Remote Control of Clocks is Easy as Pi

[Fatjedi007] recently acquired three programmable boxing gym-type clocks to help his developmentally disabled clients manage their time. The plan was to have timers of varying lengths fire at preset times throughout the day, with the large displays providing a view from anywhere. Unfortunately, the clocks were not nearly as programmable as he needed them to be.

Since he’d spent enough money already, [Fatjedi007] turned to the power of Raspberry Pi to devise an affordable solution. Each clock gets a Pi Zero W and a simple IR transmit/receive circuit that operates using LIRC. The clocks came with remote controls, so it was just a matter of re-programming them. From LIRC, he wrote some scripts with SEND_ONCE and schedules the timers with a cron job. No need to get out the ladder—he can program all of them from his chair over VNC.

He does have one problem, though, and that’s getting the Zeros to set themselves over NTP with static IPs. Do you have any suggestions? Put ’em in the comments and help a Jedi out.

LIRC is pretty handy for anything you want to control remotely, like a stereo system.

Portable DVD Player gets Raspberry Pi Zero Upgrade

You might remember a time when people thought portable DVD players were a pretty neat idea. In the days before netbooks, cheap tablets, and arguably even the widespread adoption of smartphones, it seemed perfectly reasonable to lug around a device that did nothing but play movies. Today we look back at them as we would flip phones: a quaint precursor to the technology overload we find ourselves in currently. But the fact remains that millions of these comical little devices were pumped into the greedy maw of the consumer electronics market. They’re ripe for the hacking, all you need is some inspiration.

So if this grafting of a portable DVD player and the Raspberry Pi Zero W created by [nutsacrilege] doesn’t get you sniffing around your local second-hand store for a donor device, nothing will. By integrating a Pi running Kodi, the player gets a multi-media kick in the pants that arguably makes up for the rather archaic form factor. Not only can it play a wide array of local and online content, but it could even be used as portable game system if you were so inclined.

Rest assured, this isn’t some lazy five-minute mod. All of the original physical controls have been made functional by way of a MCP3008 ADC connected to the Pi’s GPIO and some clever Python scripting. Even the headphone jack was made functional by wiring it up to a USB sound card, and by integrating a tiny stripped down hub he was also able to add an external USB port. Who needs discs when you can plug in a flash drive full of content?

Speaking of which, [nutsacrilege] reports that the original functions of the device are still intact after all his modifications. So if you can get the museum to loan you one, you can even play a DVD on the thing as its creators intended.

With luck, this project will help spur on some more portable DVD player hacking, which we’ve seen precious little of so far. Frankly, it would be nice to see people cramming Raspberry Pi’s into something other than Game Boys for once.

[via /r/raspberry_pi]

Pi Weather Lamp Puts Lava Lamps To Shame

Representing the weather on an LED lamp in a manner that’s easy to interpret can be difficult, but [Gosse Adema]’s weather/matrix lamp makes it not only obvious what the weather is but also offers a very attractive display. For rain, drops of light move downward, and for wind, sideways. The temperature is shown using a range of colors from red to blue, and since he is situated in the Netherlands he needed snow, which he shows as white. A rainy, windy day has lights moving both down and sideways with temperature information as the background.

Weather matrix lamp

To implement it he mounted LED strips inside a 3D printed cylinder with reflectors for each LED, all of which fitted into a glass cylinder taken from another lamp purchased online. The brains of it is a Raspberry Pi Zero W housed in the bottom along with a fan. Both the LEDs and the fan are controlled by the Pi. He took a lot of care with power management, first calculating the current that the LEDs would draw, and then writing Python code to limit that draw. However upon measurement, the current draw was much lower than expected and so he resized the power supply appropriately. He also took care to correctly size the wires and properly distribute the power with a specially made power distribution board. Overall, we really like the thorough job he’s done.

But then again, what’s not to like about [Gosse]’s projects. In the area of lighting, he’s dazzled us with WiFi controlled Christmas tree ornaments, but he’s also delighted us with a Prusa i3 based LEGO 3D printer on which he printed LEGO parts and then made a special extruder for printing chocolate.

Google’s AIY Vision Kit Augments Pi With Vision Processor

Google has announced their soon to be available Vision Kit, their next easy to assemble Artificial Intelligence Yourself (AIY) product. You’ll have to provide your own Raspberry Pi Zero W but that’s okay since what makes this special is Google’s VisionBonnet board that they do provide, basically a low power neural network accelerator board running TensorFlow.

