Tag Archives: Raspberry Pi

Touch the banana, get the Wi-Fi password

Bet your office doesn’t share wireless network credentials like this… 

Turns out, bananas aren’t just an excellent source of potassium, they’re also an excellent source of wireless network credentials. Just ask Danish Reddit user and network administrator “Sysvival” who recently decided to use the fruit as a unique way to distribute Wi-Fi passwords to guests at his workplace.


The idea originated after Sysvival was asked to set up a captive portal for his office, like those seen in most hotel chains and coffee shops. The administrator decided to generate a pool of 5,000 passwords, each of which were valid for eight hours of access. These temporary codes are stored on a Raspberry Pi, which is connected to a Makey Makey GO (ATmega32U4) via a USB cable. The Makey Makey forms the a connection between the banana and Pi.

Now, whenever a visitor needs to get onto the Wi-Fi network, all he or she has to do is touch the banana, which triggers the Raspberry Pi to spit out a password on an attached display. When contact is established, the capacitance of the banana drops. The Makey Makey detects this change and interprets it as the press of a key, therefore sending the signal to the Pi that it needs to hand out a password voucher.


Why go through such lengths? According to Sysvival, “It’s fun, it’ll make people smile, it beats a static WPA password in funniness, and when people leave our office, they can’t access our Wi-Fi because there’s no banana to touch.” Intrigued? You can check out the entire project on its Reddit thread here.

This running Christmas tree is spreading holiday cheer in Tokyo

“An Uber for illuminations.” 

A British inventor living in Japan has decided to spread Christmas cheer in a rather unusual way this year. Dressed up as a Christmas tree, complete with flashing lights and decorations, Joseph Tame is turning more than just a couple heads throughout Tokyo’s streets, sidewalks, stores, train stations, and even in the back of its pulled rickshaws.


The aptly named Running Christmas Tree costume consists of an aluminum frame wrapped with a pair of backpacks, each stuffed with branches from two fake trees. The attention-grabbing getup — which took two months to build — is equipped with 99 batteries, 1,500 LEDs, 100 feet of wiring, nine microcontrollers (a combination of Arduino and Raspberry Pis), three onboard cameras, as well as a built-in library of 153 Christmas songs. From the looks of the video below, he is even wearing some slick Adafruit Firewalker-like kicks.

Tame says he is taking bookings for personal appearances in the suit, which he is billing as an “Uber for illuminations.”


“The tree is available on-demand via your smartphone using the links below, and from Dec 26th 2015 via our new iOS app. The tree can come to you wherever you are in the world, but please note that depending on your location it may take a bit of time to reach you; with a combined weight of 93kg (68kg of Joseph + 25kg of Tree) it is currently too heavy for delivery by drone, and is not yet available from Amazon Prime due to there only being one of him,” its creator explains.

See the costume in action below!

Optimizing crop irrigation with Arduino

To optimize crop yield, this group of Makers developed an Arduino-based irrigation system that uses sensors and a weather station.

As part of a recent hackathon in Madrid, one team of Makers created a grid system to optimize crop field irrigation through an array of soil moisture sensors and a weather station.


Crop Squares (inspired by alien crop circles) was initially conceived as a way to make the irrigation process both sustainable and efficient by continuously reading and sending sensor data. However, the ultimate goal is that that one day, the system can implemented in developing countries and rural areas with scarce resources.

For its prototype, the group employed an Arduino Pro Mini (ATmega328) along with moisture sensors in potted plants to detect moisture levels, and a Raspberry Pi was used to garner weather data for the area under surveillance. Meanwhile, data was wirelessly transmitted through an ESP8266 Wi-Fi module. As a way to show off its automated potential, an Arduino Leonardo (ATmega32U4) was tasked with reading another moisture probe and activating a servo motor that pushed up a water bottle to perform the irrigation process, whenever levels dipped below a predefined threshold.


The project features a graphical touchscreen user interface running Dizmo software that shows a map of the field along with collected sensor measurements. Rectangles assigned to each soil sensor change their colors (green, yellow and red) depending on moisture levels. According to its creators, the display could even share weather station results for that area in real-time.

On the backend, the Makers compiled Node.js runtime and installed the Node-RED workflow tool to deliver sensor information via the IBM Bluemix IoTF MQTT Broker. They also wrote Python scripts based on Adafruit’s libraries to read data from the weather station sensors and broadcast them through MQTT.


Intrigued? Check out their entire project here.

