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!

The Pronunciation Training Machine

Using a Raspberry Pi, an Arduino, an Adafruit NeoPixel Ring and a servomotor, Japanese makers HomeMadeGarbage produced this Pronunciation Training Machine to help their parents distinguish ‘L’s and ‘R’s when speaking English.

L R 発音矯正ギブス お母ちゃん編 Pronunciation training machine #right #light #raspberrypi #arduino #neopixel

23 Likes, 1 Comments – Home Made Garbage (@homemadegarbage) on Instagram: “L R 発音矯正ギブス お母ちゃん編 Pronunciation training machine #right #light #raspberrypi #arduino #neopixel”

How does an Pronunciation Training Machine work?

As you can see in the video above, the machine utilises the Google Cloud Speech API to recognise their parents’ pronunciation of the words ‘right’ and ‘light’. Correctly pronounce the former, and the servo-mounted arrow points to the right. Pronounce the later and the NeoPixel Ring illuminates because, well, you just said “light”.

An image showing how the project works - English Pronunciation TrainingYou can find the full code for the project on its hackster page here.

Variations on the idea

It’s a super-cute project with great potential, and the concept could easily be amended for other training purposes. How about using motion sensors to help someone learn their left from their right?

A photo of hands with left and right written on them - English Pronunciation Training

Wait…your left or my left?
image c/o tattly

Or use random.choice to switch on LEDs over certain images, and speech recognition to reward a correct answer? Light up a picture of a cat, for example, and when the player says “cat”, they receive a ‘purr’ or a treat?

A photo of a kitten - English Pronunciation Training

Obligatory kitten picture
image c/o somewhere on the internet!

Raspberry Pi-based educational aids do not have to be elaborate builds. They can use components as simple as a servo and an LED, and still have the potential to make great improvements in people’s day-to-day lives.

Your own projects

If you’ve created an educational tool using a Raspberry Pi, we’d love to see it. The Raspberry Pi itself is an educational tool, so you’re helping it to fulfil its destiny! Make sure you share your projects with us on social media, or pop a link in the comments below. We’d also love to see people using the Pronunciation Training Machine (or similar projects), so make sure you share those too!

A massive shout out to Artie at hackster.io for this heads-up, and for all the other Raspberry Pi projects he sends my way. What a star!

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Affordable Raspberry Pi 3D Body Scanner

With a £1000 grant from Santander, Poppy Mosbacher set out to build a full-body 3D body scanner with the intention of creating an affordable setup for makespaces and similar community groups.

First Scan from DIY Raspberry Pi Scanner

Head and Shoulders Scan with 29 Raspberry Pi Cameras

Uses for full-body 3D scanning

Poppy herself wanted to use the scanner in her work as a fashion designer. With the help of 3D scans of her models, she would be able to create custom cardboard dressmakers dummy to ensure her designs fit perfectly. This is a brilliant way of incorporating digital tech into another industry – and it’s not the only application for this sort of build. Growing numbers of businesses use 3D body scanning, for example the stores around the world where customers can 3D scan and print themselves as action-figure-sized replicas.

Print your own family right on the high street!
image c/o Tom’s Guide and Shapify

We’ve also seen the same technology used in video games for more immersive virtual reality. Moreover, there are various uses for it in healthcare and fitness, such as monitoring the effect of exercise regimes or physiotherapy on body shape or posture.

Within a makespace environment, a 3D body scanner opens the door to including new groups of people in community make projects: imagine 3D printing miniatures of a theatrical cast to allow more realistic blocking of stage productions and better set design, or annually sending grandparents a print of their grandchild so they can compare the child’s year-on-year growth in a hands-on way.

Raspberry Pi 3d Body Scan

The Germany-based clothing business Outfittery uses full body scanners to take the stress out of finding clothes that fits well.
image c/o Outfittery

As cheesy as it sounds, the only limit for the use of 3D scanning is your imagination…and maybe storage space for miniature prints.

Poppy’s Raspberry Pi 3D Body Scanner

For her build, Poppy acquired 27 Raspberry Pi Zeros and 27 Raspberry Pi Camera Modules. With various other components, some 3D-printed or made of cardboard, Poppy got to work. She was helped by members of BuildBrighton and by her friend Arthur Guy, who also wrote the code for the scanner.

