coming up at the end of February; it took him ten hours to edit everything together. When you’re in the eye of the storm of something like Raspberry Pi, as we are, it’s sometimes hard to see beyond the desk you sit at every day and perceive exactly how much the work you’re doing is affecting people outside your office: Matt’s video acted as a bit of a Total Perspective Vortex.
Thank you Matt: we’re really very grateful, and we think the video is rather wonderful. I don’t think anybody has better encapsulated what Raspberry Pi is all about than you have managed to here in just four and a half minutes.
We met Jon Stam at a Maker Faire last year. With Simon de Bakker, he’s made the Bioscope: a Pi-driven nostalgia machine. Part art project, part toy, it’s extremely simple: upload any digital movie onto a USB stick, pop it in the back of the Bioscope, and peep through the viewfinder.
But rather than just watch the movie play away, you have to move it yourself along by turning the red handle. Pause by stopping the handle, rewind by turning it backwards: and the whole thing has a lovely jerky, old-timey feel to it; the vintage feel underscored by the 3d-printed case, which is based on a copy of an old Fisher Price movie projector toy.
Jon and Simon are using the Bioscope to make an artistic statement about the way we interact with moving visual media. We like it for its satisfying shape and feel, for the way it reminds us of toys we had as kids, and for the cameo appearance of the Numa Numa guy in the above video.
The Bioscope guys have created a custom PCB that sits on top of the Raspberry Pi, which allows you to power the device from a single 3.7v lithium-ion cell. You can find some more technical details of what the custom PCB adds at i.materialise, where Jon and Simon had the case 3-d printed.
Right now, there don’t seem to be any firm plans to commercialise the Bioscope – we hope Jon and Simon do take it in that direction, because there’s something enormously appealing about it. We’ll let you know if we hear anything.
We first met Shea Silverman, based down in Florida, on one of our 2012 hackspace tours when we first visited FamiLAB. Shea’s brilliant – he does a lot of work with the Pi and MAME (the Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator), and he made us a really cute little Pi arcade cabinet which we display in the office. We’ve stayed in touch, and he’s let us know about the projects he’s been working on in that time; most recently Shea has written a book called Instant Raspberry Pi Gaming for absolute beginners who want to start gaming with the Raspberry Pi. (Thanks for the copy with the inscription, Shea!)
The book shows you how to set up software like MAME, SNES, Atari 2600 and PlayStation emulators; and how to keep them up to date. If you’re a gamer who wants to get started with a Pi, or someone who’s interested in retro gaming, it’s a great place to begin.
Shea’s blog is another great resource for Raspberry Pi users, with a particular emphasis on games, emulation and embedded systems. Recently, we’ve seen more and more people wanting to add a start-up video to their Pi, and Shea’s noticed the same thing, and has blogged his solution, which is rather neat.
This is Shea’s bootsplash animation for his PiMAME system, running on a Pi-enabled Motorola Lapdock. He’s using OMXPlayer to play a video file while the Pi itself is booting.
You can use any video you choose – it needs to be around 20 seconds long so it runs for long enough to cover up the scrolling kernel messages that you usually see during the Pi’s boot sequence. Shea walks you through the very simple startup script you’ll need, and through installing your video, on his blog. It should take you all of five minutes to set up.
Thanks, as always, for all your work on the Pi, and on your book, Shea. The Raspberry Pi depends on community members like you and the amazing amounts of effort you put in: we couldn’t do it without you and the thousands of other people that make the ecosystem around our little device so rich and interesting.
Welcome, foolish mortals. I’m with Cory Doctorow on this one: the Haunted Mansion is the best thing at the Disney parks. It’s a close-run fight with the Tower of Terror, but for me, the Haunted Mansion comes out on top every time. (So much so that I own a gargoyle candlestick.) The queue is one of the best parts of the ride. I shan’t spoil it for you apart from one tiny detail: the portrait of Master Gracey which does a Dorian Gray in front of your eyes, aging from insouciant youth to horrible decrepitude over the course of a minute or so. Why travel, though, when Brandon Etto has demonstrated that you can have your very own Master Gracey portrait in your own undead living room, courtesy of a Raspberry Pi, some plywood, an LCD screen, an IKEA picture frame and some magic plastic to make the frame into a two-way mirror?
The build itself is self-explanatory (spray-paint frame, stick mirror plastic inside frame, mount over screen, hang on wall) but Brandon has a useful parts list in PDF form, where he also links to some video looping software, and the source video itself.
This summer, Shakespeare’s Globe theatre in London mounted a production of all three of Shakespeare’s Henry VI plays, staged both at Shakespeare’s Globe itself, and outdoors at battlefield sites from the War of the Roses. The theatre collaborated with The Space, a new Arts Council and BBC-developed service which streams free, on-demand video of live cultural events, to produce a broadcast of the plays from multiple viewpoints.
Real live camera operators, with real live cameras, were following the actors around and filming the whole series of plays. But we are particularly interested in one specific camera: the tiny Throne Cam, invisible to the audience, but filming all the proceedings from the huge throne which forms part of the stage set in all three performances, giving an actor’s eye view of the plays. It was a Raspberry Pi camera board.