Hacking an Amazon Echo to control a wheelchair

This Maker modified his electric wheelchair to be voice-controlled using Amazon Echo, Raspberry Pi and Arduino.

Amazon Echo is a device that listens to what you say, and can respond with information or even some simple home automation tasks. Turning lights on is interesting, but Bob Paradiso wondered if he “could push Echo’s utility a little further.” In his case, he was able to modify an electric wheelchair to be voice-controlled using the Echo with a Raspberry Pi and Arduino Uno (ATmega328).


Although Paradiso considered using Echo to add things an Amazon to-do list and IFTTT to carry out an action based on the list, he decided to instead setup the Raspberry Pi to emulate a Hue lighting hub. This meant more direct control of the chair, and less delay between voice command and action.

As seen in the first video below, this type of interface might be cumbersome for day-to-day use, but could possibly serve as an alternate input method. Paradiso is quick to point out that his control method is a demonstration, and “lacks CRITICAL safeties that need to be in place for anyone (but especially someone with significant disability) to use safely.”


Paradiso also tried this out using only Pi-based software PocketSpinx, which, according to him gave “acceptable but worse results.” This can be seen (with a functioning fan at 1:25) in the second clip below.

Intrigued? Head over to the Maker’s entire project page to read more.

Rewind: How the Raspberry Pi looked back in 2006

“We started with a piece of Veroboard, an Atmel chip and a block of SRAM.”

When you think of DIY electronics, two boards in particular always seem to pop into mind. While there’s no shortage of ways to control and power your projects, Arduino and Raspberry Pi are undoubtedly the clear favorites to likely found at the core of most self-made gadgets. Keep in mind, both devices clearly have various uses and advantages. For starters, RPi is a fully functional barebones computer, whereas Arduino is simply a microcontroller. Despite their differences, however, they both share one thing in common: Atmel was there in the beginning, long before millions of these units were ever sold.


While we’ve previously highlighted some of the earliest Arduinos, did you know that Eben Upon actually began devising the Raspberry Pi with a piece of Veroboard, a block of SRAM, and yes, an Atmel chip? (Shoutout to the good ol’ STK500 eval kit!) A while back, the creator of the $45 PC demonstrated how he built one of his homemade prototypes nearly 10 years ago today, prior to giving up on DIP, through-hole components and the stripboard.

This model, which we’ll call the “2006 Edition,” was built around the mighty ATmega644 clocked at 22.1MHz with 512K of SRAM for data and framebuffer storage. 19 of the MCU’s 32 GPIO lines were used to drive the SRAM address bus. Clearly, one noticeable disparity is that the decade-old RPi lacks some of the power of its more modern counterpart. However, that is not to say this early design wasn’t impressive, it was capable of outputting a resolution of 320 x 240 and could render very simple 3D graphics.


“To generate a 320×240 component video signal, the Atmel rapidly increments the address, and the data lines are fed via 74HC-series buffers to a trio of simple summing-point DACs; during horizontal and vertical blanking, it is free to perform other operations,” Upton explains. (You can see it in action in Upton’s throwback video below.)

Want to spark some RPi nostalgia and create your very own 2006 replica? Upton has made the schematics and PCB layout available for download here.

[Image: Raspberry Pi via Eben Upton]

PupPod is a smart dog toy that trains and entertains

Man’s best friend is smart. His toys, not so much… until now. 

For dog owners, do you ever wonder what your pup does when you’re away? Or maybe you do know because you’ve had the experience of coming home to destroyed furniture, garbage strewn on the floor, and… an anxious dog. This destructive behavior has been attributed to separation anxiety in dogs, so what can you do to keep your best friend from feeling lonely? Canine owner and software designer Erick Eidus has a solution.


Meet PupPod, an interactive, self-learning pet toy that helps reduce boredom, anxiety and destructive behavior in dogs, while also helping them learn new skills when you’re out for the day. Eidus had conceived the idea after he started thinking of games from a dog’s perspective and how pet parents could better understand their pet, check in on them and even interact with them when at work. He brought this idea to an Arduino meet-up, and it materialized in just 48 hours. After testing over 250 dogs across five prototypes, the Maker and his team are now ready to make PupPod available to a community of pilot users.


