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!

Bell Gardens’ Code Club is headed to Coolest Projects North America

Located outside Los Angeles, the Boys & Girls Club of Bell Gardens run after-school and summer programming for youth in the community. The club at Bell Gardens is part of the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, a national organization of local chapters that offer after-school programs for young people. In September, their Code Club members will be heading to Coolest Projects North America to share their coding projects and connect with other young coders.

Two girls with backpacks reading about a Raspberry Pi project — Boys & Girls Club

Boys & Girls Club of Bell Gardens

At Bell Gardens’ Boys & Girls Club, activities center around healthy living and homework support, in addition to opportunities for kids to practice good character and citizenship, and to explore the arts and technology. But, as we know, rapid changes in technology mean needing to always be on the lookout for updated and kid-friendly materials. Therefore, Loren and her Boys & Girls Club team wanted to find resources that expose their kids to technology and empower them to contribute to society, to solve problems, or to simply get creative.

Code Club Bell Gardens

Loren found that Code Club, the Raspberry Pi Foundation’s longest-running outreach program, has just the resources and online project platform they needed to really level up their digital tech program. Code Club resources, like all resources provided Raspberry Pi, are user-friendly, accessible, and always free.

A boy at a laptop coding in Scratch — Boys & Girls Club

Now, just two short months since their first session, the on-site Code Club at Bell Gardens has grown exponentially and become a favourite of the community. At 20 members and growing, their Code Club is composed entirely of members from the Bell Gardens community, serving kids from 6 to 15. The club runs at least once a week, and Loren hopes to run it more often due to its positive effects. She says:

I’ve seen a lot of internal and external growth in each member. I can honestly say that all the members have been impacted by the exposure to new resources and opportunities. Not only has their self-confidence improved, so have their skills in critical thinking, coding, and math.

Loren admits that the first day of Code Club started off as challenging. “Many of the youngest members faced significant learning difficulties pertaining to literacy and math. However, many of them happily surprised our staff with their ability to memorize the projects steps along with the symbols on the screen. After a two-hour session, most members were able to complete their projects without any assistance!”

Two children holding up Code Club stickers — Boys & Girls Club

The club members come from diverse backgrounds, so Loren is thoughtful about creating a team culture while supporting individual development. As a team, they focus on two objectives: passion and innovation. “Members are constantly seeking solutions to their own questions and challenges. They thrive on inspiration and motivation, which in my opinion is the finest way to be a catalyst in the technological age.”

Bell Gardens heads to Coolest Projects

With Coolest Projects North America coming in September, Bell Gardens’ Code Club members are working on projects over the summer to prepare for the big event. Loren is already looking forward to the showcase: “I am thrilled to bring our club to Coolest Projects because it’s a unique opportunity for the community! Our community has an overwhelming lack of resources, especially concerning education, so I am looking forward to introducing our members to an innovative, competitive environment, but most of all to inspire them to select a project they can feel passionate about.”

Coolest Projects North America

Coolest Projects North America will take place at the Discovery Cube, Orange County, on September 23, 2018.

All levels of coders are welcome, and all types of projects are encouraged! Find tickets to the the event, register your project, and learn about travel stipends on the Coolest Projects North America website.

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Gliding to earth with the Raspberry Pi Zero

RaptorTech’s goal was to drop a glider from the edge of space, and with a Raspberry Pi and a high-altitude weather balloon, their vision became a reality.

Dropping a glider from 10km with a high-altitude weather balloon

The goal of this project was to drop a glider from the edge of space using a high altitude weather balloon. The glider is entirely homemade and uses the opensource Pixhawk flight controller + a Raspberry Pi Zero to disconnect at the desired altitude and fly to a predetermined landing location.

High-altitude ballooning

Here at Pi Towers, we thoroughly enjoy the link between high-altitude balloon (HAB) enthusiasts and the Raspberry Pi community, from Dave Akerman‘s first attempt at sending a Raspberry Pi to near-space, to our own Skycademy programme training educators in high-altitude ballooning. HABs and the Pi go together like the macaroni and cheese, peanut butter and jelly, chips and gravy…you get the idea.

The RaptorTech glider

The RaptorTech team equipped their glider with a Pixhawk flight controller and the small $5 Raspberry Pi Zero to control the time point when the glider disconnects from the HAB, and to allow the glider to autonomously navigate back to a specific landing site.

