This DIY parking assistant uses Lidar, an LED matrix and a Raspberry Pi

Maker Medinc has taken a Raspberry Pi, a couple of Tiny Lidar sensors and a 32×32 LED matrix and created a practical parking assistant. The two sensors are attached to the car at the back and side and then wired through the car to a Raspberry Pi. The Pi is then used to process distance readings and display the assistant’s user interface on the LED matrix.

The 32×32 LED display will assist you by showing arrows to move forward, left or right and a count down display with colored corners to indicate how far you still have to drive.

You can see a demo of the system below and read how he did it on Instructables:

Whisky distillery phone boxes use a Raspberry Pi to get the message across

Grant Gibson from Glasgow-based Bright Signals was contracted by the Jura whisky distillery to build some phone boxes which would allow people in far-flung areas of the country to listen to voices from the Jura island, as well as hear from the brewery and sample some of their produce. This elaborate marketing scheme is powered by a Raspberry Pi which handles the ringing of the telephone, the IVR-style menus (you know the sort: press 1 for… press 2 for…) and the user interface which was displayed on a Pimoroni Display-o-tron LCD.

You can read about the build here and you can see a time-lapse of the build below:

Raspberry Pi launches new software to support High Altitude Ballooning

Raspberry Pi has just announced two software packages to help groups and individuals get into High Altitude Ballooning. Created in conjunction with HAB enthusiast Dave Akerman, one package is installed on the Pi going up into near-space and the other is used to track it when it comes back to Earth.

Pytrack goes on the Space-bound Pi and has the following features:

  • Learners can create their own tracker in a simpler programming language, rather than simply configuring the existing software
  • The core mechanics of the tracker are exposed for the learner to understand, but complex details are abstracted away
  • Learners can integrate the technology with standard Python libraries and existing projects
  • Pytrack is modular, allowing learners to experiment with underlying radio components

SkyGate is a complete tracking application that goes into a Pi with touchscreen and has the following features:

  • Live tunable LoRa reception and decoding
  • Live tunable RTTY reception and decoding (with compatible USB SDR)
  • Image reception and previewing
  • GPS tracking to report your location (when using compatible GPS USB dongle)
  • Data, images, and GPS upload functionality to HabHub tracking site
  • An Overview tab presenting a high-level summary and bearing to payload
  • Full customisation via the Settings tab

You can read more about the two pieces of software here and install them using the commands below.

sudo apt update
sudo apt install python3-pytrack
sudo apt install skygate

Pi Wars 2019 – Challenges announced, applications open, full speed ahead

Tim and I are delighted to announce that details of the challenges set for Pi Wars 2019 are now available on the Pi Wars website. I’ve also included links to the individual challenges below. We were delighted to be able to announce this at the Raspberry Fields festival in Cambridge at the weekend during a talk about the origins of Pi Wars. Pi Wars will take place on 30th & 31st March 2019 in Cambridge, UK.

As well as this, we’ve announced our Space Exploration theme. It will be 50 years since the first Apollo/NASA moon landing and so we’re going all-out on that theme. But if you’re not into Space Exploration, and that kind of thing, don’t worry – Pi Wars will still be as much fun as usual, it’s just you’ll see more papier mache landscapes than usual 🙂

The challenges for next year are as follows:


Autonomous challenges are where the Raspberry Pi is controlling the robot by itself for the duration of the challenge without interference from the operator.


Remote-controlled challenges are where one (or more) members of the team are controlling the robot via wireless controller(s).

There are also side-challenges for blogging, technical and artistic merit and, of course, a special prize. You can read more about those here.

Applications for the event are now open and you can see the application form and more details here.

Raspbian update for the Raspberry Pi features new first-boot wizard

Simon Long, over at Raspberry Pi, has just announced an update to the Raspbian Operating System. The biggest improvement is the addition of a desktop set-up wizard which runs when you first boot up. This lets you set-up Localisation settings (pictured above) and connect to a wi-fi network straight away. It’s been designed to make things easier for first-time users who are often all-at-sea when first booting. There’s also been an attempt at removing some of the lesser-used pieces of software from the main distro and included as a handy app installer so you can install what you want. They haven’t listed what’s been removed, however, so it’s time to download the image and find out for yourself! There are also bug fixes and updates, including a much-needed update to Chromium. Read more here and download the new image here.

This Raspberry Pi-controlled laser pointer writes the weather out for you

Please note: these types of lasers can damage your eyes – so please, use appropriate eye-protection.

Tucker Shannon has taken a Raspberry Pi Zero and two stepper motor driver boards and then mounted a 5mw, 405nm laser pointer on top. He’s then programmed the Raspberry Pi to receive messages from Google Assistant via IFTTT and Adafruit IO. This means that he can ask his phone to give him a weather report via laser and the Pi will pick up that signal and draw the current temperature and icon out on UV sensitive paper. You can see how he built it here, download the 3D printable files here and see a tutorial on how to build your own below: