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!

Mayank Sinha’s home security project

Yesterday, I received an email from someone called Mayank Sinha, showing us the Raspberry Pi home security project he’s been working on. He got in touch particularly because, he writes, the Raspberry Pi community has given him “immense support” with his build, and he wanted to dedicate it to the commmunity as thanks.

Mayank’s project is named Asfaleia, a Greek word that means safety, certainty, or security against threats. It’s part of an honourable tradition dating all the way back to 2012: it’s a prototype housed in a polystyrene box, using breadboards and jumper leads and sticky tape. And it’s working! Take a look.

Asfaleia DIY Home Security System

An IOT based home security system. The link to the code: https://github.com/mayanksinha11/Asfaleia

Home security with Asfaleia

Asfaleia has a PIR (passive infrared) motion sensor, an IR break beam sensor, and a gas sensor. All are connected to a Raspberry Pi 3 Model B, the latter two via a NodeMCU board. Mayank currently has them set up in a box that’s divided into compartments to model different rooms in a house.

A shallow box divided into four labelled "rooms", all containing electronic components

All the best prototypes have sticky tape or rubber bands

If the IR sensors detect motion or a broken beam, the webcam takes a photo and emails it to the build’s owner, and the build also calls their phone (I like your ringtone, Mayank). If the gas sensor detects a leak, the system activates an exhaust fan via a small relay board, and again the owner receives a phone call. The build can also authenticate users via face and fingerprint recognition. The software that runs it all is written in Python, and you can see Mayank’s code on GitHub.

Of prototypes and works-in-progess

Reading Mayank’s email made me very happy yesterday. We know that thousands of people in our community give a great deal of time and effort to help others learn and make things, and it is always wonderful to see an example of how that support is helping someone turn their ideas into reality. It’s great, too, to see people sharing works-in-progress, as well as polished projects! After all, the average build is more likely to feature rubber bands and Tupperware boxes than meticulously designed laser-cut parts or expert joinery. Mayank’s YouTube channel shows earlier work on this and another Pi project, and I hope he’ll continue to document his builds.

So here’s to Raspberry Pi projects big, small, beginner, professional, endlessly prototyped, unashamedly bodged, unfinished or fully working, shonky or shiny. Please keep sharing them all!

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Augmented-reality projection lamp with Raspberry Pi and Android Things

If your day has been a little fraught so far, watch this video. It opens with a tableau of methodically laid-out components and then shows them soldered, screwed, and slotted neatly into place. Everything fits perfectly; nothing needs percussive adjustment. Then it shows us glimpses of an AR future just like the one promised in the less dystopian comics and TV programmes of my 1980s childhood. It is all very soothing, and exactly what I needed.

Android Things – Lantern

Transform any surface into mixed-reality using Raspberry Pi, a laser projector, and Android Things. Android Experiments – http://experiments.withgoogle.com/android/lantern Lantern project site – http://nordprojects.co/lantern check below to make your own ↓↓↓ Get the code – https://github.com/nordprojects/lantern Build the lamp – https://www.hackster.io/nord-projects/lantern-9f0c28

Creating augmented reality with projection

We’ve seen plenty of Raspberry Pi IoT builds that are smart devices for the home; they add computing power to things like lights, door locks, or toasters to make these objects interact with humans and with their environment in new ways. Nord ProjectsLantern takes a different approach. In their words, it:

imagines a future where projections are used to present ambient information, and relevant UI within everyday objects. Point it at a clock to show your appointments, or point to speaker to display the currently playing song. Unlike a screen, when Lantern’s projections are no longer needed, they simply fade away.

Lantern is set up so that you can connect your wireless device to it using Google Nearby. This means there’s no need to create an account before you can dive into augmented reality.

Lantern Raspberry Pi powered projector lamp

Your own open-source AR lamp

Nord Projects collaborated on Lantern with Google’s Android Things team. They’ve made it fully open-source, so you can find the code on GitHub and also download their parts list, which includes a Pi, an IKEA lamp, an accelerometer, and a laser projector. Build instructions are at hackster.io and on GitHub.