Raspberry Pi 3D Body Scanner

The Pi Zeros run Raspbian Lite, and are connected to a main server running a node application. Each is fitted into its own laser-cut cardboard case, and secured to a structure of cardboard tubing and 3D-printed connectors.

Raspberry Pi 3D Body Scanner

In the finished build, the person to be scanned stands within the centre of the structure, and the press of a button sends the signal for all Pis to take a photo. The images are sent back to the server, and processed through Autocade ReMake, a freemium software available for the PC (Poppy discovered part-way through the project that the Mac version has recently lost support).

Build your own

Obviously there’s a lot more to the process of building this full-body 3D scanner than what I’ve reported in these few paragraphs. And since it was Poppy’s goal to make a readily available and affordable scanner that anyone can recreate, she’s provided all the instructions and code for it on her Instructables page.

Projects like this, in which people use the Raspberry Pi to create affordable and interesting tech for communities, are exactly the type of thing we love to see. Always make sure to share your Pi-based projects with us on social media, so we can boost their visibility!

If you’re a member of a makespace, run a workshop in a school or club, or simply love to tinker and create, this build could be the perfect addition to your workshop. And if you recreate Poppy’s scanner, or build something similar, we’d love to see the results in the comments below.

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Sean’s DIY Bitcoin Lottery with a Raspberry Pi

After several explorations into the world of 3D printing, and fresh off the back of his $5 fidget spinner crowd funding campaign, Sean Hodgins brings us his latest project: a DIY Bitcoin Lottery!

DIY Bitcoin Lottery with a Raspberry Pi

Build your own lottery! Thingiverse Files: https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:2494568 Pi How-to: http://www.idlehandsproject.com/raspberry-pi-bitcoin-lottery/ Instructables: https://www.instructables.com/id/DIY-Bitcoin-Lottery-With-Raspberry-Pi/ Send me bitcoins if you want!

What is Bitcoin mining?

According to the internet, Bitcoin mining is:

[A] record-keeping service. Miners keep the blockchain consistent, complete, and unalterable by repeatedly verifying and collecting newly broadcast transactions into a new group of transactions called a block. Each block contains a cryptographic hash of the previous block, using the SHA-256 hashing algorithm, which links it to the previous block, thus giving the blockchain its name.

If that makes no sense to you, welcome to the club. So here’s a handy video which explains it better.

What is Bitcoin Mining?

For more information: https://www.bitcoinmining.com and https://www.weusecoins.com What is Bitcoin Mining? Have you ever wondered how Bitcoin is generated? This short video is an animated introduction to Bitcoin Mining. Credits: Voice – Chris Rice (www.ricevoice.com) Motion Graphics – Fabian Rühle (www.fabianruehle.de) Music/Sound Design – Christian Barth (www.akkord-arbeiter.de) Andrew Mottl (www.andrewmottl.com)

Okay, now I get it.

I swear.

Sean’s Bitcoin Lottery

As a retired Bitcoin miner, Sean understands how the system works and what is required for mining. And since news sources report that Bitcoin is currently valued at around $4000, Sean decided to use a Raspberry Pi to bring to life an idea he’d been thinking about for a little while.

Sean Hodgins Raspberry Pi Bitcoin Lottery

He fitted the Raspberry Pi into a 3D-printed body, together with a small fan, a strip of NeoPixels, and a Block Eruptor ASIC which is the dedicated mining hardware. The Pi runs a Python script compatible with CGMiner, a mining software that needs far more explanation than I can offer in this short blog post.

The Neopixels take the first 6 characters of the 64-character-long number of the current block, and interpret it as a hex colour code. In this way, the block’s data is converted into colour, which, when you think about it, is kind of beautiful.

The device moves on to trying to solve a new block every 20 minutes. When it does, the NeoPixel LEDs play a flashing ‘Win’ or ‘Lose’ animation to let you know whether you were the one to solve the previous block.

