Monthly Archives: May 2017

Bicycle-powered Menabrea beer dispenser

Cycle. Beat the on-screen pace. Receive free Menabrea beer. All on a system controlled by a Raspberry Pi.

Honestly, what’s not to like?

Menabrea UK

If you’re wondering what it takes to win an ice cold pint at one of our Race to Biella events, this clip will give you more of an idea. It’s no mean feat!! Do you think you have the pedal power? Join us tonight at The Avonbridge Hotel for sunshine, cycling and, of course, a refreshing pint or two.

Glasgow-based creative content agency Bright Signals were contacted by Wire with a brief for a pretty tasty project: create something for Menabrea that ties in with the Giro d’Italia cycle race passing close to the brewery in Biella, Northern Italy.

Cycle race, was it? Menabrea brewery, you say?

The team at Bright Signals came up with the superb idea of a bicycle-powered Menabrea beer dispenser.

It must be noted that when I said the words ‘bicycle-powered beer dispenser’ aloud in the Raspberry Pi office, many heads turned and Director of Software Engineering Gordon Hollingworth dropped everything he was doing in order to learn more.

The final build took a fortnight to pull together, with Bright Signals working on the Raspberry Pi-controlled machine and Wire in charge of its graphic design.

Menabrea Beer Bike Raspberry Pi

Cheer for beer!
Image c/o Grant Gibson and Menabrea

Reuse, reduce, return to the bar

“This was probably one of the most enjoyable builds I’ve worked on,” says Bright Signal’s Deputy Managing Director, Grant Gibson. “We had a really clear idea of what we were doing from the start, and we managed to reuse loads of parts from the donor bicycle as we simplified the bike and built the pouring system.” The team integrated the bottle cage of the donor bike into the main dispensing mechanism, and the bike’s brake levers now cradle a pint glass at the perfect angle for pouring.

A Raspberry Pi powers the 24″ screen atop the beer dispenser, as well as the buttons, pouring motors, and lights.

Menabrea Beer Bike Raspberry Pi

Perfect size for the Raspberry Pi lobby!
Image c/o Grant Gibson

Giro di Scozia

Fancy trying Menabrea’s bicycle-powered beer dispenser for yourself? The final stop of its 4-week tour will be the Beer Cafe in Glasgow this Friday 2nd June. If you make it to the event, be sure to share your photos and video with us in the comments below, or via our social media channels such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. And if you end up building your own beer-dispensing cycle, definitely write up a tutorial for the project! We know at least one person who is keenly interested…

Menabrea on Twitter

Another successful racer wins a pint of Menabrea in the #racetobiella. The bike’s at The Fox and Hound, Houston today…

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YouTube live-streaming made easy

Looking to share your day, event, or the observations of your nature box live on the internet via a Raspberry Pi? Then look no further, for Alex Ellis has all you need to get started with YouTube live-streaming from your Pi.

YouTube live-streaming Docker Raspberry Pi

The YouTube live dashboard. Image c/o Alex Ellis

If you spend any time on social media, be it Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, or Twitter, chances are you’ve been notified of someone ‘going live’.

Live-streaming video on social platforms has become almost ubiquitous, whether it’s content by brands, celebrities, or your cousin or nan – everyone is doing it.

Even us!

Live from Pi Towers – Welcome

Carrie Anne and Alex offer up a quick tour of the Pi Towers lobby while trying to figure out how Facebook Live video works.

YouTube live-streaming with Alex Ellis and Docker

In his tutorial, Alex demonstrates an easy, straightforward approach to live-streaming via a Raspberry Pi with the help of a Docker image of FFmpeg he has built. He says that with the image, instead of “having to go through lots of manual steps, we can type in a handful of commands and get started immediately.”

Why is the Docker image so helpful?

As Alex explains on his blog, if you want to manually configure your Raspberry Pi Zero for YouTube live-streaming, you need to dedicate more than a few hours of your day.

Normally this would have involved typing in many manual CLI commands and waiting up to 9 hours for some video encoding software (ffmpeg) to compile itself.

