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Fairy Tell Bot

A storyteller bot for Alexa to read bedtime stories from children’s classics.

Tools Used: Alexa Echo, Alexa Skill Kit, AWS – Lambda, S3, Python SDK Boto3

Check details on hackster – https://www.hackster.io/pamruta/fairy-tell-bot-8b4298

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Programmable Jewellery

Objective: Create Fashionably Smart Jewellery using Near Field Communication (NFC) Technology.

What you need:

[1] NXP NTag Stickers (preferable NTAG-21x series). I purchased mine on Amazon.com for under Rs 500 (pack of 6). Waterproof tags are also available.

[2] NFC compatible smart phone.

[3] Jewellery items you would like to smarten up (e.g. brooch, pendant, cufflinks, bracelet, watch etc) with a surface of at least 3cm in diameter to stick the NTag sticker.

Step 1: Stick the NFC sticker on the backside of your jewellery.

Step 2: Enable the NFC option in your mobile phone’s settings to read / write the tag.

Step 3: Program the NFC Tag using the NFC TagWriter App by NXP.

With this mobile app, you can program your tag to perform number of actions such as to share your business card / contact details, open your company’s or product’s webpage, send an email message or SMS, place a phone call, navigate users to a specific location / address on the map etc.

Below are some of the popular use-cases:

  1. Smart Home Automation: NFC tags are attached near the entrance door at home to automatically connect your phone to your home’s wifi network as you enter the house, or disable wifi when you leave. Your guests can also connect to your home network without having to share your password.
  2. Retail: NFC tags are attached on products to take customers directly to the product’s page where they can learn more about its features and specifications.
  3. Business Cards: In business meetings and conferences, NFC tags are added on business cards to share / add your contact information (such as your name, affiliation, job title, phone number and email) directly to the recipient’s address book.
  4. Print Ads: Many shops and restaurants use NFC tags on their print advertisements e.g. restaurant’s take-out menu to navigate customers to their store location.
  5. Technical Support: Attach a NFC tag on your laptop, fridge or TV to save and call the customer support number for any technical issues or service requests.
  6. Health-Care: Patients suffering from Alzheimer’s or Dementia can wear the NFC tags that carries their personal information, such as home address or phone number of a close relative.
  7. Smart Cars: NFC tags can be attached on car’s dashboard to enable your phone’s bluetooth setting and pair it with your car’s. If you are stuck in traffic, with a single tap, you can also send a quick text message or make a phone call to let your boss / spouse know that you are running late.

I’ve programmed mine so that it takes users to my LinkedIn profile or website.

Step 4: Test your newly programmed jewellery by simply tapping it on the back of any NFC enabled phone to make sure it’s working as expected. Done!

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Shopping for your first Robot

While smart home assistants like Alexa offer convenient hands-free help via voice interface, home robots go one step further by adding computer vision (ability to see) through cameras, and mobility (to walk around and make gestures).. These robotic assistants can do lot of things like taking pictures, working as your home surveillance camera, reading story books to children, in addition to playing music, booking taxi, keeping reminders, calendars, to-do lists, checking online recipes, flight status and more..

Below are some of the home robots you can purchase today!

Kuri: Adorable home robot launched by Bosch start-up Mayfield Robotics in CES 2017. This robot is primarily meant to entertain children and looks like a snow-man. Features include touch sensors, HD cameras for taking photos and videos, gestures through head nodding movements, speakers to play music, and mapping sensors for navigation. The price is at $899. Unlike the other robots out there, Kuri, however, lacks a display to play videos etc.

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Jibo: Jibo was launched through a crowdfunding initiative by Dr Cynthia Breazeal, an associate professor at the MIT Media Lab, and also costs at $899. Jibo offers a touch-screen display which can be used to interact with Jibo, in addition to voice-commands. Jibo can read the news, set alarm clock, play music, take pictures, make Skype video calls, order food delivery and more..

Jibo looks a lot similar to and therefore is often confused with LG’s Hub robot which connects to home appliances through Home IoT. LG, however, hasn’t officially announced any release date or price for their Hub robots.

Zenbo: from ASUS priced at $599. Features include voice-control for smart home devices (lighting, door locks, TV, aircon), request help in emergencies, taking pictures and reading stories to children. The developer program offers tools and SDKs to program new apps and features in Zenbo.

Pepper and NAO from Softbank Robotics – Unlike the other robots above which look like WALL-E or snow-man, these robots are somewhat humanoid in their shape and form. Their main usage has been to build robotic concierges to greet and assist customers in hotels, airports, shops and banks. The chat-bot API allows integration for existing bot applications built in MS Bot framework or DialogFlow. The Choregraphe suite offers a simple drag-n-drop UI to program dialogs and animations in the robot and to test simulations. The hefty price tag (somewhere between US $15K for NAO to $40K for Pepper), however, makes these robots suitable only for large corporates, rather than for domestic use.

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DIY: Smart Fridge

Objective: Turn your refrigerator into a Smart Home IoT device

What you need: Raspberry Pi 3 Model B, with Raspbian OS, Camera Module, Bluetooth Speaker, USB LED Light, Power Bank

Step 1: Hardware Setup

To avoid changing any built-in electric wiring in the fridge, I used a power bank to supply power to the Raspberry Pi device, and a USB LED light to provide lighting for camera, when the door is closed.

Connect your Raspberry Pi device to external speaker using bluetooth or audio cable. Connect the camera module to Raspberry Pi. Connect the LED light to Raspberry Pi through USB. Connect your Raspberry Pi device to a power bank.

The setup looks something like this, where all the external components except for the bluetooth speaker (camera, battery, LED light) are connected physically to the Raspberry Pi device.

Place the device in the fridge or kitchen cabinet so that the camera is pointing in the direction of the items inside.

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Step 2: Remote Access

Get your Raspberry Pi device’s IP address and connect from your mobile phone using the RaspiCam-Remote mobile app. Make sure you are able to view the inside of your fridge or kitchen cabinet on your mobile phone. Check my previous blog post on how to access the Pi camera on mobile phone.

Step 3: Image Recognition & Voice

I have uploaded a python script Smart-Fridge.py in my git repository under Smart-Home. This script takes a snapshot image with Pi camera, performs image recognition using AWS Rekognition API, prints the list of items found in the image on STDOUT, and also produces audio output using the Text-to-Speech API of AWS Polly, which is played on the external speaker connected to Raspberry Pi via bluetooth. The script can be run remotely from any computer connected to the Raspberry Pi device via VNC or SSH.

What’s Next:

Build some Alexa Skills so you can access your Raspberry Pi device from Alexa Echo. Ask Alexa “Hey Alexa, what’s in my fridge?”

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SPiCam: Raspberry Pi Surveillance Camera

Objective: Build a video surveillance camera on Raspberry Pi

What you’ll need: Raspberry Pi 3 with Raspbian OS, Camera Module, RaspiCam Remote mobile app

Step 1: Connect the Camera Module to your Raspberry Pi device

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Step 2: Install python library pi-camera using:

sudo apt-get install python-picamera

Step 3: In Raspberry Pi Configuration Settings under Preferences, make sure the Camera and SSH options are enabled.

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It is also recommended that you change your default system password in settings.

Step 4: Test the camera module by running the following python script:

import picamera
from time import sleep

camera = picamera.PiCamera()
camera.vflip=True

camera.start_preview(fullscreen=True)
sleep(30)
camera.stop_preview()

The above python script should display the video stream from your Pi camera on the monitor or TV screen directly connected to your Raspberry Pi device through HDMI cable.

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Step 5: Download and install the app RaspiCam Remote on your mobile phone.

Step 6: Get your Raspberry Pi device’s IP address using ifconfig command

Normally, the IP address looks like 192.168.1.XXX

Step 7: Connect to your Pi camera remotely from your mobile phone, with the RaspiCam Remote app. Unless you have changed the default options in raspi-config settings, username = pi, password = raspberry, and port = 22.

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Step 8: Done! Watch the live video stream coming from your Raspberry Pi’s camera on your mobile phone.

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Note: If you have downloaded vnc-server on your Raspberry Pi, you can connect to your Raspberry Pi device remotely from your laptop with VNC Viewer. However, due to display overlap issues, the camera stream will not be visible on remote computer.

Step 9: Record videos to watch later.

import picamera
from time import sleep

camera = picamera.PiCamera()
camera.vflip=True
camera.resolution = (640,480)

camera.start_recording('output-video.h264')
sleep(60)
camera.stop_recording()

The above python script will record 1 min video and save it in file output-video.h264

Next Steps: Add some code on your Raspberry Pi for motion detection or face recognition using the OpenCV library!

AI Powered Smart Homes and Kitchens

LG announces ThinQ AI Technology for Smart Homes where appliances are connected through Home IoT and powered with Google Assistant / Alexa along with built-in Voice / Image Recognition Technology.

The LG Smart ThinQ refrigerator comes with a panoramic view camera, so you can not only see what’s inside your refrigerator on your mobile phone or TV screen, but also receive recipe suggestions based on what’s available in your fridge. It also sends alerts when items in your fridge pass their expiry date.