Multi-touch skin devices use a Raspberry Pi Zero to trigger actions

Credit: Saarland University

Hi everyone. Been battling “the blues” for a few days. I still am, but less so, so I thought I’d “get back on the horse” so to speak.

Scientists from Germany’s Saarland University, led by Prof. Jürgen Steimle, have been developing a technology for the past three years which they’ve called Multi-Touch Skin. The devices, which are a thin layer of PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic over-printed with an inkjet printer in less than a minute, can be adhered to the skin anywhere on the body. These are wired to a touch-controller chip which is then connected to a Raspberry Pi Zero, powered by batteries. The Zero then triggers a response based on the type of touch recorded. At present, these actions have included:

  • a bracelet on which a two-finger rotation allows users to change the color of an LED lamp and on which a two-finger sweep controls the brightness
  • a behind-the-ear sticker that lets users control the volume of a music player by swiping up or down, advance through tracks by swiping left or right, and pause playback by pressing
  • a forearm sticker that, when squeezed, causes a smartphone to send a text message
  • a palm-mounted sticker that lets users accept or reject calls from a smartphone, with a touch.

You can read a bit more (in German) over at Saarland.

Humanoid robot for the Raspberry Pi launched on Kickstarter – say hello to PiMecha!

SB Components have just launched their latest Kickstarter. They are raising funds for the PiMecha, a metal-plate, humanoid, servo-controlled robot that uses a Pi for programming. It has a massive 16 servos on-board and is controlled by an add-on board which sits on top of the Raspberry Pi. Compatible with any 40-pin Raspberry Pi, the PiMecha is programmed via a visual interface, or by Python. There’s even a choice of colours – red, blue, white or yellow – and you can easily remove the parts, perhaps to laser-etch a logo or something on the breastplate. They’re intending on open-sourcing both the design and the software at the end of the Kickstarter, which is terrific and is likely to generate a community around the product.

Pledges start at £299 for a non-assembled PiMecha without a Pi and rise, not unreasonably, for Pi-included and assembled versions. I saw the PiMecha in action at Pi Wars at the end of April and was very impressed. This price is, in my opinion, not unreasonable considering the quality of the product and the team is enthusiastic about making it a success. Their goal, of £25k is, again, not unreasonable and I wish them every success with the campaign.

You can follow the campaign and pledge on Kickstarter and see the campaign video (with over-chirpy American commentator!) below:

Etcher upgraded to allow multiple target writing – great news for Raspberry Jam organisers!

Etcher, the brilliant SD card writing software, has just been updated to v1.4.3 and there’s some great new features in the release.

  • Ability to write to multiple targets at once. Just select them from the device listing. This means that Raspberry Jam organisers can now get those pesky SD batches written much more quickly.
  • Ability to flash the Compute Module directly.
  • Better performance and more reliable.
  • Ability to write empty SD cards plugged into a Raspberry Pi Zero/Zero W without a card writer.

You can download Etcher from this website.

pi-topOS gets an update to the latest Raspbian – upgrade your Raspberry Pi

The folks over at pi-top have just released a new version of their OS, Polaris. The new version uses Raspbian Stretch as a base and is now compatible out-of-the-box with the recently launched Raspberry Pi 3B+. Other improvements include an update to pi-topCODER, their learning environment. Full details can be found on the pi-top blog and the new OS image can be downloaded here.

Play a game of Ghost Chess with this interactive, Raspberry Pi-powered board

Alex Angelov, Tim Ness and Alex Smith have teamed up as part of their Real Time Embedded Programming course to build this wonderful game of ‘Ghost Chess’. The system uses a Raspberry Pi to control a robotic arm mechanism with an electromagnet attached. By issuing commands to the Pi, the arm can move into position underneath a chess board and move the magnetised chess pieces to the correct position. The Pi runs an instance of the Stockfish chess engine to allow the computer to try and beat you. They’ve open-sourced everything you need to build your own and have documented it over on GitHub. You can see a video of it in action below (I recommend turning the audio off!):