Raspberry Pi Boiler Control Uses a Webcam to Read The Analog Gauge

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One of the biggest problems with home automation is trying to interface with old or analog devices. Do you upgrade the device just so you can automate it? Or do you find a workaround like [Seb] did?

[Seb] doesn’t have on-demand hot water, and as such has to turn on his boiler if he wants to have a hot bath or shower. Not very convenient having to wake up an hour early in the morning just to turn the boiler on so he can have a morning shower! Nonplussed with having to continue putting up with this, he decided to try his hand at home automation using a Raspberry Pi.

The problem is there’s no easy way to have feedback on what the boiler is doing — sure he can turn it on and off using a mains relay with the Pi’s GPIO, but how can he easily measure the temperature inside the boiler?

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Augmented Laser Cutter Removes Design Technology Barriers

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Laser cutters, 3D printers, CNC routers — they’re all great technology in the right hands, but unfortunately the learning curve sometimes puts would-be makers at a distance.  [Anirudh] from MIT’s Media Lab is attempting to break down at least one of those barriers with his augmented laser cutter system called, Clearcut.

The system consists of a webcam, a projector, and a semi transparent work space on top of the laser cutter. By placing objects on the surface, the webcam can identify them, duplicate them with the projector, and then laser engrave them. In addition to the “copy and paste” idea of this, you can also use infrared emitting pens to physically draw your design on the work surface to be engraved. It starts to bridge the gap between complex CAD and pencil and paper, something anyone is capable of.

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GPIB To USB, With A Python API

If you’re not so daft as to think Arduino-based oscilloscopes and multimeters are actually useful for all but the simplest tests and measurements, you just might have some big iron sitting around your workbench from the likes of HP, or Tektronix. You might have noticed a strange port on the back of these machines, labeled GPIB or IEEE-488. This is the standard interface for these devices, and if you’ve ever priced out a USB to IEEE-488 converter, you can see why [Steven] thought it would be cheaper to build his own.

This build is an update to an earlier version we saw a few years ago. Since then, [Steven] has taken some advice from the community and replaced a bunch of resistors with proper GPIB line driver ICs, and generally cleaned up the firmware.

Because a USB to GPIB adapter is only one small part of the tools necessary to connect these old measurement devices to a modern computer, [Steven] has also been working on InstrumentKit. It’s a Python library that takes all the standardized instrument commands and wraps them up in an easy to use API. You can check out the docs for InstrumentKit here, or just look through the board files and firmware on the Github