Testing VR Limits with a Raspberry Pi

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Virtual Reality by function pushes the boundaries of what we perceive as existence, tricking the mind into believing that the computer generated environment that the user is thrust into actually contains a real place. So in the spirit of seeing what is possible in VR, a developer named [Jacques] hooked up a Raspberry Pi to an Oculus Rift. He used a computer graphics rendering API called OpenGL ES, which is much like any mobile platform found these days, to render a floating, rotating cube.

All his tests were done on a Release build which utilized the official vertex and fragment shaders. There was no attempt to optimize anything; not like there would be much to do anyways. The scene was rendered twice at 16 milliseconds per frame. From there, he attempted 27 ms per frame with texture, followed by 36 ms/frame, and then 45.

The code used can be found on [Jacques]‘s Github account. A simple improvement would use a Banana Pi for better processing speed. However, don’t expect any spectacular results with this type of setup. Really, the project only proves that it’s possible to minimize a VR experience into something that could become portable. And in the same vein, the Pi + Oculus integration can produce an uncomfortable lagging effect if things are not lined up properly. But once the energy/computing power issues are addressed, VR devices could transform into a more fashionable product like Google Glass, where a simple flip of a switch would toggle the view between VR and AR into a something more mixed. And then a motion sensing input camera like this Kinect-mapping space experiment could allow people all over the world to jump into the perspectives of other reality-pushing explorers. That’s all far down the line though, but this project lays the foundation for what the future might hold.

To see [Jacques]‘s full set up, view the video after the break.

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Controlling Music with the Wave of a Hand

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[Thomas] created a magical music player that gives the listener the ability to change songs and alter the volume levels without having to touch anything but air. Called the LighTouch, this device puts the control in the hands of the user by interpreting input from an ultrasonic sensor and plays back tracks based on waving gestures.

It is the 2nd iteration of a prototype that he completed about a year ago and functions as a streaming radio/alarm clock. The sensor is hooked up to a Raspberry Pi with a fading LED. Everything is highly customizable including the distances used for playback features. The criteria [Thomas] put in place has the pause method trigger when an object is detected between 0-10cm from the sensor. The volume control on the next level up brightens and dims the LED light just for some added flair.

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Raspberry Pi Spies on Your Front Door

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One of [Sander]‘s first projects with a Raspberry Pi was to get it to send messages to his iPhone. From there he decided to take it a step further and wire the tiny computer up to his doorbell, creating a system that can send push messages to his phone whenever someone is at the front door.

[Sander]‘s doorbell is wireless, and he decided to keep all of its original functionality. All it took to signal the Pi was a simple circuit tied to the doorbell’s status LED which turns off whenever the doorbell is pushed.

The Raspberry Pi runs a python program that handles the GPIO pin which is wired to the doorbell. When the doorbell is pushed, the program processes and sends the push notification while taking pictures of the visitor with an attached webcam. The pictures are included in the message so [Sander] can see who is at the front door. The code for the project is included on his project page.

This project rang a bell for us since we’ve seen projects using a Raspberry Pi and push notifications. None of them so far have included a webcam or utilized an existing wireless doorbell though, and this is a great step forward!

Unlocking a Door with a Phone – Easy as Pi!

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[Ian] has created a way for his office colleagues to get inside the door, even if they have forgotten their keys. This office automation, Raspberry Pi set up is appropriately named the ‘Doorman’ and provided an alternative method of unlocking the entry system.

His solution tapped into the existing security circuit, which is closed by a simple relay, which is connected to the main piece of hardware; a Raspberry Pi. On one side of the Pi is the GPIO pins that allow control access while the other side links to the internet. The company’s internal system is responsible for authenticating users, issuing keys and processing access requests. A mobile client, aka a smartphone, can request a set of keys from the Doorman.

[Ian] used the Golgi SDK to speed up the development of the in-house app. With the wires in place, the Doorman has become a great success, and now forgotten keys are a thing of the past. And even though staff members no longer need to buzz into the office interrupting their co-workers, the development team has plans to beef up their office automation system. Already other innovations are being created to be integrated in with the Doorman.