Get anything wrong (like Alex did the first time) and you have to face another nine hours of compilation time before you’re ready to start streaming – not ideal if your project is time-sensitive.

Alex Ellis on Twitter

See you in 8-12 hours? Building ffmpeg on a my @Raspberry_Pi #pizero with @docker

Using the Docker image

In his tutorial, Alex uses a Raspberry Pi Zero and advises that the project will work with either Raspbian Jessie Lite or PIXEL. Once you’ve installed Docker, you can pull the FFmpeg image he has created directly to your Pi from the Docker Hub. (We advise that while doing so, you should feel grateful to Alex for making the image available and saving you so much time.)

It goes without saying that you’ll need a YouTube account in order to live-stream to YouTube; go to the YouTube live streaming dashboard to obtain a streaming key.

Alex Ellis on Twitter

Get live streaming to @YouTube with this new weekend project and guide using your @Raspberry_Pi and @docker. https://t.co/soqZ9D9jbS

For a comprehensive breakdown of how to stream to YouTube via a Raspberry Pi, head to Alex’s blog. You’ll also find plenty of other Raspberry Pi projects there to try out.

Why live-stream from a Raspberry Pi?

We see more and more of our community members build Raspberry Pi projects that involve video capture. The minute dimensions of the Raspberry Pi Zero and Zero W make them ideal for fitting into robots, nature boxes, dash cams, and more. What better way to get people excited about your video than to share it with them live?

If you have used a Raspberry Pi to capture or stream footage, make sure to link to your project in the comments below. And if you give Alex’s Docker image a go, do let us know how you get on.

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The Fleischer 100: Pi-powered sound effects

If there’s one thing we like more than a project video, it’s a project video that has style. And that’s exactly what we got for the Fleischer 100, a Raspberry Pi-powered cartoon sound effects typewriter created by James McCullen.

The Fleischer 100 | Cartoon Sound Effects Toy

The goal of this practical project was to design and make a hardware device that could play numerous sound effects by pressing buttons and tweaking knobs and dials. Taking inspiration from old cartoons of the 1930s in particular – the sound effects would be in the form of mostly conventional musical instruments that were often used to create sound effects in this period of animation history.

The golden age of Foley

Long before the days of the drag-and-drop sound effects of modern video editing software, there were Foley artists. These artists would create sound effects for cartoons, films, and even live performances, often using everyday objects. Here are Orson Welles and the King of Cool himself, Dean Martin, with a demonstration:

Dean Martin & Orson Welles – Early Radio/Sound Effects

Uploaded by dino4ever on 2014-05-26.

The Fleischer 100

“The goal of this practical project was to design and make a hardware device that could be used to play numerous sound effects by pressing buttons and tweaking knobs and dials,” James says, and explains that he has been “taking inspiration from old cartoons of the 1930s in particular”.

The Fleischer 100

Images on the buttons complete the ‘classic cartoon era’ look

With the Fleischer 100, James has captured that era’s look and feel. Having recorded the majority of the sound effects using a Rode NT2-A microphone, he copied the sound files to a Raspberry Pi. The physical computing side of building the typewriter involved connecting the Pi to multiple buttons and switches via a breadboard. The buttons are used to play back the files, and both a toggle and a rotary switch control access to the sound effects – there are one hundred in total! James also made the costumized housing to achieve an appearance in line with the period of early cartoon animation.

The Fleischer 100

Turning the typewriter roller selects a new collection of sound effects

Regarding the design of his device, James was particularly inspired by the typewriter in the 1930s Looney Tunes short Hold Anything – and to our delight, he decided to style the final project video to match its look.

Hold Anything – Looney Tunes (HD)

Release date 1930 Directed by Hugh Harman Rudolf Ising Produced by Hugh Harman Rudolf Ising Leon Schlesinger(Associate Producer) Voices by Carman Maxwell Rochelle Hudson (both uncredited) Music by Frank Marsales Animation by Isadore Freleng Norm Blackburn Distributed by Warner Bros.

We wish we had a Fleischer 100 hidden under a desk at Pi Towers with which to score office goings-on…

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Raspberry Pi and CoderDojo join forces

We’ve got some great news to share today: the Raspberry Pi Foundation is joining forces with the CoderDojo Foundation, in a merger that will give many more young people all over the world new opportunities to learn how to be creative with technology.

CoderDojo is a global network of coding clubs for kids from seven to 17. The first CoderDojo took place in July 2011 when James Whelton and Bill Liao decided to share their passion for computing by setting up a club at the National Software Centre in Cork. The idea was simple: provide a safe and social place for young people to acquire programming skills, learning from each other and supported by mentors.

Photo: a mentor helps a child at a CoderDojo

Since then, James and Bill have helped turn that idea into a movement that reaches across the whole world, with over 1,250 CoderDojos in 69 countries, regularly attended by over 35,000 young Ninjas.

Raspberry Pi and CoderDojo have each accomplished amazing things over the last six years. Now, we see an opportunity to do even more by joining forces. Bringing together Raspberry Pi, Code Club, and CoderDojo will create the largest global effort to get young people involved in computing and digital making. We have set ourselves an ambitious goal: to quadruple the number of CoderDojos worldwide, to 5,000, by the end of 2020.

Photo: children and teenagers work on laptops at a CoderDojo, while adults help

The enormous impact that CoderDojo has had so far is down to the CoderDojo Foundation team, and to the community of volunteers, businesses, and foundations who have contributed expertise, time, venues, and financial resources. We want to deepen those relationships and grow that community as we bring CoderDojo to more young people in future.

The CoderDojo Foundation will continue as an independent charity, based in Ireland. Nothing about CoderDojo’s brand or ethos is changing as a result of this merger. CoderDojos will continue to be platform-neutral, using whatever kit they need to help young people learn.

Photo: children concentrate intently on coding activities at a CoderDojo event

In technical terms, the Raspberry Pi Foundation is becoming a corporate member of the CoderDojo Foundation (which is a bit like being a shareholder, but without any financial interest). I will also join the board of the CoderDojo Foundation as a director. The merger is subject to approval by Irish regulators.

How will this work in practice? The two organisations will work together to advance our shared goals, using our respective assets and capabilities to get many more adults and young people involved in the CoderDojo movement. The Raspberry Pi Foundation will also provide practical, financial, and back-office support to the CoderDojo Foundation.

Last June, I attended the CoderDojo Coolest Projects event in Dublin, and was blown away by the amazing projects made by CoderDojo Ninjas from all over the world. From eight-year-olds who had written their first programs in Scratch to the teenagers who built a Raspberry Pi-powered hovercraft, it was clear that CoderDojo is already making a huge difference.

Photo: two girls wearing CoderDojo t-shirts present their Raspberry Pi-based hovercraft at CoderDojo Coolest Projects 2016

I am thrilled that we’re going to be working closely with the brilliant CoderDojo team, and I can’t wait to visit Coolest Projects again next month to meet all of the Ninjas and mentors who make CoderDojo possible.

If you want to find out more about CoderDojo and how you can get involved in helping the movement grow, go here.

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Make with Minecraft Pi in The MagPi 58

Hey folks, Rob here! What a busy month it’s been at The MagPi HQ. While we’ve been replying to your tweets, answering questions on YouTube and fiddling with our AIY Voice Project kits, we’ve managed to put together a whole new magazine for you, with issue 58 of the official Raspberry Pi magazine out in stores today.

The front cover of The MagPi 58

The MagPi 58 features our latest Minecraft Pi hacks!

Minecraft Pi

The MagPi 58 is all about making with Minecraft Pi. We’ve got cool projects and hacks that let you take a selfie and display it in the Minecraft world, play music with Steve jumping on a giant piano, and use special cards to switch skins in an instant. It’s the perfect supplement to our Hacking and Making in Minecraft book!

AIY Voice Projects

It’s been great to see everyone getting excited over the last issue of the magazine, and we love seeing your pictures and videos of your AIY Voice projects. In this issue we’ve included loads of ideas to keep you going with the AIY Projects kit. Don’t forget to send us what you’ve made on Twitter!

Issue 57 of The MagPi, showing the Google AIY Voice Projects Kit

Show us what you’ve made with your AIY Voice Projects Kit

The best of the rest in The MagPi 58

We’ve also got our usual selection of reviews, tutorials, and projects. This includes guides to making file servers and electronic instruments, along with our review of Adafruit’s Joy Bonnet handheld gaming kit.

A page from The MagPi 58 showing information on 'Getting Started with GUIs'

You can get started with GUIs in The MagPi 58

You can grab the latest issue in stores in the UK right now, from WHSmith, Sainsburys, Asda, and Tesco. Copies will be arriving very soon in US stores, including Barnes & Noble and Micro Center. You can also get a copy online from our store, or digitally via our Android or iOS app. Don’t forget, there’s always the free PDF as well.

We hope you enjoy the issue! Now if you’ll excuse us, we need a nap after all the excitement!

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The Pi Who Loved Me

Fancy yourself as James Bond? In honour of English treasure Roger Moore, we think it’s high time we all became a little more MI5 and a little less MIDoneYet?

James Bond GIF

It’s been a while and M is worried you’re a little…rusty. Best head back to training: go see Q. He has everything you need to get back in shape, both physically and mentally, for the challenges ahead!

Training Camp

Q here, good to have you back.

James Bond Q

First thing’s first: we need to work on your skills and get you ready for your next assignment. Let’s start with your reaction times. This skill is critical in getting you prepared for stealthy situations and averting detection.

Head into my office and grab a Raspberry Pi, LED, and a button to build your own Python Quick Reaction Game. Not only will it help you brush up on your quick thinking, it’ll also teach you how to wire a circuit, use variables, and gather information. This could be key in getting you out of some sticky situations further down the line if you find yourself without one of my gadgets.

James Bond Q

Though speaking of…have you seen our See Like a Bat echolocation device? I’m rather proud of it, even if I do say so myself. Now, even in the darkest of times, you can find your way through any building or maze.

Gathering Intel

We’ll need you to gather some important information for us. But what can you do to make sure no one steals your secret intel? We need you to build a Secret Agent Chat Generator to encrypt information. Once you have completed it, send the information to M via this Morse Code Visual Radio.

Do do this, you’ll need a Morse Code Key. You can find them online or at your local war museum, though they may not care for your taking theirs. But we’re spies. And spies are experts in taking forbidden artefacts. After all, this is what your Laser Tripwire training was for. Oh, you haven’t completed it yet?

James Bond GIF

Well, get to it. Time’s a-wasting!

Locks and Detection

You’re done? Good. Back to the intel.

Until you can find a Morse Code Key, why not hide the information in this Sense HAT Puzzle Box. It’s a wonderful tool to help you learn how to create loops and use conditional statements and functions to create ‘locks’.

You’ll also need to…wait…did you hear that? Someone is listening in, I’m sure of it. Check the Parent Detector to see who is trying to spy on us.

Surveillance

James Bond GIF

Are they gone? Good. Phew, that was a close one. We can’t be so careless in the future. Let’s set up a Raspberry Pi Zero Time-Lapse Camera for constant surveillance of the training camp. You could also attach the camera to your glasses. No one will notice, and you’ll be able to record images of your missions – vital for debriefing.

James Bond seal of approval

Right. That’s all from me. Report back to M for your mission. And remember, this blog post will self-destruct in five…wait, wrong franchise.

Good luck!

Roger Moore GIF

Puns

Other Raspberry Pi/James Bond puns include:

  • Live and Let Pi
  • MoonBaker
  • GoldenPi – Starring Pi-s Brosnan
  • Pifall
  • You Only Live Pi-ce
  • Tomorrow Never Pis
  • Pi Another Day
  • Pi-monds Are Forever
  • For Your Pis Only

Any more?