RaptorTech high-altitude balloon Raspberry Pi Zero glider

They made the glider out of foam core and coroplast, with a covering of tape to waterproof the body. Inside it were two cameras, two servos, the Raspberry Pi Zero, and the Pixhawk flight controller with added GPS tracker (in case the glider got lost on the way home). The electronics were protected by handwarmers from freezing at high altitude.

The Raspberry Pi Zero ran a Python script to control the Pixhawk. At take-off, the Zero set the controller into manual mode to keep the glider from trying to fly off toward its final destination. When the glider reached a pre-determined altitude, the Zero disconnected the glider from the HAB by setting off a solid state relay to burn through the connecting wire. Then the Pi started up the flight controller to direct the glider home. You can find the code for this process here.

All systems go

Due to time limitations and weather restrictions, the RaptorTech team had to drop their glider from 10km instead of 30km as they’d planned. They were pleased to report the safe, successful return of their glider to about 10m from the pre-set landing point.

RaptorTech high-altitude balloon Raspberry Pi Zero glider

If you’d like to follow the adventures of RaptorTech, check out their Facebook page. You can also follow them on YouTube and on their website for more RC plane-based mayhem.

A note from Dave Akerman: “It’s worth pointing out that not only do all HAB flights need permission but that such permission would normally ONLY be for payloads being dropped by parachute. Free-flying gliders, planes, drones etc. are not allowed with specific permission. My understanding, from a HABber in the USA (where this flight was), is that the FAA will not provide such permission. In any case, before dropping anything from a HAB without a parachute, get specific permission first.”

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Tackling Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome with Fesentience

In today’s guest post, we’ll hear from Prastik Mohanraj. He’s a part of the Fesentience project team at the Engineering and Science University Magnet school (ESUMS) in Connecticut, USA, and a student of Raspberry Pi Certified Educator Leon Tynes. Prastik shares his story of creating an incubator device using the Raspberry Pi to help young infants suffering from Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS).

Fesentience – Our Product

Booth video displayed at Mini EXPO. Turn subtitles on when displaying.

Fesentience

Our project, called Fesentience, is to create a device that uses the principles of biomimicry to simulate the maternal womb. By integrating Raspberry Pi and Python programming, we can design a product that houses various systems mimicking the maternal womb, with parameters such as a mother’s specific resting heart rate and blood pressure that we can set via code.

Fesentience Raspberry Pi Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome infant incubator

The product is targeted towards infants suffering from a condition called Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, or NAS. Newborn infants exhibit NAS if they were exposed to addictive drugs while in the womb. Infants with NAS suffer from withdrawal effects, which can be extremely devastating since they may hinder essential post-birth developmental processes. This may lead to the onset of conditions such as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, where the infant dies without any prior physiological indicators.

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome treatment

Current treatments for NAS include providing kangaroo care, which is a form of touch contact for the infant; weaning infants off drugs slowly by using morphine, fentanyl, or other replacement compounds; and simply housing them in incubator cribs. However, none of these treatments approach NAS in what is scientifically shown to be the best way: providing persistent maternal involvement, or having the mother directly in contact with the infant for prolonged periods of time. The problem with such maternal involvement, though, is that in many cases, it is simply not possible for the mother to be with the infant.

NAS and Raspberry Pi

We made Fesentience to address this difficulty and act as a substitute for the mother. Our incubator device mimics the various biological systems of the mother according to parameters unique to each mother. Hence, our product can fully mimic any particular infant’s mother during its treatment.

Fesentience Raspberry Pi Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome infant incubator

The prototype includes a light system that can display various shades of light; we chose shades of blue light to prevent the occurrence of jaundice in infants being treated. The product also includes a vibration motor to vibrate in a pattern mimicking the mother’s heartbeat; a balloon that inflates and deflates through the use of vacuum pumps to simulate the mother’s respiration; and a speaker to play the mother’s voice in the form of lullabies or songs for the infant. We are planning on adding a thermal system that sets the temperature of the device to the mother’s resting body temperature and modulates it in accordance to physiological temperature fluctuations. These systems are set up so that the infant can clearly sense their outputs and feel like its own mother is directly next to it.