This is a particularly clear tutorial, very well illustrated with photos and GIFs, and once you’ve sourced and 3D-printed all of the components, you shouldn’t need a whole lot of experience to put everything together successfully. Since everything is open-source, though, if you want to adapt it — for example, if you’d like to source a less costly projector than the snazzy one used here — you can do that too.

components of Lantern Raspberry Pi powered augmented reality projector lamp

The instructions walk you through the mechanical build and the wiring, as well as installing Android Things and Nord Projects’ custom software on the Raspberry Pi. Once you’ve set everything up, an accelerometer connected to the Pi’s GPIO pins lets the lamp know which surface it is pointing at. A companion app on your mobile device lets you choose from the mini apps that work on that surface to select the projection you want.

The designers are making several mini apps available for Lantern, including the charmingly named Space Porthole: this uses Processing and your local longitude and latitude to project onto your ceiling the stars you’d see if you punched a hole through to the sky, if it were night time, and clear weather. Wouldn’t you rather look at that than deal with the ant problem in your kitchen or tackle your GitHub notifications?

What would you like to project onto your living environment? Let us know in the comments!

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This is a really lovely Raspberry Pi tricorder

At the moment I’m spending my evenings watching all of Star Trek in order. Yes, I have watched it before (but with some really big gaps). Yes, including the animated series (I’m up to The Terratin Incident). So I’m gratified to find this beautiful The Original Series–style tricorder build.

Star Trek Tricorder with Working Display!

At this year’s Replica Prop Forum showcase, we meet up once again wtih Brian Mix, who brought his new Star Trek TOS Tricorder. This beautiful replica captures the weight and finish of the filming hand prop, and Brian has taken it one step further with some modern-day electronics!

A what now?

If you don’t know what a tricorder is, which I guess is faintly possible, the easiest way I can explain is to steal words that Liz wrote when Recantha made one back in 2013. It’s “a made-up thing used by the crew of the Enterprise to measure stuff, store data, and scout ahead remotely when exploring strange new worlds, seeking out new life and new civilisations, and all that jazz.”

A brief history of Picorders

We’ve seen other Raspberry Pi–based realisations of this iconic device. Recantha’s LEGO-cased tricorder delivered some authentic functionality, including temperature sensors, an ultrasonic distance sensor, a photosensor, and a magnetometer. Michael Hahn’s tricorder for element14’s Sci-Fi Your Pi competition in 2015 packed some similar functions, along with Original Series audio effects, into a neat (albeit non-canon) enclosure.

Brian Mix’s Original Series tricorder

Brian Mix’s tricorder, seen in the video above from Tested at this year’s Replica Prop Forum showcase, is based on a high-quality kit into which, he discovered, a Raspberry Pi just fits. He explains that the kit is the work of the late Steve Horch, a special effects professional who provided props for later Star Trek series, including the classic Deep Space Nine episode Trials and Tribble-ations.

A still from an episode of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine: Jadzia Dax, holding an Original Series-sylte tricorder, speaks with Benjamin Sisko

Dax, equipped for time travel

This episode’s plot required sets and props — including tricorders — replicating the USS Enterprise of The Original Series, and Steve Horch provided many of these. Thus, a tricorder kit from him is about as close to authentic as you can possibly find unless you can get your hands on a screen-used prop. The Pi allows Brian to drive a real display and a speaker: “Being the geek that I am,” he explains, “I set it up to run every single Original Series Star Trek episode.”

Even more wonderful hypothetical tricorders that I would like someone to make

This tricorder is beautiful, and it makes me think how amazing it would be to squeeze in some of the sensor functionality of the devices depicted in the show. Space in the case is tight, but it looks like there might be a little bit of depth to spare — enough for an IMU, maybe, or a temperature sensor. I’m certain the future will bring more Pi tricorder builds, and I, for one, can’t wait. Please tell us in the comments if you’re planning something along these lines, and, well, I suppose some other sci-fi franchises have decent Pi project potential too, so we could probably stand to hear about those.

If you’re commenting, no spoilers please past The Animated Series S1 E11. Thanks.

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Hello World Issue 5: Engineering

Join us as we celebrate the Year of Engineering in the newest issue of Hello World, our magazine for computing and digital making educators.