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Hello World issue 2: celebrating ten years of Scratch

We are very excited to announce that issue 2 of Hello World is out today! Hello World is our magazine about computing and digital making, written by educators, for educators. It  is a collaboration between the Raspberry Pi Foundation and Computing at School, part of the British Computing Society.

We’ve been extremely fortunate to be granted an exclusive interview with Mitch Resnick, Leader of the Scratch Team at MIT, and it’s in the latest issue. All around the world, educators and enthusiasts are celebrating ten years of Scratch, MIT’s block-based programming language. Scratch has helped millions of people to learn the building blocks of computer programming through play, and is our go-to tool at Code Clubs everywhere.

Cover of issue 2 of hello world magazine

A magazine by educators, for educators.

This packed edition of Hello World also includes news, features, lesson activities, research and opinions from Computing At School Master Teachers, Raspberry Pi Certified Educators, academics, informal learning leaders and brilliant classroom teachers. Highlights (for me) include:

  • A round-up of digital making research from Oliver Quinlan
  • Safeguarding children online by Penny Patterson
  • Embracing chaos inside and outside the classroom with Code Club’s Rik Cross, Raspberry Jam-maker-in-chief Ben Nuttall, Raspberry Pi Certified Educator Sway Grantham, and CPD trainer Alan O’Donohoe
  • How MicroPython on the Micro:bit is inspiring a generation, by Nicholas Tollervey
  • Incredibly useful lesson activities on programming graphical user interfaces (GUI) with guizero, simulating logic gates in Minecraft, and introducing variables through story telling.
  • Exploring computing and gender through Girls Who Code, Cyber First Girls, the BCSLovelace Colloqium, and Computing At School’s #include initiative
  • A review of browser based IDEs

Get your copy

Hello World is available as a free Creative Commons download for anyone around the world who is interested in Computer Science and digital making education. Grab the latest issue straight from the Hello World website.

Thanks to the very generous support of our sponsors BT, we are able to offer a free printed version of the magazine to serving educators in the UK. It’s for teachers, Code Club volunteers, teaching assistants, teacher trainers, and others who help children and young people learn about computing and digital making. Remember to subscribe to receive your free copy, posted directly to your home.

Get involved

Are you an educator? Then Hello World needs you! As a magazine for educators by educators, we want to hear about your experiences in teaching technology. If you hear a little niggling voice in your head say “I’m just a teacher, why would my contributions be useful to anyone else?” stop immediately. We want to hear from you, because you are amazing!

Get in touch: contact@helloworld.cc with your ideas, and we can help get them published.

 

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Fail your way to perfection

As educators and makers at Raspberry Pi, we think a lot about failure and how to deal with it constructively. Much has been written about the importance of failure to design and engineering projects. It is undoubtedly true that you can learn a lot from your mistakes, like getting the wrong size of part, mistyping your code, or not measuring when doing your DIY. The importance of failure has even become a bit of a common trope: just think of those slightly annoying inspirational quotes attributed to famous historical figures which you find all over social media.

I-have-not-failed—Edison

I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work. Thomas Edison.

Failure can be good!

But, as with many a cliché, there is an underlying truth that it is worth revisiting. Designing, engineering, and creating all involve making mistakes along the way. Even though failures feel bad, by reaching out when something goes wrong, you can call on the expertise of your community, learn, and make the final result better.

However, we often think failing also makes us look bad, so we don’t talk about it as an essential part of the process that got us to the end stage. We make things shiny and glossy to big-up our success, putting all the focus on the result. This tendency is, however, not necessarily helpful if we want to help educate others. As Jonathan Sanderson of NUSTEM puts it:

Jonathan Sanderson on Twitter

stem educators: worth noting: confessions of rank stupidity in digital making get responses, sympathy, offers of help on Twitter. (1/2)

Jonathan Sanderson on Twitter

yet our write-ups only feature the things we did right. Mis-steps and recovery from failure are key parts of process. (2/2)

The NUSTEM team truly believes in this: when sharing their builds, they include a section on what they would do differently next time. By highlighting the journey, and the mistakes made along the way, they are not only helping those that also want to go on that journey, they are also demystifying the process a bit.