Sean Hodgins Raspberry Pi Bitcoin Lottery

Lottery results

Sean has done the maths to calculate the power consumption of the device. He says that the annual cost of running his Bitcoin Lottery is roughly what you would pay for two lottery scratch cards. Now, the odds of solving a block are much lower than those of buying a winning scratch card. However, since the mining device moves on to a new block every 20 minutes, the odds of being a winner with Bitcoin using Sean’s build are actually better than those of winning the lottery.

Sean Hodgins Raspberry Pi Bitcoin Lottery

MATHS!

But even if you don’t win, Sean’s project is a fun experiment in Bitcoin mining and creating colour through code. And if you want to make your own, you can download the 3D-files here, find the code here, and view the step-by-step guide here on Instructables.

Good luck and happy mining!

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Mod your Nerf gun with a Pi

Michael Darby, who blogs at 314reactor, has created a new Raspberry Pi build, and it’s pretty darn cool. Though it’s not the first Raspberry Pi-modded Nerf gun we’ve seen, it’s definitely one of the most complex!

Nerf Gun Ammo Counter / Range Finder – Raspberry Pi

An ammo counter and range finder made from a Raspberry Pi for a Nerf Gun.

Nerf guns

Nerf guns are toy dart guns that have been on the market since the early 1990s. They are popular with kids and adults who enjoy playing paintball, laser tag, and first-person shooter video games. Michael loves Nerf guns, and he wanted to give his toy a sci-fi overhaul, making it look and function more like a gun that an avatar might use in Half-Life, Quake, or Doom.

Modding a Nerf gun

A busy and creative member of the Raspberry Pi community, Michael has previously delighted us with his Windows 98 wristwatch. Now, he has upgraded his Nerf gun with a rangefinder and an ammo counter by adding a Pi, a Pimoroni Rainbow HAT, and some sensors.

Setting up a rangefinder was straightforward. Michael fixed an ultrasonic distance sensor pointing in the direction of the gun’s barrel. Live information about how far away he is from his target is shown on the Rainbow HAT’s alphanumeric display.

View of Michael Darby's nerf gun range finder

To create an ammo counter, Michael had to follow a more circuitous route. Since he couldn’t think of a way to read out how many darts are in the Nerf gun’s magazine, he ended up counting how many darts have been shot instead. This data is collected via a proximity sensor, a device that can measure shorter distances than an ultrasonic sensor. Michael aimed the sensor towards the end of the barrel, attaching it with Blu-Tack.

View of Michael Darby's nerf gun proximity sensor

The number of shots left in the magazine is indicated by the seven LEDs above the Rainbow HAT’s alphanumeric display. The countdown works for more than seven darts, thanks to colour coding: the LEDs count down first in red, then in orange, and finally in green.

In a Python script running on the Pi, Michael has included a default number of shots per magazine. When he changes a magazine, he uses one of the HAT’s buttons as a ‘Reload’ button, resetting the counter. He has also set up the HAT so that the number of available shots can be entered manually instead.

Nerf gun modding tutorial

On Michael’s blog you will find a thorough step-by-step guide to how he created this build. He has also included his code, and links to all the components, software installation guides, and test scripts he has used. So head on over there if you’re keen to mod your own nerf gun like this, and take a look at some of his other projects while you’re there!

Michael welcomes suggestions for how to improve upon his mods, especially for how to count shots in a magazine automatically. Do you have an idea? Let usand himknow in the comments!

Toy mods

Over the years, we’ve covered quite a few fun toy upgrades, and some that may have to be approached with caution. The Pi-powered busy board for babies, the ‘weaponized’ teddy bear, and the inevitable smart Fisher Price phone are just a few from our archives.

What’s your favourite childhood toy, and how could it be improved by the addition of a Pi? Share your ideas with us in the comments below.

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Hunting for life on Mars assisted by high-altitude balloons

Will bacteria-laden high-altitude balloons help us find life on Mars? Today’s eclipse should bring us closer to an answer.

NASA Bacteria Balloons Raspberry Pi HAB Life on Mars

image c/o NASA / Ames Research Center / Tristan Caro

The Eclipse Ballooning Project

Having learned of the Eclipse Ballooning Project set to take place today across the USA, a team at NASA couldn’t miss the opportunity to harness the high-flying project for their own experiments.

