Raspberry Pi Blog

This is the official Raspberry Pi blog for news and updates from the Raspberry Pi Foundation, education initiatives, community projects and more!

PA Consulting Raspberry Pi competition 2016

This thing will change your life

In October 2011, Raspberry Pi co-founder Jack Lang handed me a beta version of the Raspberry Pi. This changed my life. The Pi was familiar yet unworldly:  a computer the size of a credit card. As both a teacher and a maker it was a revelation. For the next year I nested in a skip in Cambridge, chittering gently and generally making a pest of myself, until the Foundation lured me into their very first office with a trail of Jaffa Cakes, and put me to work.

Homewood School's SportTrax GPS system

Homewood School’s SportTrax GPS system

It was the best of times…

In early 2013, Computing in the English National Curriculum was over a year away, and although things were starting to happen in the world of computing education, the Pi was still a little bit groovy and a little bit radical for the average ICT classroom. Fortunately, we weren’t the only ones who thought that this small computer could bring about big changes. PA Consulting spotted the potential of the Pi — still in its first incarnation — as a tool for making, problem-solving and collaboration. Each year they challenge schools to use the Raspberry Pi to invent something around a theme. I was lucky to be one of the judges for the first competition in 2013 and it’s been one of my favourite Raspberry Pi events since.

PA’s Raspberry Pi Competition 2016 – Finals

PA’s Raspberry Pi Competition 2016 – Finals Making the difference by inspiring the innovators of the future @PA_Consulting – #PAPiAwards16 – @PA_RaspberryPi http://www.paconsulting.com/raspberrypi Finalists event: 14 April 2016 The Raspberry Pi is one of the most exciting innovations of recent years.

We set this competition up four years ago because at PA we are passionate about technology and innovation, so it was really important for us to encourage the next generation to be as passionate as we are. — Anita Chandraker, Head of Digital at PA Consulting

The 2016 competition

This is the fourth year that I’ve helped judge the competition and each year we’ve been amazed by this innovation and passion. The 2016 final, held at the magnificent Institution of Engineering and Technology in London, was no different. The theme was ‘sports and leisure’, and students scrambled to explain how they’d built and programmed their inventions, which ranged from keep-fit games in Scratch to applications that wouldn’t look out of place at a tech show.

pa rory

I helped judge the Year 12-13 category which, after much tea and deliberation, was won by Highgate School with PiTime, a system for recording race times and taking finish-line photos. Despite stiff competition — Homewood School’s seriously professional SportTrax deserves a special mention — PiTime won because it was cheap, smart and solved a real-world problem for the team members, who are both competitive runners. Full details of all finalists and the winners in other age categories are on PA’s competition site.

Egglescliffe CE Primary School's Colour Smash

Egglescliffe CE Primary School’s Colour Smash

Success story

As well as showing off their creations, the finalists had the chance to meet experts from industry and the world of tech. One of these sages was Tom Hartley, winner of the 2013 competition with teammate Alyssa Dayan for their AirPi. He says that the competition, “… opened up a world of opportunities for me — things I never could have imagined became possible.” Tom is currently studying Electronic and Information Engineering at Imperial College, and it’s wonderful to think that the competition and the Raspberry Pi have played some small part in this.

Tom Hartley speaking to kids

Where does your pebble walk to, Grasshopper? Tom Hartley sharing WISDOM.

Digital making is central to the Foundation’s ethos. It’s a crazy Venn diagram of fabulous skills, from problem-solving, collaboration and creativity through to programming, electronics and soldering. All put in a Klein bottle and given a good shake. PA Consulting saw this very early on and we’re pleased and proud that they continue to run such an inspiring competition.

Digital making is also a powerful and beautiful thing: it changed my life, it changed Tom’s life, and it’s changing the lives of young people all over the world.  So get involved, whether it’s though a Raspberry Jam, a local hack space, Code Club or just by browsing our resources for ideas. And if you are a teacher then please enter the PA Competition next year — even if doesn’t end up changing lives it’s a lot of fun and a great day out for the students :)

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Learn all about the new Raspberry Pi Camera Module v2 in The MagPi 45

Earlier this week, the brand new Raspberry Pi Camera Module v2 was revealed to the world, its headline feature being an 8-megapixel sensor. It’s been a few years since the original came out and the new camera is an excellent little upgrade to the existing model; you can find out all the details in our complete breakdown in Issue 45 of The MagPi magazine, which is out today.