Fesentience Raspberry Pi infant incubator

The final Fesentience product we will develop is a set of appendages to be fitted onto an incubator; we may possibly designing our own incubator housing these appendages in the future. We used the Raspberry Pi microcomputer and Python programming to control Fesentience.

Fesentience Raspberry Pi Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome infant incubator

Many stages of this project were difficult. First, we had to learn the details of NAS by reading numerous scientific papers and conducting interviews with experts. The most difficult part was designing the algorithms for the device, and figuring out how the device would mimic various biological features within a secure and compact system. We had to understand how the features would interact, and how they should physically be placed inside our final device to let the infants become imbued by these sensory stimuli as much as possible. Once our first prototype of Fesentience is done, we will market it to our community and to provide it to hospitals and treatment facilities for infants suffering from NAS and related conditions to make a positive impact in the medical world.

To learn more about the Fesentience project, check out their webpage.

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Coolest Projects International 2018

Like many engineers, I have folder upon folder of half-completed projects on my computer. But the funny thing is that this wasn’t a problem for me as a child. Every other Friday evening, I’d spend two hours at Ilkley Computer Club, where I could show off whatever I’d been working on: nothing motivates you to actually finish a project like the opportunity to share it with an audience.

Raspberry Jams, Code Clubs, and CoderDojos all provide children (of all ages: we’re looking at you, Peter Onion) with a place where they can learn, share ideas, and make cool stuff with code and computers. But you can get so involved with the things you’re working on that you forget to take a step back every once in a while to look at what you’ve accomplished. And what do you do when you’ve shown your project to everyone you know, and you fancy a shot at a slightly larger audience?

Enter Coolest Projects International, now in its seventh year. Here’s a video that captures about 1% of the awesomeness of being there in person.

Celebrating Coolest Projects International 2018

Coolest Projects is a world-leading showcase that empowers and inspires the next generation of digital creators, innovators, changemakers, and entrepreneurs from across the globe.

Coolest Projects brings Ninjas from CoderDojos across the globe together in Dublin for a chance to share their work with the world, and to compete to be coolest in one of several categories:

  • Scratch projects
  • Websites
  • Games
  • Mobile apps
  • Hardware
  • Evolution (basically, next-level stuff)

At this year’s event, more than 1000 children presented projects, from 15 countries including Argentina, Bulgaria, Italy, Japan, Romania, and Spain.

Raspberry Pi on Twitter

This is it! #CoolestProjects https://t.co/eoepjNWLsC

And for the first time, Coolest Projects was open to Raspberry Jam and Code Club members, and to the broader Raspberry Pi community.

Liz, our daughter Aphra, and I spent the day at the event, along with the CoderDojo team, what felt like half the Raspberry Pi Foundation, keynote speaker Pete Lomas, and the most amazing army of volunteers. Between chugging slushies, I had the opportunity to judge hardware projects with Noel King, CoderDojo volunteer and co-founder of Coolest Projects. Noel provided the judges with a pep talk at the start of the day. He reminded us that the aim wasn’t necessarily to find the most complete, or polished, or technically audacious project, but to seek out creativity: the project that does something unique, or does something you’ve seen before but in a unique way.

To my mind, the focus on creativity is what sets Coolest Projects apart. This is, after all, a contest that aims to “empower and inspire the next generation of digital creators, innovators, changemakers, and entrepreneurs”, and that recognises that each of those activities is, at heart, a creative pursuit.

Unsurprisingly, given the strength of the field, judging went on for some time. Each category’s winner and runner-up were exceptional, and there were countless other projects that didn’t quite make the cut but that I’d be proud to have made myself. Where were these folks when I was a teenager?

You can see the winners and runners-up in each category on the Coolest Projects website, and you should also check out the winners of the six special prizes. One that especially struck me was Selin Alara Ornek’s project, iC4U, a robot guide dog that she developed at her local CoderDojo in Turkey.

While Coolest Projects started in Dublin, it’s now an international phenomenon. In the last couple of months we’ve seen Coolest Projects regional events in Belgium, Romania, and the UK.

Showcasing your projects at Coolest Projects UK 2018

Coolest Projects is a world-leading showcase that empowers and inspires the next generation of digital creators, innovators, changemakers, and entrepreneurs. This year, for the first time, we brought Coolest Projects to the UK for a spectacular regional event in London!

