Monthly Archives: July 2018

Take a photo of yourself as an unreliable cartoon

Take a selfie, wait for the image to appear, and behold a cartoon version of yourself. Or, at least, behold a cartoon version of whatever the camera thought it saw. Welcome to Draw This by maker Dan Macnish.

Dan has made code, instructions, and wiring diagrams available to help you bring this beguiling weirdery into your own life.

raspberry pi cartoon polaroid camera

Neural networks, object recognition, and cartoons

One of the fun things about this re-imagined polaroid is that you never get to see the original image. You point, and shoot – and out pops a cartoon; the camera’s best interpretation of what it saw. The result is always a surprise. A food selfie of a healthy salad might turn into an enormous hot dog, or a photo with friends might be photobombed by a goat.

OK. Let’s take this one step at a time.

Pi + camera + button + LED

Draw This uses a Raspberry Pi 3 and a Camera Module, with a button and a useful status LED connected to the GPIO pins via a breadboard. You press the button, and the camera captures a still image while the LED comes on and stays lit for a couple of seconds while the Pi processes the image. So far, so standard Pi camera build.

Interpreting and re-interpreting the camera image

Dan uses Python to process the captured photograph, employing a pre-trained machine learning model from Google to recognise multiple objects in the image. Now he brings the strangeness. The Pi matches the things it sees in the photo with doodles from Google’s huge open-source Quick, Draw! dataset, and generates a new image that represents the objects in the original image as doodles. Then a thermal printer connected to the Pi’s GPIO pins prints the results.

A 28 x 14 grid of kangaroo doodles in dark grey on a white background

Kangaroos from the Quick, Draw! dataset (I got distracted)

Potential for peculiar

Reading about this build leaves me yearning to see its oddest interpretation of a scene, so if you make this and you find it really does turn you or your friend into a goat, please do share that with us.

And as you can see from my kangaroo digression above, there is a ton of potential for bizarro makes that use the Quick, Draw! dataset, object recognition models, or both; it’s not just the marsupials that are inexplicably compelling (I dare you to go and look and see how long it takes you to get back to whatever you were in the middle of). If you’re planning to make this, or something inspired by this, check out Dan’s cartoonify GitHub repo. And tell us all about it in the comments.

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New software to get you started with high-altitude ballooning

Right now, we’re working on an online project pathway to support you with all your high-altitude balloon (HAB) flight activities, whether you run them with students or as a hobby. We’ll release the resources later in the year, but in the meantime we have some exciting new HAB software to share with you!

High altitude ballooning with Pi Zero

Skycademy and early HAB software

Over the past few years, I’ve been lucky enough to conduct several high-altitude balloon (HAB) flights and to help educators who wanted to do HAB projects with learners. In the Foundation’s Skycademy programme, supported by UKHAS members, in particular Dave Akerman, we’ve trained more than 50 teachers to successfully launch near-space missions with their students.

high-altitude balloning Raspberry Pi
high-altitude balloning Raspberry Pi
Dave Akerman high-altitude balloning Raspberry Pi

Whenever I advise people who are planning a HAB mission, I tell them that the separate elements actually aren’t that complicated. The difficulty lies in juggling them all at the same time to successfully launch, track, and recover your balloon.

Over the years, some excellent tools and software packages have been developed to help with HAB launches. Dave Akerman’s Pi In The Sky (PITS) software gave beginners the chance to control their first payloads: you enter your own specs into a configuration file, and the software, written in C, handles the rest. Dave’s Long Range (LoRa) gateway software then tracks the payload, receiving balloon data and plotting the flight’s trajectory on a real-time map.

Dave Akerman high-altitude balloning Raspberry Pi

Dave at a Skycademy event

These tools, while useful, present two challenges to the novice HAB enthusiast:

  • Exposing and adapting the workings of the software is challenging for novice learners, given that it is written in C
  • The existing tracking software and tools are fragmented: one application received LoRa signals; another received radioteletype (RTTY) data; photos were received and had to be manually opened elsewhere; and so on

Introducing Pytrack and SkyGate

Making ballooning as accessible as possible is something we’ve been keen to do since we first got involved in 2015. So I’m delighted to reveal that over the past year, we’ve worked with Dave to produce two new applications to support HAB activities!