NASA Bacteria Balloons Raspberry Pi HAB Life on Mars

The Eclipse Ballooning Project invited students across the USA to aid in the launch of 50+ high-altitude balloons during today’s eclipse. Each balloon is equipped with its own Raspberry Pi and camera for data collection and live video-streaming.

High-altitude ballooning, or HAB as it’s often referred to, has become a popular activity within the Raspberry Pi community. The lightweight nature of the device allows for high ascent, and its Camera Module enables instant visual content collection.

Life on Mars

image c/o Montana State University

The Eclipse Ballooning Project team, headed by Angela Des Jardins of Montana State University, was contacted by Jim Green, Director of Planetary Science at NASA, who hoped to piggyback on the project to run tests on bacteria in the Mars-like conditions the balloons would encounter near space.

Into the stratosphere

At around -35 degrees Fahrenheit, with thinner air and harsher ultraviolet radiation, the conditions in the upper part of the earth’s stratosphere are comparable to those on the surface of Mars. And during the eclipse, the moon will block some UV rays, making the environment in our stratosphere even more similar to the martian oneideal for NASA’s experiment.

So the students taking part in the Eclipse Ballooning Project could help the scientists out, NASA sent them some small metal tags.

NASA Bacteria Balloons Raspberry Pi HAB Life on Mars

These tags contain samples of a kind of bacterium known as Paenibacillus xerothermodurans. Upon their return to ground, the bacteria will be tested to see whether and how the high-altitude conditions affected them.

Life on Mars

Paenibacillus xerothermodurans is one of the most resilient bacterial species we know. The team at NASA wants to discover how the bacteria react to their flight in order to learn more about whether life on Mars could possibly exist. If the low temperature, UV rays, and air conditions cause the bacteria to mutate or indeed die, we can be pretty sure that the existence of living organisms on the surface of Mars is very unlikely.

Life on Mars

What happens to the bacteria on the spacecraft and rovers we send to space? This experiment should provide some answers.

The eclipse

If you’re in the US, you might have a chance to witness the full solar eclipse today. And if you’re planning to watch, please make sure to take all precautionary measures. In a nutshell, don’t look directly at the sun. Not today, not ever.

If you’re in the UK, you can observe a partial eclipse, if the clouds decide to vanish. And again, take note of safety measures so you don’t damage your eyes.

Life on Mars

You can also watch a live-stream of the eclipse via the NASA website.

If you’ve created an eclipse-viewing Raspberry Pi project, make sure to share it with us. And while we’re talking about eclipses and balloons, check here for our coverage of the 2015 balloon launches coinciding with the UK’s partial eclipse.

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Michael Reeves and the ridiculous Subscriber Robot

At the beginning of his new build’s video, YouTuber Michael Reeves discusses a revelation he had about why some people don’t subscribe to his channel:

The real reason some people don’t subscribe is that when you hit this button, that’s all, that’s it, it’s done. It’s not special, it’s not enjoyable. So how do we make subscribing a fun, enjoyable process? Well, we do it by slowly chipping away at the content creator’s psyche every time someone subscribes.

His fix? The ‘fun’ interactive Subscriber Robot that is the subject of the video.

Be aware that Michael uses a couple of mild swear words in this video, so maybe don’t watch it with a child.

The Subscriber Robot

Just showing that subscriber dedication My Patreon Page: https://www.patreon.com/michaelreeves Personal Site: https://michaelreeves.us/ Twitter: https://twitter.com/michaelreeves08 Song: Summer Salt – Sweet To Me

Who is Michael Reeves?

Software developer and student Michael Reeves started his YouTube account a mere four months ago, with the premiere of his robot that shines lasers into your eyes – now he has 110k+ subscribers. At only 19, Michael co-owns and manages a company together with friends, and is set on his career path in software and computing. So when he is not making videos, he works a nine-to-five job “to pay for college and, y’know, live”.

The Subscriber Robot

Michael shot to YouTube fame with the aforementioned laser robot built around an Arduino. But by now he has also be released videos for a few Raspberry Pi-based contraptions.