PupPod is a smart platform that is wirelessly connected to a treat dispenser, video camera and an accompanying mobile app. The unit offers a new use of the operant conditioning method by having your dog play multi-level games and earn treat rewards. You can stream live video, make decisions in the game, trigger treats remotely and record videos. You can also review your dog’s progress, monitor and set limits to treat/food rewards, as well as understand what they’re learning all through your own doggy dashboard. Aside from that, the gives you access to a growing PupPod community and a leaderboard so you can compare your four-legged companion to your friends or other dogs of similar age and breed.


Built around the LightBlue Bean (ATmega328P), the PupPod is comprised of three components: an incredibly tough and durable Kong Wobbler to house the toy; a PupPod Hub which includes a 720p HD camera, Bluetooth integration and a RaspberryPi B+ to send data and video to the PupCloud; and a treat dispenser. The platform employs a motion sensor to detect when your dog comes near and emits sounds from an internal speaker to get your dog’s attention. The toy communicates with the PupPod Hub over Wi-Fi and uses an accelerometer to sense motion when it’s touched.

Eidus and his team have just wrapped up a successful Kickstarter campaign, and hope to get the first batch of toys out come February. Interested in one of your own? Check out PupPod’s official page here.

Artist makes music out of spinning fool’s gold

This Arduino-powered synthesizer can turn a 300 million-year-old pyrite disc into tunes.

Pyrite is a common, naturally occurring iron sulfide whose metallic luster and brass-yellow hue has earned itself the well-known nickname of fool’s gold. Despite its abundance in nature, there’s a much rarer form of the mineral which is crystallized in a radial shape resembling that of a disc. Interestingly enough, these so-called ‘pyrite suns’ or ‘pyrite dollars’ can only be found in Illinois, some dating back nearly 300 millions years.


But what if you transformed these historic discs into a vinyl record-like music maker? That’s exactly what media artist Dimitry Morozov — aka ::vtol:: — has done in his latest, out-of-the-ordinary project. Ra can best be defined as a synthesizer which employs a laser reader to scan the irregularities of a pyrite disc and translate that data into sound.

“The project originated as a result of an interesting set of circumstances — a pyrite disc was given to me as a gift by a mineral seller in Boulder City,” ::vtol:: explains. “Upon hearing about my works, she asked to do something with such crystal, and refused to take payment for getting it. In the same period, I was reading articles on various ways of archiving and preservation of sounds from the first, historical sources of the recorded sound — wax discs and other fragile carriers. All technologies were based on the usage of lasers.”


Feeling inspired, the Maker decided to create a laser sound reader of his own, which would be able to produce tunes from various uneven surfaces, like that of the pyrite sun, without the help of many resources. In order to bring his idea to life, all that was required was an Arduino Nano (ATmega328), a Raspberry Pi, a DIY laser pickup/reader, stepper and servo motors, as well as a 3W mono sound system that towers above the machine. (There’s an audio output jack, too.)

Along one edge of Ra’s triangular frame lies a control board that consists of nine switches and 10 knobs for dialing in envelope filters and modulations, setting processor parameters and choosing between 16 DSP effects programs. What’s more, ::vtol:: can manually adjust the position of the custom laser reader, as well as the disc’s spinning speed and direction.

Intrigued? You can listen to Ra’s experimental, eerie and somewhat sci-fi-ish sounds below!

Creating fake passports from your personal data

This robotic installation will steal and share your data — with your help. 

The brainchild of ECAL student Martin Hertig, Sensible Data is a unique project designed to show just how easily people are willing to give up their personal information in exchange for fun. The playful installation collects a user’s data, judges their mood, age, gender and beauty, and creates a faux passport that is also randomly sent to another participant without them knowing.


If you think about, what really happens when you openly give your name, numbers and other information online, and where does it go? Although the experiment was done intentionally to test a small sampling’s confidence in how data is collected, it does highlight a much broader privacy issue that exists today, especially in the wake of several mainstream leaks.

The Maker’s exploration is comprised of three machines that are essentially modified versions of the Piccolo CNC, an open source drawing device based on the Arduino Pro Micro (ATmega32U4). Meanwhile, a Raspberry Pi acts as the brain of the installation, running a Python script for every step of the process. Each script listens to the desired input and relays the plotting commands to the necessary gadget.


How it works is pretty straightforward. First, a participant snaps a selfie with an iPad that’s automatically synced up to a Raspberry Pi using Dropbox. A Python script takes this picture and converts it into a line drawing with the help of OpenCV. The user is then prompted to send a blank email to the project’s iCloud address.