Pytrack

Pytrack is a Python implementation of Dave’s original PITS software, and it offers several advantages:

  • Learners can create their own tracker in a simpler programming language, rather than simply configuring the existing software
  • The core mechanics of the tracker are exposed for the learner to understand, but complex details are abstracted away
  • Learners can integrate the technology with standard Python libraries and existing projects
  • Pytrack is modular, allowing learners to experiment with underlying radio components

SkyGate

After our last Skycademy event, I started to look for a way to make tracking a payload in flight easier. For Skycademy, we made a hacky tracking box using a Pi, a 7” screen, and a very rough GUI app that I wrote in a hurry lovingly toiled over.

Skygate high-altitude balloning Raspberry Pi
Skygate high-altitude balloning Raspberry Pi

Since then, we have gone on to develop SkyGate, a complete tracking application which runs on a Pi and fits nicely on a 7” screen. It brings together all the tracking functionalities into one intuitive application:

  • Live tunable LoRa reception and decoding
  • Live tunable RTTY reception and decoding (with compatible USB SDR)
  • Image reception and previewing
  • GPS tracking to report your location (when using compatible GPS USB dongle)
  • Data, images, and GPS upload functionality to HabHub tracking site
  • An Overview tab presenting a high-level summary and bearing to payload
  • Full customisation via the Settings tab

You can get involved!

We would love HAB enthusiasts to test and experiment with both Pytrack and SkyGate, and to give us feedback. Your input will really help us to write the full guide that we’ll release later this year.

To get started, install both programmes using your command prompt/terminal.

For your payload, run:

sudo apt update
sudo apt install python3-pytrack

And your receiver, run:

sudo apt update
sudo apt install skygate

Follow this guide to start using Pytrack, and read this overview on SkyGate and what you’ll need for a tracking box. To give us your feedback, please raise issues on the respective GitHub repos: for Pytrack here, and for SkyGate here.

We’ve developed these software packages to make launching and tracking a HAB payload easier and more flexible, and we hope you’ll think we’ve succeeded.

Happy ballooning!

Disclaimer: each country has its own laws regarding HAB launches and radio transmissions in their airspace. Before you attempt to carry out your own HAB flight, you need to ensure you have permission and are complying with all local laws.

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Ten awesome 3D-printable Raspberry Pi goodies

3D printing has become far more accessible for hobbyists, with printer prices now in the hundreds instead of thousands of pounds. Last year, we covered some of the best 3D-printable cases for the Pi, and since then, Raspberry Pi enthusiasts have shared even more cool designs on sites such as MyMiniFactory and Thingiverse!

Here are ten of our recent favourites:

World Cup Sputnik

“With the World Cup now underway, I wanted a Russia-themed football sculpture to hang over the desk,” explains creator Ajax Jones. “What better than a football-styled Sputnik!”

Raspberry Pi 3d-printable World Cup Sputnik

The World Cup Sputnik comes complete with a Raspberry Pi that transmits the original Sputnik ‘beeps’ on an FM frequency, allowing co-workers to tune in for some 1960s nostalgia.

Radios

We see an abundance of musical Raspberry Pi projects online, and love looking out for the ones housed in interesting, unique cases like these:

Raspberry Pi 3d-printable radio
Raspberry Pi 3d-printable radio

The MiniZ is a streaming radio based on the Zenith Cube, created by Thingiverse user thisoldgeek.

This is a case for a small, retro radio powered by Logitech Media Server. It uses a Raspberry Pi Zero W and displays a radio dial (tunes via a knob), a clock, and ‘Now Playing’ album art.

For something a little more simple to use, Lukas2040‘s NFC radio for children comes with illustrated, NFC-tagged cards to allow his two-year-old daughter to pick her own music to play.

Gaming

Whether it’s console replicas or tabletop arcade cabinets, the internet is awash with gaming-themed Raspberry Pi projects. Here are a few of our favourites!

The Okama Gamesphere is a fictional game console from South Park. Leodym has taken the rather stylish design and converted it into a Raspberry Pi 3 case.

Okama Gamesphere 3d-printable Raspberry Pi case
Okama Gamesphere 3d-printable Raspberry Pi case
Okama Gamesphere 3d-printable Raspberry Pi case

Canino‘s Yet Another Mini Arcade is exactly that. We really like how it reminds us of old, imported gaming consoles from our childhoods.