 

Inspiring future engineers

We’ve brought together a wide range of experts to share their ideas and advice on how to bring engineering to your classroom — read issue 5 to find out the best ways to inspire the next generation.

Plus we’ve got plenty on GP and Scratch, we answer your latest questions, and we bring you our usual collection of useful features, guides, and lesson plans.

Highlights of issue 5 include:

  • The bluffers’ guide to putting together a tech-themed school trip
  • Inclusion, and coding for the visually impaired
  • Getting students interested in databases
  • Why copying may not always be a bad thing

How to get Hello World #5

Hello World is available as a free download under a Creative Commons license for everyone in world who is interested in computer science and digital making education. Get the latest issue as a PDF file straight from the Hello World website.

We’re currently offering free print copies of the magazine to serving educators in the UK. This offer is open to teachers, Code Club and CoderDojo volunteers, teaching assistants, teacher trainers, and others who help children and young people learn about computing and digital making. Subscribe to have your free print magazine posted directly to your home, or subscribe digitally — 20000 educators have already signed up to receive theirs!

Get in touch!

You could write for us about your experiences as an educator, and share your advice with the community. Wherever you are in the world, get in touch by emailing our editorial team about your article idea — we would love to hear from you!

Hello World magazine is a collaboration between the Raspberry Pi Foundation and Computing At School, which is part of the British Computing Society.

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Whimsical builds and messing things up

Today is the early May bank holiday in England and Wales, a public holiday, and while this blog rarely rests, the Pi Towers team does. So, while we take a day with our families, our friends, and/or our favourite pastimes, I thought I’d point you at a couple of features from HackSpace magazine, our monthly magazine for makers.

To my mind, they go quite well with a deckchair in the garden, the buzz of a lawnmower a few houses down, and a view of the weeds I ought to have dealt with by now, but I’m sure you’ll find your own ambience.

Make anything with pencils – HackSpace magazine

If you want a unique piece of jewellery to show your love for pencils, follow Peter Brown’s lead. Peter glued twelve pencils together in two rows of six. He then measured the size of his finger and drilled a hole between the glued pencils using a drill bit.

First off, pencils. It hadn’t occurred to me that you could make super useful stuff like a miniature crossbow and a catapult out of pencils. Not only can you do this, you can probably go ahead and do it right now: all you need is a handful of pencils, some rubber bands, some drawing pins, and a bulldog clip (or, as you might prefer, some push pins and a binder clip). The sentence that really leaps out at me here is “To keep a handful of boys aged three to eleven occupied during a family trip, Marie decided to build mini crossbows to help their target practice.” The internet hasn’t helped me find out much about Marie, but I am in awe of her.

If you haven’t wandered off to make a stationery arsenal by now, read Lucy Rogers‘ reflections on making a right mess of things. I hope you do, because I think it’d be great if more people coped better with the fact that we all, unavoidably, fail. You probably won’t really get anywhere without a few goes where you just completely muck it all up.

A ceramic mug, broken into several pieces on the floor

Never mind. We can always line a plant pot with them.
“In Pieces” by dusk-photography / CC BY

This true of everything. Wet lab work and gardening and coding and parenting. And everything. You can share your heroic failures in the comments, if you like, as well as any historic weaponry you have fashioned from the contents of your desk tidy.

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Raspberry Pi in your favourite films and TV shows

If, like us, you’ve been bingeflixing your way through Netflix’s new show, Lost in Space, you may have noticed a Raspberry Pi being used as futuristic space tech.

Raspberry Pi Netflix Lost in Space

Danger, Will Robinson, that probably won’t work

This isn’t the first time a Pi has been used as a film or television prop. From Mr. Robot and Disney Pixar’s Big Hero 6 to Mr. Robot, Sense8, and Mr. Robot, our humble little computer has become quite the celeb.

Raspberry Pi Spy has been working hard to locate and document the appearance of the Raspberry Pi in some of our favourite shows and movies. He’s created this video covering 2010-2017:

Raspberry Pi TV and Film Appearances 2012-2017

Since 2012 the Raspberry Pi single board computer has appeared in a number of movies and TV shows. This video is a run through of those appearances where the Pi has been used as a prop.