In September we’ll be holding the inaugural Coolest Projects North America at the Discovery Cube in Orange County.

Coolest Projects began as a volunteer-run event, and we’re immensely privileged to have this wonderful showcase for our community. We are enormously grateful to all the staff and volunteers who continue to give huge amounts of their time, effort, and talent every year to make it the wonderful event that it is. Thank you, all of you.

Events like these give me hope that the future of our industry will be every bit as exciting, and vastly more diverse, than our past and present. If you have a chance to participate in one of them, I think you’ll come away feeling the same.

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Build your own weather station with our new guide!

One of the most common enquiries I receive at Pi Towers is “How can I get my hands on a Raspberry Pi Oracle Weather Station?” Now the answer is: “Why not build your own version using our guide?”

Build Your Own weather station kit assembled

Tadaaaa! The BYO weather station fully assembled.

Our Oracle Weather Station

In 2016 we sent out nearly 1000 Raspberry Pi Oracle Weather Station kits to schools from around the world who had applied to be part of our weather station programme. In the original kit was a special HAT that allows the Pi to collect weather data with a set of sensors.

The original Raspberry Pi Oracle Weather Station HAT – Build Your Own Raspberry Pi weather station

The original Raspberry Pi Oracle Weather Station HAT

We designed the HAT to enable students to create their own weather stations and mount them at their schools. As part of the programme, we also provide an ever-growing range of supporting resources. We’ve seen Oracle Weather Stations in great locations with a huge differences in climate, and they’ve even recorded the effects of a solar eclipse.

Our new BYO weather station guide

We only had a single batch of HATs made, and unfortunately we’ve given nearly* all the Weather Station kits away. Not only are the kits really popular, we also receive lots of questions about how to add extra sensors or how to take more precise measurements of a particular weather phenomenon. So today, to satisfy your demand for a hackable weather station, we’re launching our Build your own weather station guide!

Build Your Own Raspberry Pi weather station

Fun with meteorological experiments!

Our guide suggests the use of many of the sensors from the Oracle Weather Station kit, so can build a station that’s as close as possible to the original. As you know, the Raspberry Pi is incredibly versatile, and we’ve made it easy to hack the design in case you want to use different sensors.

Many other tutorials for Pi-powered weather stations don’t explain how the various sensors work or how to store your data. Ours goes into more detail. It shows you how to put together a breadboard prototype, it describes how to write Python code to take readings in different ways, and it guides you through recording these readings in a database.

Build Your Own Raspberry Pi weather station on a breadboard

There’s also a section on how to make your station weatherproof. And in case you want to move past the breadboard stage, we also help you with that. The guide shows you how to solder together all the components, similar to the original Oracle Weather Station HAT.

Who should try this build

We think this is a great project to tackle at home, at a STEM club, Scout group, or CoderDojo, and we’re sure that many of you will be chomping at the bit to get started. Before you do, please note that we’ve designed the build to be as straight-forward as possible, but it’s still fairly advanced both in terms of electronics and programming. You should read through the whole guide before purchasing any components.

Build Your Own Raspberry Pi weather station – components

The sensors and components we’re suggesting balance cost, accuracy, and easy of use. Depending on what you want to use your station for, you may wish to use different components. Similarly, the final soldered design in the guide may not be the most elegant, but we think it is achievable for someone with modest soldering experience and basic equipment.

You can build a functioning weather station without soldering with our guide, but the build will be more durable if you do solder it. If you’ve never tried soldering before, that’s OK: we have a Getting started with soldering resource plus video tutorial that will walk you through how it works step by step.

Prototyping HAT for Raspberry Pi weather station sensors

For those of you who are more experienced makers, there are plenty of different ways to put the final build together. We always like to hear about alternative builds, so please post your designs in the Weather Station forum.

Our plans for the guide

Our next step is publishing supplementary guides for adding extra functionality to your weather station. We’d love to hear which enhancements you would most like to see! Our current ideas under development include adding a webcam, making a tweeting weather station, adding a light/UV meter, and incorporating a lightning sensor. Let us know which of these is your favourite, or suggest your own amazing ideas in the comments!

*We do have a very small number of kits reserved for interesting projects or locations: a particularly cool experiment, a novel idea for how the Oracle Weather Station could be used, or places with specific weather phenomena. If have such a project in mind, please send a brief outline to weather@raspberrypi.org, and we’ll consider how we might be able to help you.