Picture perfect, the new Pi Camera Module v2

Picture perfect, the new Pi Camera Module v2

As well as covering the camera and giving you some projects to start you off with it, we also have a look at the ten best Pi-powered arcade machines, which should give you some ideas for a retro games system of your own. There are also tutorials on creating lighting effects for costumes with a Pi and some NeoPixels, making an Asteroids clone in Basic, and building an IoT thermometer. We also have Astro Pi news, excellent projects, reviews, and everything else you’d expect from your monthly MagPi.

A model railway, in-part powered by Pi Zero

A model railway, powered in-part by Pi Zero

Highlights from issue 45:

  • Replicate an Astro Pi experiment
    Create a humidity sensor, similar to the Sweaty Astronaut code
  • Hacking with dinosaurs
    The MagPi heads to the Isle of Wight to see how some animatronic dinos are being hacked with Pi
  • Original games on the Pi
    Play three brand-new games on your Pi thanks to YoYo and GameMaker Studio
  • Moon pictures
    Find out how to use the camera board to take amazing photos of the moon
  • And much, much more!

How to buy
As usual, you can get The MagPi in store from WH Smith, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and Asda as well as buying copies online from our store. It’s also available digitally via our app on Android and iOS. If you fancy subscribing to the magazine to make sure you never miss an issue, you can do that to on our subscription site.

Free Creative Commons download
As always, you can download your copy of The MagPi completely free. Grab it straight from the issue page for The MagPi 45.

Don’t forget, though, that like sales of the Raspberry Pi itself, all proceeds from the print and digital editions of the magazine go to help the Foundation achieve its charitable goals. Help us democratise computing!

We hope you enjoy this month’s issue! Before anyone asks, no, the magazine unfortunately does not come with a free camera. Sorry!

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Wall-mounted Raspberry Pi games console for kids

YouTuber buildxyz is happy for his kids to play video games, but he’s keen for them to have a properly decent selection, and he wanted something that would look a little better in his living room than your average games console. He also wanted a no-nonsense way to retain parental control over the amount of time the children spend engaging with this particular kind of entertainment. Using a Raspberry Pi 2, an Arduino Uno, an old monitor and speakers, and EmulationStation, he came up with this.

RPiKids: Raspberry Pi2 / Arduino / EmulationStaion Powered Kids Entertainment Center

Share this video: https://youtu.be/SEao9h7Zg9Y www.buildxyz.xyz I hope you enjoyed my remix of the Illusion of Gaia from SNES

An accomplished hobbyist woodworker, buildxyz constructed the cabinet from Baltic Birch plywood and custom laser-cut and 3D-printed parts, adding old speakers he had lying around and an HP monitor.

A rotary combination lock on the front allows buildxyz’s kids to enter a passcode for time-limited access, and sits inside a NeoPixel ring from Adafruit that shows the current status of the timer. An Arduino Uno controls power to the set-up, polling for a press of the rotary lock’s integrated push-button to turn on the Pi, which runs RetroPie and EmulationStation; the Uno shuts everything down gracefully either when the button is pressed again or when a player runs out of gaming time. When the kids figure out that the current system allows them to brute-force the passcode, they’ll be rewarded with unlimited access for a while, until buildxyz fixes this intentional vulnerability.

This is a simple and well executed project that, buildxyz comments, is “far more reliable then I anticipated.” We hope he and his kids have tons of fun using it, and my experience with kids and screens makes me think the whole family is likely to benefit from the fact that you plainly can’t argue with an electronic timer. You can read more about buildxyz’s project on Hackaday or in his build log, and if you’ve used a Pi to make a gaming set-up that meets your own particular spec, please tell us about your build in the comments!

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A media player for Scott

Projects don’t have to be hugely complicated to make a huge difference. In Luxembourg, Alain Wall has used a Raspberry Pi to make a very simple media player for his autistic son, Scott. It’s very easy to use, very robust, and easy to clean; and it offers Scott a limited (so not overwhelming) but meaningful degree of choice. Here’s Scott using his player. Watch to the end for the best smile in the world.