Michael Reeves Raspberry Pi Subscriber Robot

Michael, talking us through the details of one of the worst ideas ever made

His Subscriber Robot uses a series of Python scripts running on a Raspberry Pi to check for new subscribers to Michael’s channel via the YouTube API. When it identifies one, the Pi uses a relay to make the ceiling lights in Michael’s office flash ten times a second while ear-splitting noise is emitted by a 102-decibel-rated buzzer. Needless to say, this buzzer is not recommended for home use, work use, or any use whatsoever! Moreover, the Raspberry Pi also connects to a speaker that announces the name of the new subscriber, so Michael knows who to thank.

Michael Reeves Raspberry Pi Subscriber Robot

Subscriber Robot: EEH! EEH! EEH! MoistPretzels has subscribed.
Michael: Thank you, MoistPretzels…

Given that Michael has gained a whopping 30,000 followers in the ten days since the release of this video, it’s fair to assume he is currently curled up in a ball on the office floor, quietly crying to himself.

If you think Michael only makes videos about ridiculous builds, you’re mistaken. He also uses YouTube to provide educational content, because he believes that “it’s super important for people to teach themselves how to program”. For example, he has just released a new C# beginners tutorial, the third in the series.

Support Michael

If you’d like to help Michael in his mission to fill the world with both tutorials and ridiculous robot builds, make sure to subscribe to his channel. You can also follow him on Twitter and support him on Patreon.

You may also want to check out the Useless Duck Company and Simone Giertz if you’re in the mood for more impractical, yet highly amusing, robot builds.

Good luck with your channel, Michael! We are looking forward to, and slightly dreading, more videos from one of our favourite new YouTubers.

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Raspbian Stretch has arrived for Raspberry Pi

It’s now just under two years since we released the Jessie version of Raspbian. Those of you who know that Debian run their releases on a two-year cycle will therefore have been wondering when we might be releasing the next version, codenamed Stretch. Well, wonder no longer – Raspbian Stretch is available for download today!

Disney Pixar Toy Story Raspbian Stretch Raspberry Pi

Debian releases are named after characters from Disney Pixar’s Toy Story trilogy. In case, like me, you were wondering: Stretch is a purple octopus from Toy Story 3. Hi, Stretch!

The differences between Jessie and Stretch are mostly under-the-hood optimisations, and you really shouldn’t notice any differences in day-to-day use of the desktop and applications. (If you’re really interested, the technical details are in the Debian release notes here.)

However, we’ve made a few small changes to our image that are worth mentioning.

New versions of applications

Version 3.0.1 of Sonic Pi is included – this includes a lot of new functionality in terms of input/output. See the Sonic Pi release notes for more details of exactly what has changed.

Raspbian Stretch Raspberry Pi

The Chromium web browser has been updated to version 60, the most recent stable release. This offers improved memory usage and more efficient code, so you may notice it running slightly faster than before. The visual appearance has also been changed very slightly.

Raspbian Stretch Raspberry Pi

Bluetooth audio

In Jessie, we used PulseAudio to provide support for audio over Bluetooth, but integrating this with the ALSA architecture used for other audio sources was clumsy. For Stretch, we are using the bluez-alsa package to make Bluetooth audio work with ALSA itself. PulseAudio is therefore no longer installed by default, and the volume plugin on the taskbar will no longer start and stop PulseAudio. From a user point of view, everything should still work exactly as before – the only change is that if you still wish to use PulseAudio for some other reason, you will need to install it yourself.

Better handling of other usernames

The default user account in Raspbian has always been called ‘pi’, and a lot of the desktop applications assume that this is the current user. This has been changed for Stretch, so now applications like Raspberry Pi Configuration no longer assume this to be the case. This means, for example, that the option to automatically log in as the ‘pi’ user will now automatically log in with the name of the current user instead.

One other change is how sudo is handled. By default, the ‘pi’ user is set up with passwordless sudo access. We are no longer assuming this to be the case, so now desktop applications which require sudo access will prompt for the password rather than simply failing to work if a user without passwordless sudo uses them.

Scratch 2 Sense HAT extension

In the last Jessie release, we added the offline version of Scratch 2. While Scratch 2 itself hasn’t changed for this release, we have added a new extension to allow the Sense HAT to be used with Scratch 2. Look under ‘More Blocks’ and choose ‘Add an Extension’ to load the extension.