For 2018 appearances and beyond, you can find a full list on the Raspberry Pi Spy website. If you’ve spotted an appearance that’s not on the list, tell us in the comments!

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3D-printed speakers from the Technical University of Denmark

Students taking Design of Mechatronics at the Technical University of Denmark have created some seriously elegant and striking Raspberry Pi speakers. Their builds are part of a project asking them to “explore, design and build a 3D printed speaker, around readily available electronics and components”.

The students have been uploading their designs, incorporating Raspberry Pis and HiFiBerry HATs, to Thingiverse throughout April. The task is a collaboration with luxury brand Bang & Olufsen’s Create initiative, and the results wouldn’t look out of place in a high-end showroom; I’d happily take any of these home.

The Sphere

Søren Qvist’s wall-mounted kitchen sphere uses 3D-printed and laser-cut parts, along with the HiFiBerry HAT and B&O speakers to create a sleek-looking design.

Hex One

Otto Ømann’s group have designed the Hex One – a work-in-progress wireless 360° speaker. A particular objective for their project is to create a speaker using as many 3D-printed parts as possible.

Portable B&O-Create Speaker

“The design is supposed to resemble that of a B&O speaker, and from a handful of categories we chose to create a portable and wearable speaker,” explain Gustav Larsen and his team.

Desktop Loudspeaker

Oliver Repholtz Behrens and team have housed a Raspberry Pi and HiFiBerry HAT inside this this stylish airplay speaker. You can follow their design progress on their team blog.

B&O TILE

Tue Thomsen’s six-person team Mechatastic have produced the B&O TILE. “The speaker consists of four 3D-printed cabinet and top parts, where the top should be covered by fabric,” they explain. “The speaker insides consists of laser-cut wood to hold the tweeter and driver and encase the Raspberry Pi.”

The team aimed to design a speaker that would be at home in a kitchen. With a removable upper casing allowing for a choice of colour, the TILE can be customised to fit particular tastes and colour schemes.

Build your own speakers with Raspberry Pis

Raspberry Pi’s onboard audio jack, along with third-party HATs such as the HiFiBerry and Pimoroni Speaker pHAT, make speaker design and fabrication with the Pi an interesting alternative to pre-made tech. These builds don’t tend to be technically complex, and they provide some lovely examples of tech-based projects that reflect makers’ own particular aesthetic style.

If you have access to a 3D printer or a laser cutter, perhaps at a nearby maker space, then those can be excellent resources, but fancy kit isn’t a requirement. Basic joinery and crafting with card or paper are just a couple of ways you can build things that are all your own, using familiar tools and materials. We think more people would enjoy getting hands-on with this sort of thing if they gave it a whirl, and we publish a free magazine to help.

Raspberry Pi Zero AirPlay Speaker

Looking for a new project to build around the Raspberry Pi Zero, I came across the pHAT DAC from Pimoroni. This little add-on board adds audio playback capabilities to the Pi Zero. Because the pHAT uses the GPIO pins, the USB OTG port remains available for a wifi dongle.

This video by Frederick Vandenbosch is a great example of building AirPlay speakers using a Pi and HAT, and a quick search will find you lots more relevant tutorials and ideas.

Have you built your own? Share your speaker-based Pi builds with us in the comments.

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Converting a Kodak Box Brownie into a digital camera

In this article from The MagPi issue 69, David Crookes explains how Daniel Berrangé took an old Kodak Brownie from the 1950s and turned it into a quirky digital camera. Get your copy of The MagPi magazine in stores now, or download it as a free PDF here.

Daniel Berrangé Kodak Brownie Raspberry Pi Camera

The Kodak Box Brownie

When Kodak unveiled its Box Brownie in 1900, it did so with the slogan ‘You press the button, we do the rest.’ The words referred to the ease-of-use of what was the world’s first mass-produced camera. But it could equally apply to Daniel Berrangé’s philosophy when modifying it for the 21st century. “I wanted to use the Box Brownie’s shutter button to trigger image capture, and make it simple to use,” he tells us.