From there, the person’s face is analyzed. Upon receiving an email, the Raspberry Pi transmits the previously taken image to the Rekognition API. The facial recognition program is able to properly determine one’s mood, age, gender and their beauty, which is measured as a percentage. This information is stored in a database and inked onto the novelty passport letter by letter using a laser-cut stamp-wheel.


Last but not least, the participant is asked to press a dubious button that is actually a fingerprint scanner. Once the validation step is complete, an email with a matching participant’s data including their fingerprint, photo and email address is sent to the user. (Absurdly, the matchmaking is determined by the amount of lines in the portrait.)

The idea is that, when encountered with a decision, more times than not people are willing to just hand over their likeness, not knowing what will be done with it. Intrigued? Check out the entire project here, and be sure to watch it in action below!

This LED map tracks the MBTA in real-time

Maker uses an Arduino, Raspberry Pi and LEDs to create a real-time map that keeps tabs on Boston’s trains.

Inspired by his love for making and public transit, MIT student Ian Reynolds has built an MBTA map into the wall of his fraternity room to show real-time locations of vehicles using bright LEDs.


The Maker employed a few meters of NeoPixels, driven by an Arduino Uno (ATmega328) that takes orders from a Python script running on a Raspberry Pi lying on his floor. The color of the LEDs were specially designed to match those of each transit line (e.g. red line, blue line, green line, orange line, etc.). Every 10 to 15 seconds, the system receives data via the MBTA’s API, which in turn, causes the respective lights to flash based on the trains’ approximate GPS location throughout Boston.


“It maps those to some LEDs, decides which ones actually need to be changed, and then sends that information to the Arduino, which does the bit pushing,” Reynolds explains. “In addition, I’m writing a tiny web app that lets me change visualizations and adjust the brightness for when I need to sleep.”

Intrigued? The Maker has put together an elaborate blog post that breaks down his entire project, from the hardware to the headaches. You can also get a glimpse of it all below!

ZeroPi is an Arduino and Raspberry Pi-compatible dev kit

ZeroPi is an ARM Cortex-M0+-based development board for robotic motion structure systems, 3D printers, CNC machines and more.

ZeroPi is an Arduino and Raspberry Pi-compatible development kit for robotic motion structure systems and 3D printers. Based on the mighty Atmel | SMART SAM D21, the next-generation board is capable of controlling 11 micro servos and either eight DC motors or four stepper motors simultaneously.


Equipped with a four-channel SLOT interface, the module is compatible with today’s most common stepper motors and DC drivers, and supports open source sensors. ZeroPi will certainly be an appealing option for a wide range of applications, from 3D printing and CNC machines to mobile robots. In fact, the board boasts specially designed M4 holes that are well suited for Makeblock aluminum mechanical parts used in many DIY projects.

Additionally, Makers can take comfort in knowing that ZeroPi can be programmed with the highly popular Arduino IDE, giving you access to a number of easy-to-use libraries. According to its creators, a series of example codes for ZeroPi will be made available, such as an encoder readout and temperature monitoring.


And that’s not all. By simply plugging the SAM D21 powered board into the Raspberry Pi’s connector, you can also unlock countless features, spanning from tablet and wireless control to Bluetooth connectivity. With RPi, you can install a web browser to command the motors and servos directly, as well as remotely monitor your 3D print job. It can even interface with Java Script.

On top of all that, the team was able to successfully port the Marlin and Repetier firmware to ZeroPi for use in a vast majority of open source 3D printers. Not only does this eliminate the need for an expansion board, the kit is four times faster than the Arduino Mega, cheaper and half its size.


“ZeroPi is also specially designed for motion structure systems. We have built many projects to test its functions and discover more possibilities from simple to complex systems of robotic,” the team adds. “We built a Johnny-Five robot, based on [the] Johnny-Five library by using ZeroPi to control this large motion structure and achieve the image recognition function and wireless control.”

Aside from the SAMD21J18 at its core, other key specs of the ZeroPi include:

  • Operating voltage: 3.3V
  • General purpose I/O pins: 35
  • UART: 2
  • Analog input pins: 4, 12-bit ADC channels
  • Analog output pins: 1, 10-bit DAC
  • DC current per I/O pin: 7mA
  • Flash: 256KB
  • SRAM: 32KB
  • Clock speed: 48MHz

Intrigued? Head over to ZeroPi’s Kickstarter campaign, where it is currently seeking $5,000. Delivery is estimated for December 2015.