Thronecam in situ at Shakespeare’s Globe
It turns out that the Pi and its camera board are the ideal solution for The Space. The whole assembly is not big enough to be noticeable by the audience if it’s mounted somewhere on the stage, but can record 1080p HD video. And, because it’s driven by a Pi, it can process and encode the video onboard, so no additional work needs doing by The Space to publish the stream online.
Here’s a guest post from our friend Pete Wood at RS Component’s community arm, DesignSpark. Pete is one of the organisers of the Oxford Raspberry Jams. This post was first published at www.designspark.com.
Raspberry Jams are now being held all over the world; I’ve been trying to go to about one a month, and am lucky enough to be in Tokyo for some press and meetings while the Tokyo Jam is on later this month. There’s a list of events in each month’s MagPi, and if you’re looking for something near you, it’s worth checking the events page on our forums. If you can’t find a Jam near your home, why not look into setting one up? There’s information on how to get started at the Raspberry Jam website, which Alan O’Donohoe tells me will be getting a redesign in the coming months.
Over to Pete!
This month’s Jam held at DesignSpark HQ in Oxford UK was our biggest turnout yet, with over 30 Pi Geeks crammed into the room!
Raspberry Pi Camera
I kicked off the event by showing the new Raspberry Pi camera module, which will be available from RS Components later in May. In the picture is a pre-production module, the production version is a couple of millimetres taller. The camera gives stunning HD video from a 5MP sensor at 30 FPS.
Next up was one of my RS colleagues, Pete Milne, who showed us his Digital Signage application. Pete has connected up a network of Raspberry Pis to flat screen TVs here at the RS Oxford Offices and at our main facility in Corby, Northamptonshire. The Pis run a libreoffice slideshow in a continuous loop and display Health and Safety messages for RS employees. He’s been running these continuously for over 8 weeks without having to re-boot, so it’s very robust. The Pis runs without a keyboard or mouse and the content can be updated remotely over the network.
If you want to create your own Digital Signage Application, Pete has shared how to do it on GitHub. Just follow the INSTALL file for setup details.
Wii Controller Car
Oxford Raspberry Jam regular Alex Eames presented another cool little project using a Wii controller and Nunchuck. This one was for controlling a remote control car that has an on-board Raspberry Pi with Bluetooth dongle. It also allows the control of brake lights, headlights and indicators and also drives an aircraft propeller. Alex plans to build all this into the car itself, which would need to accommodate the Pi, the electronics hanging of the GPIO, some model aircraft batteries and the motor and fan. Alex, I think you need a bigger car… how about a Monster Truck?
Our next demo was one that has been featured on the Raspberry Pi site a few weeks ago for a Raspberry Pi powered video wall. Alex and Colin from the Culham Centre for Fusion Energy (CCFE) have built this system in C and some Python Code. It has clever features like bezel compensation to accommodate different styles of screens. They showed a 4 screen setup, but have also run a 9+4 configuration. The software is scalable to any size or shape. Each screen needs a Pi, and one separate Pi is used as the master. This is a classic example showing that you can build your own video wall for a fraction of the price of a commercial solution that would certainly cost a lot more! Chaps, I can see a business opportunity here for screening big screen sporting events on a budget down my local pub. ;0) They expect to licence the software/design at some point. More details are available on their website.
Motion Detected Camera
Another Oxford Jam regular, Dave R, showed his Pi with a webcam motion detection system and linked to a DSLR. Dave created this for his bird table, to capture pictures of birds when they land on the table, I think I need to build a similar solution to stop my kids from stealing my Haribos…
Touch Screen Display
Paul had two projects to show. The first was a simple touch screen for the Pi to allow control and display. Paul was reading and displaying temperatures. The screens are semi-intelligent, storing screen images and having a sound output available. The screen images are loaded via a Windows app and USB connection. The Pi can then control the display of those images.
Sky Remote Controlled LED Lighting
The second demonstration was a programmable LED strip and infrared receiver, controlled by a Sky TV remote control. A simple Python script reads the codes from a remote control. He could the use this to flash the LEDs in various patterns and colours. The LEDs are driven by SPI and can be daisychained up to 1024 LEDs.
Paul M and Annierei L, showed us their ChiPhone box. ChiPi is an Electronic messaging system for children allowing them to send and receive voice messages. They have designed a child friendly box with large buttons and microphone. With simple record and ‘To/play’ buttons it makes for an easy messaging system connected to the internet via WiFi. You can find out more about their project on their website.
Pi Keyword Cruncher
Pi Jam regular and Data Geek John finished off our live demos by showing us his Pi based RSS feed collector and keyword analysis tool. The Pi collects data from various RSS feeds every 30 minutes and stores the results in a MySQL database. The data is then used to monitor trends in keywords, which over time show either peaks of activity or trends of ‘chatter’ about specific topics. The advantage of John using his Raspberry Pi Instead of his 50W laptop, is that it the Pi only takes 2W and can be left on all the time. It also frees up his laptop to do other tasks.