Daniel Berrangé Kodak Brownie Raspberry Pi Camera

Daniel’s project grew from a previous effort in which he placed a pinhole webcam inside a ladies’ powder compact case. “The Box Brownie project is essentially a repeat of that design but with a normal lens instead of a pinhole, a real camera case, and improved software to enable a shutter button. Ideally, it would look unchanged from when it was shooting film.”

Webcam woes

At first, Daniel looked for a cheap webcam, intending to spend no more than the price of a Pi Zero. This didn’t work out too well. “The low-light performance of the webcam was not sufficient to make a pinhole camera so I just decided to make a ‘normal’ digital camera instead,” he reveals.
To that end, he began removing some internal components from the Box Brownie. “With the original lens removed, the task was to position the webcam’s electronic light sensor (the CCD) and lens as close to the front of the camera as possible,” Daniel explains. “In the end, the CCD was about 15 mm away from the front aperture of the camera, giving a field of view that was approximately the same as the unmodified camera would achieve.”

It was then time for him to insert the Raspberry Pi, upon which was a custom ‘init’ binary that loads a couple of kernel modules to run the webcam, mount the microSD file system, and launch the application binary. Here, Daniel found he was in luck. “I’d noticed that the size of a 620 film spool (63 mm) was effectively the same as the width of a Raspberry Pi Zero (65 mm), so it could be held in place between the film spool grips,” he recalls. “It was almost as if it was designed with this in mind.”

Shutter success

In order to operate the camera, Daniel had to work on the shutter button. “The Box Brownie’s shutter button is entirely mechanical, driven by a handful of levers and springs,” Daniel explains. “First, the Pi Zero needs to know when the shutter button is pressed and second, the physical shutter has to be open while the webcam is capturing the image. Rather than try to synchronise image capture with the fraction of a second that the physical shutter is open, a bit of electrical tape was used on the shutter mechanism to keep it permanently open.”

Daniel Berrangé Kodak Brownie Raspberry Pi Camera

Daniel made use of the Pi Zero’s GPIO pins to detect the pressing of the shutter button. It determines if each pin is at 0 or 5 volts. “My thought was that I could set a GPIO pin high to 5 V, and then use the action of the shutter button to short it to ground, and detect this change in level from software.”

This initially involved using a pair of bare wires and some conductive paint, although the paint was later replaced by a piece of tinfoil. But with the button pressed, the GPIO pin level goes to zero and the device constantly captures still images until the button is released. All that’s left to do is smile and take the perfect snap.

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Own your own working Pokémon Pokédex!

Squeal with delight as your inner Pokémon trainer witnesses the wonder of Adrian Rosebrock’s deep learning Pokédex.

Creating a real-life Pokedex with a Raspberry Pi, Python, and Deep Learning

This video demos a real-like Pokedex, complete with visual recognition, that I created using a Raspberry Pi, Python, and Deep Learning. You can find the entire blog post, including code, using this link: https://www.pyimagesearch.com/2018/04/30/a-fun-hands-on-deep-learning-project-for-beginners-students-and-hobbyists/ Music credit to YouTube user “No Copyright” for providing royalty free music: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PXpjqURczn8

The history of Pokémon in 30 seconds

The Pokémon franchise was created by video game designer Satoshi Tajiri in 1995. In the fictional world of Pokémon, Pokémon Trainers explore the vast landscape, catching and training small creatures called Pokémon. To date, there are 802 different types of Pokémon. They range from the ever recognisable Pikachu, a bright yellow electric Pokémon, to the highly sought-after Shiny Charizard, a metallic, playing-card-shaped Pokémon that your mate Alex claims she has in mint condition, but refuses to show you.

Pokemon GIF

In the world of Pokémon, children as young as ten-year-old protagonist and all-round annoyance Ash Ketchum are allowed to leave home and wander the wilderness. There, they hunt vicious, deadly creatures in the hope of becoming a Pokémon Master.