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Protecting coral reefs with Nemo-Pi, the underwater monitor

The German charity Save Nemo works to protect coral reefs, and they are developing Nemo-Pi, an underwater “weather station” that monitors ocean conditions. Right now, you can vote for Save Nemo in the Google.org Impact Challenge.

Nemo-Pi — Save Nemo

Save Nemo

The organisation says there are two major threats to coral reefs: divers, and climate change. To make diving saver for reefs, Save Nemo installs buoy anchor points where diving tour boats can anchor without damaging corals in the process.

In addition, they provide dos and don’ts for how to behave on a reef dive.

The Nemo-Pi

To monitor the effects of climate change, and to help divers decide whether conditions are right at a reef while they’re still on shore, Save Nemo is also in the process of perfecting Nemo-Pi.

Nemo-Pi schematic — Nemo-Pi — Save Nemo

This Raspberry Pi-powered device is made up of a buoy, a solar panel, a GPS device, a Pi, and an array of sensors. Nemo-Pi measures water conditions such as current, visibility, temperature, carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide concentrations, and pH. It also uploads its readings live to a public webserver.

The Save Nemo team is currently doing long-term tests of Nemo-Pi off the coast of Thailand and Indonesia. They are also working on improving the device’s power consumption and durability, and testing prototypes with the Raspberry Pi Zero W.

web dashboard — Nemo-Pi — Save Nemo

The web dashboard showing live Nemo-Pi data

Long-term goals

Save Nemo aims to install a network of Nemo-Pis at shallow reefs (up to 60 metres deep) in South East Asia. Then diving tour companies can check the live data online and decide day-to-day whether tours are feasible. This will lower the impact of humans on reefs and help the local flora and fauna survive.

Coral reefs with fishes

A healthy coral reef

Nemo-Pi data may also be useful for groups lobbying for reef conservation, and for scientists and activists who want to shine a spotlight on the awful effects of climate change on sea life, such as coral bleaching caused by rising water temperatures.

Bleached coral

A bleached coral reef

Vote now for Save Nemo

If you want to help Save Nemo in their mission today, vote for them to win the Google.org Impact Challenge:

  1. Head to the voting web page
  2. Click “Abstimmen” in the footer of the page to vote
  3. Click “JA” in the footer to confirm

Voting is open until 6 June. You can also follow Save Nemo on Facebook or Twitter. We think this organisation is doing valuable work, and that their projects could be expanded to reefs across the globe. It’s fantastic to see the Raspberry Pi being used to help protect ocean life.

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MagPi 70: Home automation with Raspberry Pi

Hey folks, Rob here! It’s the last Thursday of the month, and that means it’s time for a brand-new The MagPi. Issue 70 is all about home automation using your favourite microcomputer, the Raspberry Pi.

Cover of The MagPi 70 — Raspberry Pi home automation and tech upcycling

Home automation in this month’s The MagPi!

Raspberry Pi home automation

We think home automation is an excellent use of the Raspberry Pi, hiding it around your house and letting it power your lights and doorbells and…fish tanks? We show you how to do all of that, and give you some excellent tips on how to add even more automation to your home in our ten-page cover feature.

Upcycle your life

Our other big feature this issue covers upcycling, the hot trend of taking old electronics and making them better than new with some custom code and a tactically placed Raspberry Pi. For this feature, we had a chat with Martin Mander, upcycler extraordinaire, to find out his top tips for hacking your old hardware.

Article on upcycling in The MagPi 70 — Raspberry Pi home automation and tech upcycling

Upcycling is a lot of fun

But wait, there’s more!

If for some reason you want even more content, you’re in luck! We have some fun tutorials for you to try, like creating a theremin and turning a Babbage into an IoT nanny cam. We also continue our quest to make a video game in C++. Our project showcase is headlined by the Teslonda on page 28, a Honda/Tesla car hybrid that is just wonderful.

