Back in the mists of time, when Apple released the Apple Watch, there was gentle buzz in the Raspberry Pi community about the Raspberry Pi’s potential in DIY smartwatch projects. That gentle buzzing subsided, like the buzzing of a wasp succumbing to flypaper, pretty quickly once people realised that a regular Raspberry Pi, while very tiny when compared to your desktop computer, is actually a bit massive when compared to your standard watch.
Here’s Alex Eames’ effort, which he made in 2014 as a response to the Apple Watch. It is less of a wristwatch and more of a forearm watch. Terrific proof of concept, but zero points for usability. (Alex has a great and very informative video to go with it: check it out.)
How times change. Since 2014, we’ve released the Raspberry Pi Zero, and peripherals companies have been making teenier and teenier displays. Smaller watch devices are now buildable at home. And they’re starting to look pretty good. Here’s our favourite so far.
Jeremy Lee, an amateur astronomer, has been thinking about ways to automate running back and forth between telescope and Linux device.
Why do I need such a thing? Well, personally, I’ve found that doing digital astronomy is a pain in the ass if you have to keep running between the telescope and PC. Especially if one is inside the house. Or you’re in the field, literally.
He found his ideas and build started to snowball, and ended up with this: the Manipulator Zero. It’s tiny, it puts the raw power of the Linux desktop on your wrist, watch-style, it’s got gyroscopes for tilt-control – and best of all, it’s housed in a Dr Who Vortex Manipulator (Captain Jack’s wristwatch thingy, for those of us not paying quite enough attention).
The “gyromouse” driver Jeremy has put together means that most applications which don’t require a lot of typing or shift-clicking can be used easily by tilting the wrist (and he can type with the Florence on-screen keyboard – slowly). Here’s a very neat demo of the gyromouse in action:
http://unorthodox-engineers.blogspot.com.au/2016/06/pi-manipulator-build-part-1.html The Raspberry Pi Zero is tiny and powerful, but how do you operate a machine with no mouse or keyboard, and too small to have a sensible touchscreen? (4cm diagonal) First, you need the heart of a quadcopter – an MPU6040 Inertial Management Unit.
What makes the device actually useful is that it’s a full Linux machine, with a WiFi connection. That makes any nearby PC that can run SSH or VNC into a handy keyboard, mouse and ‘big’ screen. Or even a remote PC – once the manipulator is on the network, it doesn’t matter where it is, or you are. It acts very much like a ‘cloud server’ which just happens to be located on your wrist.
We, you’ll be unsurprised to learn, love it. Jeremy has written the first of two blog posts about the build, and also made this video, which we recommend you spend a while cooing at in awe. Thanks Jeremy!
So rather than do a detailed build video for a device that no-one else should even attempt to make (in this exact form, it was basically microsurgery) I decided to put it to music, and try to convey the overall process. You can operate the pause button as you wish.