Dem Scott sain neien TV. Scott’s new TV

Hei ass den Scott deen sain neien Mediaplayer test. En kann sech seng Filmer selwer starten an stoppen. A media player nearly indestructible an controllable with 6 Buttons to choose a movie Deutsch: http://awallelectronic.blogspot.lu/2016/04/scott-tv.html English: http://www.instructables.com/id/ScottTV-a-Simple-Media-Player-for-My-Austic-Son/ or https://hackaday.io/project/11000-scotttv-a-simple-mediaplayer-for-my-autistic-son

Alain hooked up six big piezo buttons and some speakers to a 20-in monitor and a Raspberry Pi – this isn’t the most complicated build you’ll see around these parts. (You can see a how-to guide over at Instructables.) But it is one of the most effective: as Alain says, “Scott loves it.”

Here’s another video from Alain demonstrating the setup.

Scott TV Simple MediaPlayer For My Autistic Son Scott

This is a simple media player for my autistic son. It had to be easy to use, nearly indestructible and easy to clean http://www.instructables.com/id/ScottTV-a-Simple-Media-Player-for-My-Austic-Son/ Deutsch: http://awallelectronic.blogspot.lu/2016/04/scott-tv.html

Thanks very much for sharing the project, Alain; all the very best from us at Pi Towers to you and the rest of the family, especially Scott!

 

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Raspberry Pi telehealth kit piloted in NHS

I had to spend a couple of nights in hospital last year – the first time I’d been on a hospital ward in about fifteen years. Things have moved on since my last visit: being me, the difference I really noticed was the huge number of computers, often on wheely trolley devices so they could be pushed around the ward, and often only used for one task. There was one at A&E when I came in, used to check NHS numbers and notes; another for paramedics to do a temperature check (this was at the height of the Ebola scare). When my blood was taken for some tests, another mobile computer was hooked up to the vials of blood and the testing hardware right next to my bed, feeding back results to a database; one controlled my drip, another monitored my oxygen levels, breathing, heart rate and so on on the ward. PCs for logging and checking were everywhere. I’m sure the operating room was full of the things too, but I was a bit unconscious at that point, so had stopped counting. (I’m fine now, by the way. Thanks for worrying.)

intensivecare

The huge variety of specialised and generic computers in the hospital gave me something to think about other than myself (which was very, very welcome under the circumstances). Namely, how much all this was costing; and how you could use Raspberry Pis to take some of that cost out. Here’s a study from 2009 about some of the devices used on a ward. That’s a heck of a lot of machines. We know from long experience at Raspberry Pi that specialised embedded hardware is often very, very expensive; manufacturers can put a premium on devices used in specialised environments, and increasingly, people using those devices are swapping them out for something based on Raspberry Pi (about a third of our sales go into embedded compute in industry, for factory automation and similar purposes). And we know that the NHS is financially pressed.

This is a long-winded way of saying that we’re really, really pleased to see a Raspberry Pi being trialled in the NHS.

This is the MediPi. It’s a device for heart patients to use at home to measure health statistics, which means they don’t need daily visits from a medical professional. Telehealth devices like this are usually built on iPads using 3G and Bluetooth with specially commissioned custom software and custom peripherals, which is a really expensive way to do a few simple things.

medipi

MediPi is being trialled this year with heart failure patients in an NHS trust in the south of England. Richard Robinson, the developer, is a a technical integration specialist at the Health and Social Care Information Centre (HSCIC) who has a particular interest in Raspberry Pi. He was shocked to find studies suggesting that devices like this were costing the NHS at least £2,000 a year per patient, making telehealth devices just too expensive for many NHS trusts to be able to use in any numbers. MediPi is much cheaper. The whole kit – that is, the Pi the touchscreen, a blood pressure cuff, a finger oximeter and some diagnostic scales – comes in at £250 (the hope is that building devices like this in bulk will bring prices even lower). And it’s all built on open-source software.

MediPi issues on-screen instructions showing patients how to take and record their measurements. When they hit the “transmit” button MediPi compresses and encrypts the data, and sends it to their clinician. Doctors have asked to be able to send messages to patients using the device, and patients can reply to them. MediPi also includes a heart questionnaire which patients respond to daily using the touch screen.