Diddyborg V2 review in The MagPi 70 — Raspberry Pi home automation and tech upcycling

We review PiBorg’s latest robot

All this comes with our definitive reviews and the community section where we celebrate you, our amazing community! You’re all good beans

Teslonda article in The MagPi 70 — Raspberry Pi home automation and tech upcycling

An amazing, and practical, Raspberry Pi project

Get The MagPi 70

Issue 70 is available today from WHSmith, Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and Asda. If you live in the US, head over to your local Barnes & Noble or Micro Center in the next few days for a print copy. You can also get the new issue online from our store, or digitally via our Android and iOS apps. And don’t forget, there’s always the free PDF as well.

New subscription offer!

Want to support the Raspberry Pi Foundation and the magazine? We’ve launched a new way to subscribe to the print version of The MagPi: you can now take out a monthly £4 subscription to the magazine, effectively creating a rolling pre-order system that saves you money on each issue.

The MagPi subscription offer — Raspberry Pi home automation and tech upcycling

You can also take out a twelve-month print subscription and get a Pi Zero W plus case and adapter cables absolutely free! This offer does not currently have an end date.

That’s it for today! See you next month.

Animated GIF: a door slides open and Captain Picard emerges hesitantly

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Randomly generated, thermal-printed comics

Python code creates curious, wordless comic strips at random, spewing them from the thermal printer mouth of a laser-cut body reminiscent of Disney Pixar’s WALL-E: meet the Vomit Comic Robot!

The age of the thermal printer!

Thermal printers allow you to instantly print photos, data, and text using a few lines of code, with no need for ink. More and more makers are using this handy, low-maintenance bit of kit for truly creative projects, from Pierre Muth’s tiny PolaPi-Zero camera to the sound-printing Waves project by Eunice Lee, Matthew Zhang, and Bomani McClendon (and our own Secret Santa Babbage).

Vomiting robots

Interaction designer and developer Cadin Batrack, whose background is in game design and interactivity, has built the Vomit Comic Robot, which creates “one-of-a-kind comics on demand by processing hand-drawn images through a custom software algorithm.”

The robot is made up of a Raspberry Pi 3, a USB thermal printer, and a handful of LEDs.

Comic Vomit Robot Cadin Batrack's Raspberry Pi comic-generating thermal printer machine

At the press of a button, Processing code selects one of a set of Cadin’s hand-drawn empty comic grids and then randomly picks images from a library to fill in the gaps.

Vomit Comic Robot Cadin Batrack's Raspberry Pi comic-generating thermal printer machine

Each image is associated with data that allows the code to fit it correctly into the available panels. Cadin says about the concept behing his build:

Although images are selected and placed randomly, the comic panel format suggests relationships between elements. Our minds create a story where there is none in an attempt to explain visuals created by a non-intelligent machine.

The Raspberry Pi saves the final image as a high-resolution PNG file (so that Cadin can sell prints on thick paper via Etsy), and a Python script sends it to be vomited up by the thermal printer.

Comic Vomit Robot Cadin Batrack's Raspberry Pi comic-generating thermal printer machine

For more about the Vomit Comic Robot, check out Cadin’s blog. If you want to recreate it, you can find the info you need in the Imgur album he has put together.

We ❤ cute robots

We have a soft spot for cute robots here at Pi Towers, and of course we make no exception for the Vomit Comic Robot. If, like us, you’re a fan of adorable bots, check out Mira, the tiny interactive robot by Alonso Martinez, and Peeqo, the GIF bot by Abhishek Singh.

Mira Alfonso Martinez Raspberry Pi

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Recording lost seconds with the Augenblick blink camera

Warning: GIFs used in today’s blog contain flashing images.

Students at the University of Bremen, Germany, have built a wearable camera that records the seconds of vision lost when you blink. Augenblick uses a Raspberry Pi Zero and Camera Module alongside muscle sensors to record footage whenever you close your eyes, producing a rather disjointed film of the sights you miss out on.

Augenblick blink camera recording using a Raspberry Pi Zero

Blink and you’ll miss it

The average person blinks up to five times a minute, with each blink lasting 0.5 to 0.8 seconds. These half-seconds add up to about 30 minutes a day. What sights are we losing during these minutes? That is the question asked by students Manasse Pinsuwan and René Henrich when they set out to design Augenblick.

Blinking is a highly invasive mechanism for our eyesight. Every day we close our eyes thousands of times without noticing it. Our mind manages to never let us wonder what exactly happens in the moments that we miss.

