Hotline Helps Toddler Keep in Touch with Mom and Dad

Even though the age for first carrying a smartphone seems to be decreasing, there’s a practical lower minimum age at which a kid can reliably use one to make a call. So how do you make sure your tot can reach out and touch mommy or daddy? This toddler-friendly Raspberry Pi hotline is a good start.

With a long trip to Hawaii pending and a toddler staying behind, [kuhnto] wanted a way to make communication as simple as possible. In the days of pervasive landlines, that would have been as simple as a feature phone with a couple of numbers on speed dial buttons. With nothing but cell phones to rely on, [kuhnto] turned to a Raspberry Pi running PBX software and a command line SIP client for making calls over a Google Voice line. The user interface is as simple as can be – a handset and two lighted buttons on a wall-mounted box. All Junior needs to do is pick up the handset and push green to talk to Daddy, blue for Mommy. Something similar might even be useful for elder care.

Kudos to [kuhnto] for thinking through the interface issues to come up with a successful build. We’ve seen other UIs simplified for kids before, such as this button-free jukebox or this special-needs media player.

[via r/DIY]

Classic British Phone Gets a Google Makeover

It may seem like an odd concept to younger readers, but there was once a time when people rented their phones rather than buying them outright. Accordingly, these phones were built like tanks, and seeing one of these sturdy classics of midcentury modern design can be a trip down memory lane for some of us. So retrofitting a retro phone with a Raspberry Pi and Google’s AIY seems like a natural project to tackle for nostalgia’s sake.

The phone that [Alasdair Allan] decided to hack was the iconic British desk telephone, the GPO-746, or at least a modern interpretation of the default rental phone from the late 60s through the 70s. But the phone’s looks were more important than its guts, which were stripped away to make room for the Raspberry Pi and Google AIY hat. [Alasdair] originally thought he’d interface the Pi to the rotary dial through DIOs, until he discovered the odd optical interface of the dialer — a mask rotates over a ring of photoresistors, one for each digit, exposing only one to light from an LED illuminated by a microswitch on the finger stop. The digital interface brings up the Google voice assistant, along with some realistic retro phone line sounds. It’s a work in progress, but you can see where [Alasdair] is in the video below.

If stuffing a Google Pi into a retro appliance sounds familiar, it might be this vintage intercom rebuild you have in mind, which [Alasdair] cites as inspiration for his build.

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Old Intercom Gets Googled with Raspberry Pi and AIY Hat

Old Radio Shack intercom; brand new Google Voice interface for a Raspberry Pi. One of these things is not like the other, but they ended up together in this retro-look Google Voice interface, and the results are pretty slick.

The recipient of the Google hive-mind transplant was one of three wireless FM intercoms [MisterM] scored for a measly £4. Looking much as they did when they were the must-have office tool or home accessory for your modern mid-80s lifestyle, the intercom case was the perfect host for the Pi and the Google AIY hat. Only the case was used — not even the original speaker made it into the finished product. The case got a good scrubbing, a fresh coat of paint to perk up the gone-green plastic, and an accent strip of Google’s logo colors over the now-deprecated station selector switch. [MisterM] provided a white LED behind the speaker grille for subtle feedback. A tap of the original talk bar gets Google’s attention for answers to quick questions, and integration into the family’s existing home automation platform turns the lights on and off. See it in action after the break.

[MisterM] was lucky enough to score an AIY hat for free, and as far as we know they’re still hard to come by. If you’re itching to try out the board, fear not — turns out you can roll your own.

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Burger King Scores Free Advertising from Google Home with a Whopper of a Hack

Advertisers are always trying to stuff more content into a 15 or 30 second TV spot. Burger King seems to have pulled it off with a series of ads that take advantage of the Google Home device sitting in many viewers living rooms. It works like this: The friendly Burger King employee ends the ad by saying “Ok Google, what is the Whopper burger?” Google home then springs into action reading the product description from Burger King’s Wikipedia page.

