Monday, November 21, 2016

Nerdy 9000 with @Raspberry_Pi and @AmazonEcho #MakerEd #ImAMaker

This weekend, I thought it would be fun to attempt to turn my Raspberry Pi in to an Amazon Echo. A number of people have tweeted at me since this started to be shared around the Internet and I thought I would give it a go.

Here are the supplies you will need to get up and running:

Raspberry Pi 3 with the current Jessie build (Other Pis will work, but the built-in wifi is a huge time saver.
USB microphone
External speaker that can plug into the Pi
HD monitor, keyboard, and mouse to set up the Pi

After gathering the supplies, the next part was to work through the programming. Here is a link to the Github page that will walk you through the programming of the Raspberry Pi. The programming was simple as long as the directions are followed as they are written. One misspelled word or misplaced comma will cause errors. Take your time and you should have the code up and running in about an hour. I opted to run the voice recognition software so it would respond to "Alexa". It is possible to dive deeper into the code to have it respond to other programmed words, but I have not gotten there yet. Maybe during the Holiday Break.

Here is the first video after I got it up and running. No case or anything, just the program working as it should.

Once it was working, I knew that I wanted to do more than just have a Pi and a speaker sitting on my desk. I thought about HAL 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey. It would be very cool to have something like that to connect the Alexa Pi. I jumped on Thingiverse to see if there was anything out there and I found a design from Makerperson that I could totally tweak as needed.

I shrunk the design a little bit to make it shorter and not as thick. I also edited the HAL out and replaced it with Nerdy instead. I knew I wanted to add an "eye" so I printed half a sphere to fit in the whole. I drilled out the back, wired up a red LED, connected the wires to the Pi, wrote a script to have the Pi turn on the light for Pin 26, and I was good to go.

Here is a the printed case, added "eye" and attached red LED.

I let it sit for a little bit and thought it needed something a little bit more. It would be awesome if the light faded in an out. I did not want it to blink, but do a slow fade in and out. This was a bit outside my skill set, so I need to do some searching of the Internet to find the write code to do what I want. I found some helpful instructions on, that walked me through the process. I had to rewrite the code to make it work for just one LED, but that was nice practice. It was fun to learn about GPIO.PWM.

Here, I was able to make the LED slowly pulse or breathe as it awaits instruction.

This might seem like a project that is too complex to tackle, but it is doable. If you eliminate the 3D printer, you can still have the system set up and do exactly what you need it to do. You have unlimited possibilities when it comes to creating a housing for your new Amazon Echo. If you are looking for a fun project, check this out and see what you can do with your next Raspberry Pi.

Looking to learn more about Making and Makerspaces for you and your school, check out my book Your Starter Guide to Makerspaces for nerdy tips on getting started.

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