Adrian’s deep learning Pokédex

Adrian is a bit of a deep learning pro, as demonstrated by his Santa/Not Santa detector, which we wrote about last year. For that project, he also provided a great explanation of what deep learning actually is. In a nutshell:

…a subfield of machine learning, which is, in turn, a subfield of artificial intelligence (AI).While AI embodies a large, diverse set of techniques and algorithms related to automatic reasoning (inference, planning, heuristics, etc), the machine learning subfields are specifically interested in pattern recognition and learning from data.

As with his earlier Raspberry Pi project, Adrian uses the Keras deep learning model and the TensorFlow backend, plus a few other packages such as Adrian’s own imutils functions and OpenCV.

Adrian trained a Convolutional Neural Network using Keras on a dataset of 1191 Pokémon images, obtaining 96.84% accuracy. As Adrian explains, this model is able to identify Pokémon via still image and video. It’s perfect for creating a Pokédex – an interactive Pokémon catalogue that should, according to the franchise, be able to identify and read out information on any known Pokémon when captured by camera. More information on model training can be found on Adrian’s blog.

Adrian Rosebeck deep learning pokemon pokedex

For the physical build, a Raspberry Pi 3 with camera module is paired with the Raspberry Pi 7″ touch display to create a portable Pokédex. And while Adrian comments that the same result can be achieved using your home computer and a webcam, that’s not how Adrian rolls as a Raspberry Pi fan.

Adrian Rosebeck deep learning pokemon pokedex

Plus, the smaller size of the Pi is perfect for one of you to incorporate this deep learning model into a 3D-printed Pokédex for ultimate Pokémon glory, pretty please, thank you.

Adrian Rosebeck deep learning pokemon pokedex

Adrian has gone into impressive detail about how the project works and how you can create your own on his blog, pyimagesearch. So if you’re interested in learning more about deep learning, and making your own Pokédex, be sure to visit.

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Scanning snacks to your Wunderlist shopping list with Wunderscan

Brian Carrigan found the remains of a $500 supermarket barcode scanner at a Scrap Exchange for $6.25, and decided to put it to use as a shopping list builder for his pantry.

Raspberry Pi Barcode Scanner Wunderscan Brian Carrigan

Upcycling from scraps

Brian wasn’t planning to build the Wunderscan. But when he stumbled upon the remains of a $500 Cubit barcode scanner at his local reuse center, his inner maker took hold of the situation.

It had been ripped from its connectors and had unlabeled wires hanging from it; a bit of hardware gore if such a thing exists. It was labeled on sale for $6.25, and a quick search revealed that it originally retailed at over $500… I figured I would try to reverse engineer it, and if all else fails, scrap it for the laser and motor.

Brian decided that the scanner, once refurbished with a Raspberry Pi Zero W and new wiring, would make a great addition to his home pantry as a shopping list builder using Wunderlist. “I thought a great use of this would be to keep near our pantry so that when we are out of a spice or snack, we could just scan the item and it would get posted to our shopping list.”

Reverse engineering

The datasheet for the Cubit scanner was available online, and Brian was able to discover the missing pieces required to bring the unit back to working order.

Raspberry Pi Barcode Scanner Wunderscan Brian Carrigan

However, no wiring diagram was provided with the datasheet, so he was forced to figure out the power connections and signal output for himself using a bit of luck and an oscilloscope.

Now that the part was powered and working, all that was left was finding the RS232 transmit line. I used my oscilloscope to do this part and found it by scanning items and looking for the signal. It was not long before this wire was found and I was able to receive UPC codes.

Scanning codes and building (Wunder)lists

When the scanner reads a barcode, it sends the ASCII representation of a UPC code to the attached Raspberry Pi Zero W. Brian used the free UPC Database to convert each code to the name of the corresponding grocery item. Next, he needed to add it to the Wunderlist shopping list that his wife uses for grocery shopping.

Raspberry Pi Barcode Scanner Wunderscan Brian Carrigan

Wunderlist provides an API token so users can incorporate list-making into their projects. With a little extra coding, Brian was able to convert the scanning of a pantry item’s barcode into a new addition to the family shopping list.

Curious as to how it all came together? You can find information on the project, including code and hardware configurations, on Brian’s blog. If you’ve built something similar, we’d love to see it in the comments below.

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