This works with either a physical Sense HAT or with the Sense HAT emulator. If a Sense HAT is connected, the extension will control that in preference to the emulator.

Raspbian Stretch Raspberry Pi

Fix for Broadpwn exploit

A couple of months ago, a vulnerability was discovered in the firmware of the BCM43xx wireless chipset which is used on Pi 3 and Pi Zero W; this potentially allows an attacker to take over the chip and execute code on it. The Stretch release includes a patch that addresses this vulnerability.

There is also the usual set of minor bug fixes and UI improvements – I’ll leave you to spot those!

How to get Raspbian Stretch

As this is a major version upgrade, we recommend using a clean image; these are available from the Downloads page on our site as usual.

Upgrading an existing Jessie image is possible, but is not guaranteed to work in every circumstance. If you wish to try upgrading a Jessie image to Stretch, we strongly recommend taking a backup first – we can accept no responsibility for loss of data from a failed update.

To upgrade, first modify the files /etc/apt/sources.list and /etc/apt/sources.list.d/raspi.list. In both files, change every occurrence of the word ‘jessie’ to ‘stretch’. (Both files will require sudo to edit.)

Then open a terminal window and execute

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get -y dist-upgrade

Answer ‘yes’ to any prompts. There may also be a point at which the install pauses while a page of information is shown on the screen – hold the ‘space’ key to scroll through all of this and then hit ‘q’ to continue.

Finally, if you are not using PulseAudio for anything other than Bluetooth audio, remove it from the image by entering

sudo apt-get -y purge "pulseaudio*"

Updates

Since the release, we’ve had a few small issues reported. Here’s an update on them:

  • There is a bug in the Raspberry Pi Configuration window which means the “Set Keyboard…” button on the Localisation tab doesn’t work.
  • There is an intermittent bug in the interaction between the RealVNC server application and the desktop – you might find that the taskbar sometimes vanishes when booting if the VNC server is enabled. This is intermittent, so rebooting a few times may help. If not, to get the taskbar to display, hit Ctrl-Alt-T to display a terminal window, and in the terminal enter lxpanel -p LXDE-pi; you’ll need to leave that terminal open while running.
  • There is a bug in the hardware video acceleration for the Chromium browser, which is causing crashes on some videos and animations.

Fixes for these three bugs are now available for download – to get them, do:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade

Some users have also noticed that the Chinese and Japanese fonts are missing, resulting in garbled text when the locale is changed. This is due to a font package which was present in Jessie but not included in Stretch. A suitable alternative is the Droid fonts package – to install it, do:

sudo apt-get install fonts-droid-fallback
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Community Profile: David Pride

This column is from The MagPi issue 55. You can download a PDF of the full issue for free, or subscribe to receive the print edition in your mailbox or the digital edition on your tablet. All proceeds from the print and digital editions help the Raspberry Pi Foundation achieve its charitable goals.

David Pride’s experiences in computer education came slightly later in life. He admits to not being a grade-A student: he left school with few qualifications, unable to pursue further education at university. There was, however, a teacher who instilled in him a passion for computers and coding which would stick with him indefinitely.

David Pride The MagPi Raspberry Pi Community Profile

David joined us at the St James’s Palace community celebration, mingling with the likes of the Duke of York, plus organisers of Jams and clubs, such as Grace and Femi

Welcome to the Community

Twenty years later, back in 2012, David heard of the Raspberry Pi – a soon-to-be-released “new little marvel” that he instantly fell for, head first. Despite a lack of knowledge in Linux and Python, he experimented and had fun. He found a Raspberry Jam and, with it, Pi enthusiasts like Mike Horne and Peter Onion. The projects on display at the Jam were enough to push David further into the Raspberry Pi rabbit hole and, after working his way through several Python books, he began to take steps into the world of formal higher education.

David Pride The MagPi Raspberry Pi Community Profile

David’s determination to access and complete further education in computing has earned him a three-year PhD studentship. Not bad for a “lousy student”

Back to School

With a Mooc qualification from Rice University under his belt, he continued to improve upon his self-taught knowledge, and was fortunate enough to be accepted to study for a master’s degree in Computer Science at the University of Hertfordshire. With a distinction for his final dissertation, David completed the course with an overall distinction for his MSc, and was recently awarded a fully funded PhD studentship with The Open University’s Knowledge Media Institute.