Richard Robinson says:

We created a secure platform which can message using Spine messaging and also message using any securely enabled network. We have designed it to be patient-friendly, so it has a simple touch-tiled dashboard interface and various help screens, and it’s low cost.

Clinicians don’t want to be overwhelmed with enormous amounts of data so we have developed a concentrator that will take the data and allow clinicians certain views, such as alerts for ‘out of threshold’ values.

My aim for this is that we demonstrate that telehealth is affordable at scale.

We’re really excited about this trial, and we’ll be keeping an eye on how things pan out. We’d love to see more of this sort of cost-reducing innovation in the heath sector; the Raspberry Pi is stable enough and cheap enough to provide it.

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New 8-megapixel camera board on sale at $25

The 5-megapixel visible-light camera board was our first official accessory back in 2013, and it remains one of your favourite add-ons. They’ve found their way into a bunch of fun projects, including telescopes, kites, science lessons and of course the Naturebytes camera trap. It was soon joined by the Pi NoIR infrared-sensitive version, which not only let you see in the dark, but also opened the door to hyperspectral imaging hacks.

As many of you know, the OmniVision OV5647 sensor used in both boards was end-of-lifed at the end of 2014. Our partners both bought up large stockpiles, but these are now almost completely depleted, so we needed to do something new. Fortunately, we’d already struck up conversation with Sony’s image sensor division, and so in the nick of time we’re able to announce the immediate availability of both visible-light and infrared cameras based on the Sony IMX219 8-megapixel sensor, at the same low price of $25. They’re available today from our partners RS Components and element14, and should make their way to your favourite reseller soon.

Visible light camera v2

The visible light camera…

...and its infrared cousin

…and its infrared cousin

In our testing, IMX219 has proven to be a fantastic choice. You can read all the gory details about IMX219 and the Exmor R back-illuminated sensor architecture on Sony’s website, but suffice to say this is more than just a resolution upgrade: it’s a leap forward in image quality, colour fidelity and low-light performance.

VideoCore IV includes a sophisticated image sensor pipeline (ISP). This converts “raw” Bayer-format RGB input images from the sensor into YUV-format output images, while correcting for sensor and module artefacts such as thermal and shot noise, defective pixels, lens shading and image distortion. Tuning the ISP to work with a particular sensor is a time-consuming, specialist activity: there are only a handful of people with the necessary skills, and we’re very lucky that Naush Patuck, formerly of Broadcom’s imaging team, volunteered to take this on for IMX219.

Naush says:

Regarding the tuning process, I guess you could say the bulk of the effort went into the lens shading and AWB tuning. Apart from the fixed shading correction, our auto lens shading algorithm takes care of module to module manufacturing variations. AWB is tricky because we must ensure correct results over a large section of the colour temperature curve; in the case of the IMX219, we used images illuminated by light sources from 1800K [very “cool” reddish light] all the way up to 16000K [very “hot” bluish light].

The goal of auto white balance (AWB) is to recover the “true” colours in a scene regardless of the colour temperature of the light illuminating it: filming a white object should result in white pixels in sunlight, or under LED, fluorescent or incandescent lights. You can see from these pairs of before and after images that Naush’s tune does a great job under very challenging conditions.

AWB with high colour temperature

AWB at higher colour temperature

AWB at lower colour temperature

AWB at lower colour temperature

As always, we’re indebted to a host of people for their help getting these products out of the door. Dave Stevenson and James Hughes (hope you and Elaine are having a great honeymoon, James!) wrote most of our camera platform code. Mike Stimson designed the board (his second Raspberry Pi product after Zero). Phil Holden, Shinichi Goseki, Qiang Li and many others at Sony went out of their way to help us get access to the information Naush needed to tune the ISP.

We’re really happy with the way the new camera board has turned out, and we can’t wait to see what you do with it. Head over to RS Components or element14 to pick one up today.

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Scratch performance – feel the speed!

The Scratch programming language, developed at MIT, has become the cornerstone of computing education at the primary level. Running the Scratch environment well was an early goal for Raspberry Pi. Since early 2013 we’ve been working with Tim Rowledge, Smalltalk hacker extraordinaire. Tim has been beavering away, improving the Scratch codebase and porting it to newer versions of the Squeak virtual machine. Ben Avison chipped in with ARM-optimised versions of Squeak’s graphics operations, and of course we did our bit by releasing two new generations of the Raspberry Pi hardware.

