3 years ago


Make any desk job exciting with this futuristic PiDesk: a touch-controlled table with lights, sound, and a computer that rises from the surface

Nobody wants a boring desk, so one hobbyist, Frederick Vanderbosch, decided to build this futuristic workstation. Complete with a touch surface, speakers, and a motorised display that rises out of the table, the PiDesk is one of the cleverest projects we’ve come across.

The full article can be found in The MagPi 43

“The build was part of a design challenge,” says Frederick. The Sci-Fi Your Pi competition was launched by the Raspberry Pi Foundation and Element14 to inspire inventors to build smarter homes.

“PiDesk is an attempt at making a space-saving, futuristic-looking desk,” Frederick explains. “It can change from a regular desk to a computer workstation and back at the touch of a finger.”

The idea for the project came when he was running out of space in his workplace. “By combining a computer workstation and desk in one, I would be able to get extra space to work when the computer was hidden inside the desk. For the project’s futuristic accents, I was inspired by the Tron movies, on which I based the light patterns of the desk.”

The light patterns are inspired by Tron

The light patterns are inspired by Tron

At first glance, it looks like a normal desk. As soon as the user places their hand above a specific area, however, a desktop computer is powered on and starts rising out of the desk. This action is accompanied by visual and audio effects.

“Two Raspberry Pis are involved in the project,” says Frederick. One serves as the brains of the desk; the second is a built-in desktop computer. As well as two Raspberry Pi units, the table contains a broad range of components.

The desk itself is from Ikea. “It’s one of the cheaper models, which have the advantage of being hollow,” reveals Frederick.

“I started by drawing some shapes on the desk to work out where I would perform the cuts and embed the electronics.

“Then the surface was recreated using two layers. The first layer was paper, which is used to diffuse the light and hide all the cuts and embedded electronics. The second layer is a large sheet of transparent Plexiglass, giving the desk a new and shiny surface.”

It fits in quite nicely with the other desks

It fits in quite nicely with the other desks

Touch controls are embedded into the surface using a combination of conductive paint and copper tape. The paint creates touch-sensitive pads, while the tape makes a connection to the Raspberry Pi.

One neat feature you might miss is the built-in wireless charger. This is a “little bonus feature I had in mind,” says Frederick. The Magic Lamp turns on when it is placed in the right spot. “The wireless charger is embedded in the desk, and when the lamp is moved on top of it, the lamp is powered.” The light consists of the wireless charger receiver, a microcontroller board, and a ring of Adafruit NeoPixels.

If you’re thinking of building a similar project, then planning is vital. “Plan ahead and think things through,” advises Frederick. “Break down the project into smaller, more manageable projects. There’s a lot to learn by building a project like this because so many different components are involved.”