Celebrate your fails

Because failure feels bad, we don’t routinely celebrate it. But there are niches where failure is celebrated: Simone Giertz’s (slightly sweary) ‘Queen of Sh*tty Robots’ YouTube videos are a great example. And then there is Hebocon, the Japanese competition for cruddy robots. In fact, the organisers of Hebocon make a great point: crafts that do not go as intended are interesting.

This is as much true when working with young people as it is in the wider world. In Pioneers, we also want to do our bit to celebrate failure. Our judges don’t just watch the teams’ videos to see how they overcame what went wrong along the way, they also have an award category that celebrates wrong turns and dead ends: ‘We appreciate what you’re trying to do’. Our first challenge‘s winning entry in this category was PiCymru’s We Shall Overcomb:

PiCymru : Make us Laugh Challenge

The video of the PiCymru teams Pioneer challenge entry! The team wasn’t able to get things to work the way they hoped, but wanted to share the joy of failure 🙂


The category name was suggested by our lovely judge from the first cycle, stand-up comedian Bec Hill: it’s one of the accepted heckles the audience can shout out at her stand-up scratch nights. Scratch nights are preview events at which a comedian tests new material, and they are allowed to fail on stage. We may not often think of comedy as embracing failure, but comedians do scratch nights specifically to learn from their mistakes, and to make the final product all the better for it. Interestingly, scratch nights are hugely popular with audiences.

So, if you’re working with a group of young people, what can you do to encourage learning from failure and not let them give up?

Helping you to fail better

In our book Ideas start here, for Pioneers mentors, we’ve given a few tips and phrases that can come in useful. For example, if someone says, “It isn’t working!”, you could respond with “Why not? Have you read the error log?” RTFM is a real thing, and an important skill for digital life.

We agree with engineer Prof Danielle George, who believes in being honest about your failures and highlighting their importance to where you’ve got now. “I fail a lot,” she says. “The trick is to embrace these failures; we don’t have to succeed the first time. We learn from our mistakes and move forwards.”

If, as a mentor, you’re not sure how to encourage and support those not used to failing, this article also has some more tips.

If nothing else helps, but you need to feel inspired, think about what someone said to Karen, who sucks at surfing:

Karen, you are actually pretty good at surfing. Keep in mind that billions of other humans wouldn’t dare even try.

How about you? If you have a story of what you learned from failure in one of your projects, share it in the comments!

Mistakes GIF – Find & Share on GIPHY

Discover & Share this Mistakes GIF with everyone you know. GIPHY is how you search, share, discover, and create GIFs.

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#CharityTuesday: Code Club for libraries

Code Clubs aren’t just for the schoolroom, as today’s blog post shows. With the third video in our #CharityTuesday coverage, we shed some light on running a Code Club in a library environment. To offer a little more information on the themes of each video, we’ll be releasing #CharityTuesday blog posts for each of our new Code Club videos.

Code Club for libraries

We visited Tile Hill Library to find out more about their Code Club, and how easy it can be for libraries to start their own Code Clubs.

The potential of Code Clubs in libraries

There are growing numbers of Code Clubs being set up in public venues such as libraries. We visited Tile Hill Library to find out more about their Code Club, and how easy it can be for libraries to start their own Code Clubs.

Across the world, more and more Code Clubs are running in venues like libraries, offering a great space for children from all local schools to come together. The library setting helps the children to meet new people and expand their experiences with peers from different communities. Furthermore, it offers a wider scope for club times, as many public libraries are also open at weekends.

Code Club Library

At Tile Hill Library, they run an after school Code Club for one hour each week with the help of volunteers from the local area.

This out-of-school environment comes with its own unique challenges and rewards. “The greatest challenge for our Code Club is also our greatest triumph,” explains Charmain Osborne, Assistant Library Manager at Ipswich County Library. “The club has been more popular than I imagined. The waiting list continues to grow faster than we can create spaces in our club!”

Code Club Library Robot graphic

Increase volunteer opportunities

By running a Code Club outside of school hours, you also increase your opportunity for volunteers. “In the first instance, the Code Club website is a good resource for finding a local volunteer. I’d definitely recommend Saturday as the day to run the club. Many more IT professionals will be free on that day,” advises Paul Sinnett, who runs a Code Club in the Croydon Central Library.

Get involved in Code Club!

Code Club is a nationwide network of volunteer-led after-school coding clubs for children. It offers a great place for children of all abilities to learn and build upon their skills amongst like-minded peers.

There are currently over 10,000 active Code Clubs across the world and official Code Club communities in ten countries. If you want to find out more, visit the Code Club UK website. Check out Code Club International if you are outside of the UK.

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Product or Project?

This column is from The MagPi issue 57. 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.

Image of MagPi magazine and AIY Project Kit

Taking inspiration from a widely known inspirational phrase, I like to tell people, “make the thing you wish to see in the world.” In other words, you don’t have to wait for a company to create the exact product you want. You can be a maker as well as a consumer! Prototyping with hardware has become easier and more affordable, empowering people to make products that suit their needs perfectly. And the people making these things aren’t necessarily electrical engineers, computer scientists, or product designers. They’re not even necessarily adults. They’re often self-taught hobbyists who are empowered by maker-friendly technology.

It’s a subject I’ve been very interested in, and I have written about it before. Here’s what I’ve noticed: the flow between maker project and consumer product moves in both directions. In other words, consumer products can start off as maker projects. Just take a look at the story behind many of the crowdfunded products on sites such as Kickstarter. Conversely, consumer products can evolve into maker products as well. The cover story for the latest issue of The MagPi is a perfect example of that. Google has given you the resources you need to build your own dedicated Google Assistant device. How cool is that?

David Pride on Twitter

@Raspberry_Pi @TheMagP1 Oh this is going to be a ridiculous amount of fun. 😊 #AIYProjects #woodchuck https://t.co/2sWYmpi6T1

But consumer products becoming hackable hardware isn’t always an intentional move by the product’s maker. In the 2000s, TiVo set-top DVRs were a hot product and their most enthusiastic fans figured out how to hack the product to customise it to meet their needs without any kind of support from TiVo.

Embracing change

But since then, things have changed. For example, when Microsoft’s Kinect for the Xbox 360 was released in 2010, makers were immediately enticed by its capabilities. It not only acted as a camera, but it could also sense depth, a feature that would be useful for identifying the position of objects in a space. At first, there was no hacker support from Microsoft, so Adafruit Industries announced a $3,000 bounty to create open-source drivers so that anyone could access the features of Kinect for their own projects. Since then, Microsoft has embraced the use of Kinect for these purposes.

The Create 2 from iRobot

iRobot’s Create 2, a hackable version of the Roomba

Consumer product companies even make versions of their products that are specifically meant for hacking, making, and learning. Belkin’s WeMo home automation product line includes the WeMo Maker, a device that can act as a remote relay or sensor and hook into your home automation system. And iRobot offers Create 2, a hackable version of its Roomba floor-cleaning robot. While iRobot aimed the robot at STEM educators, you could use it for personal projects too. Electronic instrument maker Korg takes its maker-friendly approach to the next level by releasing the schematics for some of its analogue synthesiser products.

Why would a company want to do this? There are a few possible reasons. For one, it’s a way of encouraging consumers to create a community around a product. It could be a way for innovation with the product to continue, unchecked by the firm’s own limits on resources. For certain, it’s an awesome feel-good way for a company to empower their own users. Whatever the reason these products exist, it’s the digital maker who comes out ahead. They have more affordable tools, materials, and resources to create their own customised products and possibly learn a thing or two along the way.

With maker-friendly, hackable products, being a creator and a consumer aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, you’re probably getting the best of both worlds: great products and great opportunities to make the thing you wish to see in the world.

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