David Pride The MagPi Raspberry Pi Community Profile

Self-playing xylophones, Wiimote air drums, Lego sorters, Pi Wars robots, and more. David is continually hacking toys, giving them new Pi-powered life

Maker of things

The portfolio of projects that helped him to achieve his many educational successes has provided regular retweet material for the Raspberry Pi Twitter account, and we’ve highlighted his fun, imaginative work on this blog before. His builds have travelled to a range of Jams and made their way to the Raspberry Pi and Code Club stands at the Bett Show, as well as to our birthday celebrations.

David Pride The MagPi Raspberry Pi Community Profile

“Pi & Chips – with a little extra source”

His website, the pun-tastic Pi and Chips, is home to the majority of his work; David also links to YouTube videos and walk-throughs of his projects, and relates his experiences at various events. If you’ve followed any of the action across the Raspberry Pi social media channels – or indeed read any previous issues of The MagPi magazine – you’ll no doubt have seen a couple of David’s projects.

David Pride The MagPi Raspberry Pi Community Profile 4-Bot

Many readers will have come across the wonderful 4-Bot before, and it has even made an appearance alongside David in a recent Bloomberg interview. Considering the trillions of possible game positions, David made a compromise and, if you’re lucky, you may just be able to beat it

The 4-Bot, a robotic second player for the family game Connect Four, allows people to go head to head with a Pi-powered robotic arm. Using a Python imaging library, the 4-Bot splits the game grid into 42 squares, and recognises them as being red, yellow, or empty by reading the RGB value of the space. Using the minimax algorithm, 4-Bot is able to play each move within 25 seconds. Believe us when we say that it’s not as easy to beat as you’d hope. Then there’s his more recent air drum kit, which uses an old toy found at a car boot sale together with a Wiimote to make a functional air drum that showcases David’s toy-hacking abilities… and his complete lack of rhythm. He does fare much better on his homemade laser harp, though!

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OK Google, be aesthetically pleasing

Maker Andrew Jones took a Raspberry Pi and the Google Assistant SDK and created a gorgeous-looking, and highly functional, alternative to store-bought smart speakers.

Raspberry Pi Google AI Assistant

In this video I get an “Ok Google” voice activated AI assistant running on a raspberry pi. I also hand make a nice wooden box for it to live in.

OK Google, what are you?

Google Assistant is software of the same ilk as Amazon’s Alexa, Apple’s Siri and Microsoft’s Cortana. It’s a virtual assistant that allows you to request information, play audio, and control smart home devices via voice commands.

Infinite Looping Siri, Alexa and Google Home

One can barely see the iPhone’s screen. That’s because I have a privacy protection screen. Sorry, did not check the camera angle. Learn how to create your own loop, why we put Cortana out of the loop, and how to train Siri to an artificial voice: https://www.danrl.com/2016/12/01/looping-ais-siri-alexa-google-home.html

You probably have a digital assistant on your mobile phone, and if you go to the home of someone even mildly tech-savvy, you may see a device awaiting commands via a wake word such the device’s name or, for the Google Assistant, the phrase “OK, Google”.

Homebrew versions

Understanding the maker need to ‘put tech into stuff’ and upgrade everyday objects into everyday objects 2.0, the creators of these virtual assistants have allowed access for developers to run their software on devices such as the Raspberry Pi. This means that your common-or-garden homemade robot can now be controlled via voice, and your shed-built home automation system can have easy-to-use internet connectivity via a reliable, multi-device platform.

Andrew’s Google Assistant build

Andrew gives a peerless explanation of how the Google Assistant works:

There’s Google’s Cloud. You log into Google’s Cloud and you do a bunch of cloud configuration cloud stuff. And then on the Raspberry Pi you install some Python software and you do a bunch of configuration. And then the cloud and the Pi talk the clouds kitten rainbow protocol and then you get a Google AI assistant.

It all makes perfect sense. Though for more extra detail, you could always head directly to Google.