We thought you’d enjoy these two videos. The first shows Andrew Oliver’s Scratch implementation of Pacman running on an Intel Core i5 laptop with “standard” Scratch 1.4. (Yes, that Andrew Oliver. Thanks Andrew!) The second shows the same code running on a Raspberry Pi 3 with Tim’s optimised Scratch. The Raspberry Pi version is roughly twice as fast.

Pacman running on a Macbook i5 under MIT Scratch

A demonstration of how much slower standard Scratch can be than the optimised NuScratch that’s available for Raspberry Pi

PacMan running on Pi 3 under NuScratch

This is “PacMan running on Pi 3 under NuScratch” by raspberrypi on Vimeo, the home for high quality videos and the people who love them.

This is a great example of the sort of attention-to-detail work that we like to focus on, and that can make the difference between a mediocre user experience and the desktop-equivalent experience that we aspire to for Raspberry Pi 3. We think it’s as important to work as hard on improving and incrementing software as it is to do the same with the hardware it runs on. We’ve done similar work with Kodi and Epiphany, and you can expect a lot more of this from us over the next couple of years.

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Raspberry Pi, Preserving Digital Heritage

The Raspberry Pi computer was inspired by the machines of the 80s, which were used interchangeably for programming and gaming. In fact, many of you will remember typing in the pages of code from a magazine to make a game. Some people used them as a basis on which to build their own games, taking the early steps into what has become an important industry.

Micro User magazine was an important part of the early computing education of a lot of people who work at Raspberry Pi. Mike Cook, who now writes for our official magazine, The MagPi, was author of the monthly Body Building feature.

In the 1980s, Micro User magazine was an important part of the early computing education of a lot of people who now work at Raspberry Pi. Mike Cook, who now writes for our official magazine, The MagPi, was author of the monthly Body Building hardware feature.

Nowadays, computer games are a crucial part of our cultural history. We see this in the enthusiasm for retro games projects that people create with our computers.

A trip down 8-bit memory lane is a lot of fun, but there’s a serious side to the preservation of games too. The games and machines that inspired a generation of digital creatives are old and obsolete. There will soon come a time when they no longer work; a lot of work is done by organisations like the Centre for Computing History in Cambridge to preserve old hardware, but it’s an uphill battle against the moulds that find the medium inside floppy discs so attractive, the leakage of electrolytic capacitors, tin whiskers developing in solder, and a million and one other sorts of entropy. In the future, there could be no way to revisit this part of our culture in the same way we can with books and objects without the work of archivists and historians.

A tiny part of the Centre for Computing History's collection on display

A tiny part of the Centre for Computing History’s collection on display

The cultural side of games is clear in the way they represent real places. The Museum of London are exploring this with an exhibit of representations of London in games. The earliest example is in 1982 text-based adventure game Streets of London for the ZX Spectrum; more recent ones include Tomb Raider III and Broken Sword.

Streets of London

You can’t understand a game by looking at it in a museum case: it has to be experienced. The museum collection includes ZX Spectrum and Commodore 64 machines, but the curators found that these old computers were not robust enough for ‘hands-on’ exhibits. Long load times from cassettes, 30-year-old worn keyboards and obsolete monitor connections all hampered their efforts.

Step up the Raspberry Pi, and the resources for retro gaming provided by RetroPie and the many emulators it supports. This seems appropriate, given that the Pi is the inheritor of the DIY ethos of these early games machines. All the interactive exhibits are powered by Raspberry Pis, emulating Spectrums, Commodore 64s, and even a Windows 95 PC.

Commodore 64 emulator

What’s on-screen is only part of the experience, so the exhibits also have authentic input devices. Adventure game commands are typed (and mis-typed) into the squashy rubber-membrane keys of an adapted Spectrum keyboard. Platform antics are controlled with a C64-like joystick (instinctive flailing of the controller to make characters jump higher is optional). Even the original manuals are included, as referring to them was so often an important part of the experience.