RaspBMC Toddler In-Car Entertainment System
The final presentation of the evening from one of my Jam co-hosts Alex Gibson, who in true Hollywood awards winners style couldn’t attend in person so sent a video message! Alex’s video featured his project for a Pi based RaspBMC In-Car Toddler entertainment system. One of the most impressive bits was a headrest bracket he had printed out on his Raspberry Pi-based 3D printer.
Thanks to all those who showed their projects. Looking forward to the next event!
Watch the video first. We’ll talk about it under the jump.
So, then. Philips have this lovely (and expensive) technology called Ambilight, which extends the lighting environment of what you’re watching on TV into your living room. It’s better watched than described, so if you haven’t hit play on the video above yet, please do!
I saw one of the original demos of this at CES a few years ago. It’s now consumer technology that you can buy in your local department store, and it’s a really impressive, and surprisingly immersive and effective piece of technology. But if, like me, you’re not in a hurry to replace the TV you spent a packet on, you’ll have made a sad decision to live without the flashing neon of CSI inveigling its way into the corners of your living room; and the fires of R’hllor, the Red God, will make no impression on your ceilings. Because this stuff costs money, and we’re all much too busy spending that on new binocular microscopes.
Oscar Andersson has made a Raspberry Pi-powered ambient lighting fix which I can’t distinguish from the Philips product – as you’ll see from the video above, it’s a lovely piece of work, and most importantly, it’s very affordable. You’ll find more pictures, more video and build instructions, using Adafruit’s Occidentalis distro (which is all about the hardware hacking) at Oscar’s Facebook page.
So many projects, so little time. This is the third thing I’ve blogged or stuck on Facebook this week that I want to make. Let us know if you make your own version – we’d love to hear how you get on! (Incidentally, the day someone makes a video demo that doesn’t reference Avatar is the day we at the Foundation cheer up dramatically.)
“What’s innovative about a video wall?” I hear you cry. “We’ve all seen them. Big…walls of video. Been done for years.”
We’ve said many times that the single most innovative thing about the Raspberry Pi is its price. $25 or $35 gets you something that would have cost you four or five times that amount before the Pi arrived on the market. This means that you can save large sums of money in some applications, especially in applications where you need to buy a lot of separate devices. A video wall requires one device per screen, and another to drive them all together. I’ve seen video wall solutions being run with all kinds of devices at the back end; previously one of the cheapest ways to do this was to buy a Playstation for each of your screens – obviously a much more expensive (and power-hungry – you’re spinning a lot of hard drives all day to get the result you want) way to get what you’re after.
Plus, of course, our HD video capability’s really great.
So Alex Goodyear at Culham Centre for Fusion Energy has put together a really elegant video wall, supported by a group of Raspberry Pis. Energy consumption and cost are both reduced enormously, making video walls like this much more accessible to enterprises which don’t have huge funds, like museums, schools, shops, galleries and offices.
You can use different sizes and orientations of screen in the same set-up here; you can use the screens to show one large moving image or many small ones; you can display static content like photos or web pages alongside moving content on the same wall.
Read more about what Alex has come up with at CCFE – we’re looking forward to seeing more of these in the wild!
Dave Hunt (a familiar name in these parts) has been working on perfecting his Raspberry Pi-controlled camera time lapse rig. Before I go into any more detail, here’s some absolutely stupendous video resulting from his work on the setup. (I recommend you use HD when viewing this – and watch the video in a full-screen setting if you can.)
We’ve featured a few projects here which use the Pi to create time-lapse video, but Dave’s is the most sophisticated we’ve seen yet, adding features like a heater to evaporate dew from the lens and an ability to film rising or falling sequences. There are some great pictures documenting the build at his blog (we’re very impressed by the neatness of the construction work), along with some circuit diagrams and the Python you’ll need to create your own rig. Visit Dave’s site for a tutorial and discussion about construction.
We’re very encouraged to see so many artists using the Pi, in so many different ways; there have been a number of art installations featured here, and it’s really great to see the Pi driving the tools needed to create beautiful things. Computing is as much a creative discipline as it is a scientific one – that’s a message we at the Foundation are very keen to get through to kids, but it’s not one we’re seeing reflected in schools.
Science can be beautiful too, though. Over in the United States, SaratogaWeather has been using a static camera controlled by a Pi to take time-lapse video of the weather patterns over Mount Timpanogos, Utah. Dynamic systems like the formation of clouds are hard to appreciate and study at real-time speeds: but speed things up a bit, and patterns and structures become evident and much easier to analyse.
There’s a whole channel full of these videos, and cloud geeks like me will have great fun with them. I irritated everyone around by shouting “CAP AND BANNER!” at the top of my voice when I spotted one in another of these videos. (Once I nearly made Eben crash the car by screaming “Stop! KELVIN HELMHOLTZ!” while we were travelling at speed down the A14. I blame hanging out with fluid dynamicists. Kelvin Helmholtz instability produces a great and rather rare cloud formation, though – I’m still proud to have spotted one.)
What applications would you like to see time-lapse cameras being used for? Are you working on something yourself? We’d love to hear your thoughts.