Now all that’s left is to show a video demonstration of the Doorman, which can be seen after the break:

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The Fridge Hacking Guide by BrewPi

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The team behind BrewPi are at it again! This time they have created an online guide showing how to convert a min-fridge into a Raspberry Pi & Arduino controlled fermentation chamber. In it, they describe 3 possible options:

  • Option 1: Make a simple switched power cord, without hacking into the fridge electronics.
  • Option 2: Make a switched power cord, but also override or remove the thermostat.
  • Option 3: Rip out the thermostat and fully integrate the SSRs into your fridge (which is what [Koen] and [Elco] did).

First things first though. They had to clean the fridge. And depending on where they got it or how long it has been unplugged for, the inside might have been pretty rank and disgusting from mold growing out of every corner. This took a good hour or so to clean properly lest the brewing process get infected with external grossness. This is all worth it because a well-controlled fermentation chamber results in a superior batch of beer.

They put their laser cut case on top of the fridge, holding an LCD, Raspberry Pi, Arduino and the BrewPi Arduino shield. The Arduino reads the temperature sensors inside the fridge, the beer and the ambient temperature. Then it controls the SSRs they added to switch the compressor and a heater. Then, the cables were routed through the fridge and take control of the compressor.

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Raspi Ambilight Integrated in a 19″ Rack Packs Lots of Peripherals

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Ambilight systems create light effects around your monitor that correspond to the video content you’re playing. [Sébastien] just build his (French translated to English, original here) and embedded all the elements in a 19 inch rack he bought from Farnell.

As most ambilight systems we’ve covered over the years the HDMI signal is first split in two, one being sent to his monitor while the other is converted into a S-Video signal. The latter is then captured with a STK1160 stick connected to a Raspberry Pi. A python script using the OpenCV library is in charge of extracting the frames pixels and figuring out what colors should be sent to the SPI connected LPD8806 LEDs. A nice web interface also allows to drive the LEDs from any platform connected to his local network. Finally, a standard HD44780 LCD and an infrared receiver are connected to the raspberry, allowing [Sébastien] to control and monitor his platform. Funny thing: he also had to use two relays to power cycle his HDMI splitter and converter as they often crash. You can check out a demonstration video from a previous revision after the break.

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A Real Raspberry Pi Clone (Not ‘Inspired By’)

odroid A few years ago, Broadcom had a pretty nice chip – the BCM2835 – that could do 1080 video, had fairly powerful graphics performance, run a *nix at a good click, and was fairly cheap. A Broadcom employee thought, “why don’t we build an educational computer with this” and the Raspberry Pi was born. Since then, Broadcom has kept that chip to themselves, funneling all of them into what has become a very vibrant platform for education, tinkering, and any other project that could use a small Linux board. Recently, Broadcom has started to sell the BCM2835 to anyone who has the cash and from the looks of it, real Raspberry Pi clones are starting to make their way into the marketplace.

Other Raspberry Pi clone boards out there like the Banana Pi and the HummingBoard don’t use the same BCM2835 found in the Raspi and the new Odroid. The new board also has the same 26 pin GPIO expansion socket, and runs the same binaries as the Raspberry P;. It is a clone in every sense, with a slightly different form factor geared towards very tiny, portable, and battery-powered use cases.

Unlike the official Raspberry Pi Compute Module, the Odroid isn’t meant to be used as a system on module, shoved into any product that needs a fast-ish ARM core without needing engineers to actually design a circuit with an ARM. The Odroid is a cut-down, extremely minimalist version of the Raspi, perfect for any project where space is at a premium.

There are a few interesting features included on the Odroid: there’s an on-board battery connector, a real-time clock on the board, and more of the BCM2835 GPIOs are exposed (although not the same ones as the upgraded RPi Model B+). There’s no Ethernet, but odds are if you’re building something that’s battery-powered, you won’t need that anyway.

As far as price goes, you can pick one of these Odroids up for $30 USD, with $9 shipping from South Korea. That’s pretty comparable to the price of a real Raspberry Pi, but if the features in the Odroid are worth it to you, it might be a worthwhile clone.

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