Capturing lost moments

For Augenblick, the wearer sticks MyoWare Muscle Sensor pads to their face, and these detect the electrical impulses that trigger blinking.

Augenblick blink camera recording using a Raspberry Pi Zero

Two pads are applied over the orbicularis oculi muscle that forms a ring around the eye socket, while the third pad is attached to the cheek as a neutral point.

Biology fact: there are two muscles responsible for blinking. The orbicularis oculi muscle closes the eye, while the levator palpebrae superioris muscle opens it — and yes, they both sound like the names of Harry Potter spells.

The sensor is read 25 times a second. Whenever it detects that the orbicularis oculi is active, the Camera Module records video footage.

Augenblick blink recording using a Raspberry Pi Zero

Pressing a button on the side of the Augenblick glasses set the code running. An LED lights up whenever the camera is recording and also serves to confirm the correct placement of the sensor pads.

Augenblick blink camera recording using a Raspberry Pi Zero

The Pi Zero saves the footage so that it can be stitched together later to form a continuous, if disjointed, film.

Learn more about the Augenblick blink camera

You can find more information on the conception, design, and build process of Augenblick here in German, with a shorter explanation including lots of photos here in English.

And if you’re keen to recreate this project, our free project resource for a wearable Pi Zero time-lapse camera will come in handy as a starting point.

Edit: an apology from the author

It has come to my attention that I missed an obvious pop culture reference when writing today’s blog post and for that, I’d like to apologise. Long-time readers of my blog posts will be aware of my continued efforts to include Doctor Who images and quotes whenever possible, even when they only have a tenuous connection to the subject matter. And today, when it made perfect sense to mention the Weeping Angels, I completely missed a trick. I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. And so, better late than never, here is a GIF of what you’d hope not to discover when playing back your footage from Augenblick.

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Project Floofball and more: Pi pet stuff

It’s a public holiday here today (yes, again). So, while we indulge in the traditional pastime of barbecuing stuff (ourselves, mainly), here’s a little trove of Pi projects that cater for our various furry friends.

Project Floofball

Nicole Horward created Project Floofball for her hamster, Harold. It’s an IoT hamster wheel that uses a Raspberry Pi and a magnetic door sensor to log how far Harold runs.

Project Floofball: an IoT hamster wheel

An IoT Hamsterwheel using a Raspberry Pi and a magnetic door sensor, to see how far my hamster runs.

You can follow Harold’s runs in real time on his ThingSpeak channel, and you’ll find photos of the build on imgur. Nicole’s Python code, as well as her template for the laser-cut enclosure that houses the wiring and LCD display, are available on the hamster wheel’s GitHub repo.

A live-streaming pet feeder

JaganK3 used to work long hours that meant he couldn’t be there to feed his dog on time. He found that he couldn’t buy an automated feeder in India without paying a lot to import one, so he made one himself. It uses a Raspberry Pi to control a motor that turns a dispensing valve in a hopper full of dry food, giving his dog a portion of food at set times.

A transparent cylindrical hopper of dry dog food, with a motor that can turn a dispensing valve at the lower end. The motor is connected to a Raspberry Pi in a plastic case. Hopper, motor, Pi, and wiring are all mounted on a board on the wall.

He also added a web cam for live video streaming, because he could. Find out more in JaganK3’s Instructable for his pet feeder.

Shark laser cat toy

Sam Storino, meanwhile, is using a Raspberry Pi to control a laser-pointer cat toy with a goshdarned SHARK (which is kind of what I’d expect from the guy who made the steampunk-looking cat feeder a few weeks ago). The idea is to keep his cats interested and active within the confines of a compact city apartment.

Raspberry Pi Automatic Cat Laser Pointer Toy

Post with 52 votes and 7004 views. Tagged with cat, shark, lasers, austin powers, raspberry pi; Shared by JeorgeLeatherly. Raspberry Pi Automatic Cat Laser Pointer Toy

If I were a cat, I would definitely be entirely happy with this. Find out more on Sam’s website.

And there’s more

Michel Parreno has written a series of articles to help you monitor and feed your pet with Raspberry Pi.

All of these makers are generous in acknowledging the tutorials and build logs that helped them with their projects. It’s lovely to see the Raspberry Pi and maker community working like this, and I bet their projects will inspire others too.

Now, if you’ll excuse me. I’m late for a barbecue.

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