AIY VisionBonnet with Myriad 2 (MA2450) chip
AIY VisionBonnet with Myriad 2 (MA2450) chip

The VisionBonnet is built around the Intel® Movidius™ Myriad 2 (aka MA2450) vision processing unit (VPU) chip. See the video below for an overview of this chip, but what it allows is the rapid processing of compute-intensive neural networks. We don’t think you’d use it for training the neural nets, just for doing the inference, or in human terms, for making use of the trained neural nets. It may be worth getting the kit for this board alone to use in your own hacks. An alternative is to get Modivius’s Neural Compute Stick, which has the same chip on a USB stick for around $80, not quite double the Vision Kit’s $45 price tag.

The Vision Kit isn’t out yet so we can’t be certain of the details, but based on the hardware it looks like you’ll point the camera at something, press a button and it will speak. We’ve seen this before with this talking object recognizer on a Pi 3 (full disclosure, it was made by yours truly) but without the hardware acceleration, a single object recognition took around 10 seconds. In the vision kit we expect the recognition will be in real-time. So the Vision Kit may be much more dynamic than that. And in case it wasn’t clear, a key feature is that nothing is done on the cloud here, all processing is local.

The kit comes with three different applications: an object recognition one that can recognize up to 1000 different classes of objects, another that recognizes faces and their expressions, and a third that detects people, cats, and dogs. While you can get up to a lot of mischief with just that, you can run your own neural networks too. If you need a refresher on TensorFlow then check out our introduction. And be sure to check out the Myriad 2 VPU video below the break.

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ZeroBot is as Simple as it Gets

Usually at Hackaday we like to post projects that are of interest because of their complexity. That’s especially true for robots — the more motors and sensors the better. But, occasionally we come across a project that’s beautiful because of its simplicity. That’s the case with [Max.K’s] ZeroBot, recently posted over on Hackaday.io.

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Hackaday Prize Entry: Rangefinder + Camera = SmartZoom

The interesting thing about submissions for The Hackaday Prize is seeing unusual projects and concepts that might not otherwise pop up. [ken conrad] has a curious but thoughtfully designed idea for Raspberry Pi-based SmartZoom Imaging that uses a Pi Zero and camera plus some laser emitters to create a device with a very specific capability: a camera that constantly and dynamically resizes the image make the subject appear consistently framed and sized, regardless of its distance from the lens. The idea brings together two separate functions: rangefinding and automated zooming and re-sampling of the camera image.

The Raspberry Pi uses the camera board plus some forward-pointing laser dots as a rangefinder; as long as at least two laser dots are visible on the subject, the distance between the device and the subject can be calculated. The Pi then uses the knowledge of how near or far the subject is to present a final image whose zoom level has been adjusted to match (and offset) the range of the subject from the camera, in effect canceling out the way an object appears larger or smaller based on distance.

We’ve seen visible laser dots as the basis of rangefinding before, but never tied into a zoom function. Doubtlessly, [ken conrad] will update his project with some example applications, but in the meantime we’re left wondering: is there a concrete, practical use case for this unusual device? We have no idea, but we’d certainly have fun trying to find one.

The Raspberry Pi As An IR To WiFi Bridge

[Jason] has a Sonos home sound system, with a bunch of speakers connected via WiFi. [Jason] also has a universal remote designed and manufactured in a universe where WiFi doesn’t exist. The Sonos can not be controlled via infrared. There’s an obvious problem here, but luckily tiny Linux computers with WiFi cost $10, and IR receivers cost $2. The result is an IR to WiFi bridge to control all those ‘smart’ home audio solutions.

The only thing [Jason] needed to control his Sonos from a universal remote is an IR receiver and a Raspberry Pi Zero W. The circuit is simple – just connect the power and ground of the IR receiver to the Pi, and plug the third pin of the receiver into a GPIO pin. The new, fancy official Raspberry Pi Zero enclosure is perfect for this build, allowing a little IR-transparent piece of epoxy poking out of a hole designed for the Pi camera.

For the software, [Jason] turned to Node JS, and LIRC, a piece of software that decodes IR signals. With the GPIO pin defined, [Jason] set up the driver and used the Sonos HTTP API to send commands to his audio unit. There’s a lot of futzing about with text files for this build, but the results speak for themselves: [Jason] can now use a universal remote with everything in his home stereo now.