3d-printable Raspberry Pi arcade case

“I really love the design and look of the HP OMEN Accelerator,” writes designer STIG_. “So I decided to draw up a case for the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B.”

OMEN Accelerator 3D-printable Raspberry Pi case
OMEN Accelerator 3D-printable Raspberry Pi case
OMEN Accelerator 3D-printable Raspberry Pi case

We really love it too, STIG_. Well done.

Ironman, Ironman, does whatever an Ironman can…

atlredninja‘s Ironman Mark 7 torso housing for the Google AIY Projects Voice Kit is pretty sweet!

Iron man AIY case Neopixel Rings Adafruit

Iron man AIY case Neopixel Rings Adafruit 16 and 12 LEDS. 3d files and instructions for assembly here: https://ift.tt/2NkkjpC This is just a test to make sure the LEDs are working and the A.I. is working correctly. This took me about 3 weeks to design, print, and assemble.

This model is atlredninja‘s second version of an Ironman-themed AIY project: the first fits within a replica helmet. We’re looking forward to a possible third edition with legs. And a fourth that flies.

We can dream, can’t we?

Speaking of Marvel

How often have you looked at Thor’s hammer and thought to yourself “If only it had a Raspberry Pi inside…”

Raspberry Pi Thor case

This case from furnibird is one of several pop culture–themed Raspberry Pi cases that the designer has created. Be sure to check out the others, including a Deathstar and Pac-Man.

3D-printable bird box

chickey‘s 3D-printable Raspberry Pi Bird Box squeezes a Raspberry Pi Zero W and a camera into the lid, turning this simple nesting box into a live-streaming nature cam.

3D-printed raspberry pi bird box
3D-printed raspberry pi bird box
3D-printed raspberry pi bird box

The Raspberry Pi uploads images directly to a webpage, allowing you to check in on the feathered occupants from any computer or mobile device. Nifty.

Print a Raspberry Pi!

Using a 3D-printed Raspberry Pi in place of the real deal while you’re prototyping in the workshop may save you from accidentally damaging your tiny computer.

3D-printed Raspberry Pi 3
3D-printed Raspberry Pi 3
3D-printed Raspberry Pi 3

AlwaysComputing designed this Raspberry Pi Voxel Model using MagicaVoxel, stating “I like to tinker and play with the program MagicaVoxel. I find it therapeutic!”

What else?

What Raspberry Pi–themed 3D prints have you seen lately? Share your favourites with us in the comments, or on Twitter and Facebook.

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Tired of queuing for the office toilet? Meet Occu-Pi

This is the story of Occu-Pi, or how a magnet, a Raspberry Pi, and a barrel bolt saved an office team from queuing for the toilet.

Occu Pi Raspberry Pi toilet signal

The toil of toilet queuing

When Brian W. Wolter’s employer moved premises, the staff’s main concern as the dearth of toilets at the new office, and the increased queuing time this would lead to:

Our previous office had long been plagued by unreasonably long bathroom lines. At several high-demand periods throughout the day we’d be forced to wait three, four, five people deep while complaining bitterly to each other until our turn to use the facilities arrived. With even fewer bathrooms in our new office, concern about timely access was naturally high.

Faced with this problem, the in-house engineers decided to find a technological solution.

Occu-Pi

The main thing the engineers had to figure out was just how to determine the difference between a closed door and an occupied stall. Brian explains in his write-up:

There is one notable wrinkle: it’s not enough to know the door is closed, you need to know if the bathroom is actually in use — that is, locked from the inside. After considering and discarding a variety of ‘creative’ solutions (no thank you, motion sensors and facial recognition), we landed on a straightforward and reliable approach.

The team ended up using a magnet attached to the door’s barrel bolt to trigger a notification. Simply shutting the door doesn’t act as a trigger — the bolt needs to lock the door to set off a magnetic switch. That switch then triggers both LED notifications and updates to a dedicated Slack channel.

Occu-Pi Raspberry Pi toilet signal

For the technically-minded, Occu-Pi is a pretty straightforward build. And those wanting to learn more about it can find a full write-up in Brian’s Medium post.

We’ve seen a few different toilet notification projects over the years, for example this project from DIY Tryin’ using a similar trigger plus a website. What’s nice about Occu-Pi, however, is the simplicity of its design and the subtle use of Slack — Pi Tower’s favoured platform for office shenanigans.

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