Spectrum keyboard

As custodians of cultural history, it’s also important that the museum uses the right processes to preserve the games. They have acquired copies of games on the original cassettes and disks, and carefully transferred them to modern media. This is important for copyright, to ensure the authenticity of the code, and for the completeness of the collection.

It’s easy to forget that games are important historical artefacts. They tell us about past experiences, and the way they represent places and events is a part of our cultural history. Although digital artefacts are quickly obsolete, people are going to great lengths to develop ways of preserving them for generations to come.

Seeing representations of London in video games alongside the art, objects and literature in the collection at the Museum of London shows just how much a part of life digital objects are now. It also shows how the history of the early video games era is being passed on through the Raspberry Pi. It’s not just inspiring a new generation of digital creatives. It’s also helping us all to remember and understand our digital heritage.

London in Video Games is on display at The Museum of London until the end of April, and the museum plans to continue to explore digital preservation and games emulation. We know there are lots of people in our community with expertise in emulation and archiving of retro games: let us know in the comments if you might be able to lend your expertise to projects like this.

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Astro Pi: the animated adventures of Izzy and Ed

Right now, two Raspberry Pi computers are orbiting Earth on board the International Space Station.

Our intrepid Astro Pi units Izzy and Ed launched in December and were deployed by British ESA astronaut Tim Peake in February. We’ve seen the first part of their animated adventures; now we bring you the second part of their story, featuring some very special guests.

The story of Astro Pi – Part 2: Deployment

Our intrepid Astro Pi units, two specially equipped and tested Raspberry Pi computers, are on board the International Space Station with British ESA Astronaut Tim Peake. In the second part of their story, they get to work running apps and experiments designed and coded by school students, with help from Tim and other new friends.

We’re especially excited that our Astro Pis have met Robonaut, NASA’s humanoid robot, as well as human crew members from ESA, NASA and Roscosmos.

After Ed and Izzy finished running apps and experiments coded by UK school students, they entered a flight recorder mode where they saved sensor readings to a database every ten seconds. They each recorded their orientation and acceleration, as well as temperature, humidity and pressure, over a period of about two weeks. We’ve now made the data they recorded on the ISS available for everyone to download, so you can analyse it any way you like, and we’ve also prepared a Flight Data Analysis resource to help you interpret and handle the data. We’re really looking forward to seeing how you use these data to analyse and interpret the movement of the space station and the environment on board.

Both Astro Pi units have been tweeting about some of their activities, including some great Earth observation images from Izzy, and they’re also talking about opportunities to get involved with their mission. Follow Ed and Izzy on Twitter to see what they’re up to!

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European Maker Week

A large part of the Raspberry Pi community identify as makers. We all love to make things – from robots to yarn to pottery to art – and share our creations with others. European Maker Week is a celebration of this rapidly growing community, and it takes place between 30 May and 5 June in 28 countries.

European Maker Week banner: "a celebration of makers and innovators all over Europe"

EMW is an initiative promoted by European Commission and implemented by Maker Faire Rome in collaboration with Startup Europe. Over 80 events are scheduled for the week so there’s plenty to get involved with. And if you’re running a Raspberry Jam that week, you can submit it to the EMW website to be included on the map.

Map showing European Maker Week events in countries across Europe

European Maker Week events

This weekend, Maker Faire UK takes place in Newcastle. Maker Faire Rome, the largest in Europe, takes place in October, and their call for makers opens on 26 April – it’s a great opportunity to show off your latest Raspberry Pi project, or to attend and observe the great hacks on display in the city of Rome. This year a prize of €100,000 is available for the best maker project with the highest social impact.

Banners at the entrance to Maker Faire Rome: "16-18 Ottobre 2015" and "Scopri. Inventa. Crea."

20151018_132236

Maker Faire Rome

There are many ways of connecting with the wider maker community. We strongly encourage you to check out a Maker Faire if you get the chance, and if you’re near a hackspace, a maker space, a fab lab or a repair café, you’ll find people there who are happy to share skills and tools. And, of course, there are Raspberry Jams around the world for you to get involved with too, such Raspberry Jam Berlin, Pi and More in Trier, and Rhône Raspberry Jam. A jam doesn’t have to be a huge event, it can be a small gathering – why not think about setting one up? Head over to our Jam page to find out how to get started!

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