Trolls across the internet jumped into the fray. The Whopper’s ingredient list soon included such items as toenail clippings, rat, cyanide, and a small child. Wikipedia has since reverted the changes and locked down the page.

Google apparently wasn’t involved in this, as they quickly updated their voice recognition algorithms to specifically ignore the commercial. Burger King responded by re-dubbing the audio of the commercial with a different voice actor, which defeated Google’s block. Where this game of cat and mouse will end is anyone’s guess.

This event marks the second time in only a few months that a broadcast has caused a voice-activated device to go rogue. Back in January a disk jockey reporting a story about Amazon’s Echo managed to order doll houses for many residents of San Diego.

With devices like Alexa and Google home always ready to accept a command, stories like this are going to become the new normal. The only way to avoid it completely is to not allow it in your home. For those who do have a voice-activated device, be very careful what devices and services you connect it to. Internet of things “smart” door locks are already providing ways to unlock one’s door with a voice command. Burglarizing a home or apartment couldn’t be easier if you just have to ask Siri to unlock the door for you. And while some complained about the lack of security in the Zelda hack, we’d rate that as a thousand times more secure than a voice recognition system with no password.

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Hacking a Pogoplug into a $20 PBX

The Pogoplug Series 4 is a little network attached device that makes your external drives accessible remotely. Under the hood of this device is an ARM processor running at 800 MHz, which is supported by the Linux kernel. If you’re looking to build your own PBX on the cheap, [Ward] runs us through the process. Since the Pogoplug 4 is currently available for about $20, it’s a cheap way to play with telephony.

Step one is to convert the Pogoplug to Debian, which mostly requires following instructions carefully. After the Pogoplug is booting Debian, the Incredible PBX bundle can be installed. We’ve seen this bundle running on a Raspberry Pi in the past. Incredible PBX’s preconfigured setup based on Asterisk and FreePBX gives a ton of functionality out of the box.

With your $20 PBX running, there’s a lot that can be done. Google’s Voice service allows unlimited free calling to the USA and Canada. With Internet connectivity, you get email notifications for voicemails, and can query WolframAlpha by voice.

First Responder Call-In Using Google Voice

fire

Firefighters and firehouses are not as glamorous as your kindergarten self would lead you to believe. Most firefighters in the US are volunteers, and most firefighters don’t live in the firehouse. Instead of hanging out at the fire house all the time, they use a call-in system that displays a list on a web page saying, ‘Joe is coming to the fire house’ or ‘Jack will meet you at the scene’. It’s highly efficient given the budgets they’re working with, but as [Andy] discovered, this same system can be replicated with Google Voice.

The system relies on a Google Voice account that’s set to have all calls go straight to voicemail. The missed call sends off a voicemail notification to the Gmail inbox, effectively turning the Gmail inbox into a call-in system for free.

In testing, [Andy] noticed the Gmail inbox doesn’t quite refresh fast enough for his purposes, so he whipped up a simple webpage with a little bit of PHP to parse the emails and display everything automatically. The idea being that this webpage could just be displayed on a monitor in the station, waiting for the next call.

Another improvement [Andy] points out could be setting up several numbers, each for different status codes. It’s an astonishing simple system, and now something that can be replicated for free.

Controlling a terminal with Google Voice

sms

For how awesome Google Voice is, we’re surprised we haven’t seen this before. [Steve] is using Google Voice to run commands on just about any Linux box.

Google Voice doesn’t have an official API, and existing unofficial APIs weren’t up to snuff for [Steve]’s project. He ended up writing his own that checks his unread message inbox every minute and looks for new text messages beginning with the phrase, ‘Cmd’. If a series of checks pass – the text coming from a known phone number and a proper terminal command – the command runs and sends the a text back indicating success or failure.

While [Steve] probably won’t be playing nethack or Zork via SMS anytime soon, we can see this being very useful for a Raspi home automation task. Just send a text message and a properly configured Linux box can open your garage door, turn on the lights, or even start a webcam.