Andrew Jones Raspberry Pi OK Google Assistant

I couldn’t have explained it better myself

Andrew decided to take his Google Assistant-enabled Raspberry Pi and create a new body for it. One that was more aesthetically pleasing than the standard Pi-inna-box. After wiring his build and cannibalising some speakers and a microphone, he created a sleek, wooden body that would sit quite comfortably in any Bang & Olufsen shop window.

Find the entire build tutorial on Instructables.

Make your own

It’s more straightforward than Andrew’s explanation suggests, we promise! And with an array of useful resources online, you should be able to incorporate your choice of virtual assistants into your build.

There’s The Raspberry Pi Guy’s tutorial on setting up Amazon Alexa on the Raspberry Pi. If you’re looking to use Siri on your Pi, YouTube has a plethora of tutorials waiting for you. And lastly, check out Microsoft’s site for using Cortana on the Pi!

If you’re looking for more information on Google Assistant, check out issue 57 of The MagPi Magazine, free to download as a PDF. The print edition of this issue came with a free AIY Projects Voice Kit, and you can sign up for The MagPi newsletter to be the first to know about the kit’s availability for purchase.

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Thomas and Ed become a RealLifeDoodle on the ISS

Thanks to the very talented sooperdavid, creator of some of the wonderful animations known as RealLifeDoodles, Thomas Pesquet and Astro Pi Ed have been turned into one of the cutest videos on the internet.

space pi – Create, Discover and Share Awesome GIFs on Gfycat

Watch space pi GIF by sooperdave on Gfycat. Discover more GIFS online on Gfycat

And RealLifeDoodles aaaaare?

Thanks to the power of viral video, many will be aware of the ongoing Real Life Doodle phenomenon. Wait, you’re not aware?

Oh. Well, let me explain it to you.

Taking often comical video clips, those with a know-how and skill level that outweighs my own in spades add faces and emotions to inanimate objects, creating what the social media world refers to as a Real Life Doodle. From disappointed exercise balls to cannibalistic piles of leaves, these video clips are both cute and sometimes, though thankfully not always, a little heartbreaking.

letmegofree – Create, Discover and Share Awesome GIFs on Gfycat

Watch letmegofree GIF by sooperdave on Gfycat. Discover more reallifedoodles GIFs on Gfycat

Our own RealLifeDoodle

A few months back, when Programme Manager Dave Honess, better known to many as SpaceDave, sent me these Astro Pi videos for me to upload to YouTube, a small plan hatched in my brain. For in the midst of the video, and pointed out to me by SpaceDave – “I kind of love the way he just lets the unit drop out of shot” – was the most adorable sight as poor Ed drifted off into the great unknown of the ISS. Finding that I have this odd ability to consider many inanimate objects as ‘cute’, I wanted to see whether we could turn poor Ed into a RealLifeDoodle.

Heading to the Reddit RealLifeDoodle subreddit, I sent moderator sooperdavid a private message, asking if he’d be so kind as to bring our beloved Ed to life.

Yesterday, our dream came true!

Astro Pi

Unless you’re new to the world of the Raspberry Pi blog (in which case, welcome!), you’ll probably know about the Astro Pi Challenge. But for those who are unaware, let me break it down for you.

Raspberry Pi RealLifeDoodle

In 2015, two weeks before British ESA Astronaut Tim Peake journeyed to the International Space Station, two Raspberry Pis were sent up to await his arrival. Clad in 6063-grade aluminium flight cases and fitted with their own Sense HATs and camera modules, the Astro Pis Ed and Izzy were ready to receive the winning codes from school children in the UK. The following year, this time maintained by French ESA Astronaut Thomas Pesquet, children from every ESA member country got involved to send even more code to the ISS.

Get involved

Will there be another Astro Pi Challenge? Well, I just asked SpaceDave and he didn’t say no! So why not get yourself into training now and try out some of our space-themed free resources, including our 3D-print your own Astro Pi case tutorial? You can also follow the adventures of Ed and Izzy in our brilliant Story of Astro Pi cartoons.

Raspberry Pi RealLifeDoodle

And if you’re quick, there’s still time to take part in tomorrow’s Moonhack! Check out their website for more information and help the team at Code Club Australia beat their own world record!

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