Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Magic mirror

Regular readers to this blog will be aware of the coverage that I have devoted in the past to a company called Raspberry Pi,  a spin out from that UK hive of cerebral activity, Cambridge University (Cambridge, UK).

The engineers at Raspberry Pi have developed, and are now selling, a small inexpensive Arm (Cambridge, UK) based computer that plugs into a TV and a keyboard.  It's a capable little PC which can be used for many of the things that a desktop PC does, like spreadsheets, word-processing and games. It also plays high-definition video.

Since its launch, the inexpensive computer has attracted a lot of interest from hobbyists and academics alike who have deployed it in a variety of innovative ways.

In one of the more recent applications, a French chap by the name of Pierre Raufast has used his Raspberry Pi computer, a webcam and OpenCV software to create a "Magic Mirror" with a disembodied voice which recognizes the person looking into it and responds accordingly.

To enable others to build a similar system, the generous Frenchman has posted up an easy-to-follow tutorial, including a hardware list, software, instructions and tips on successfully using OpenCV for face-recognition. It can be found on the Think RPI web site here.

Having finished assembling the hardware, downloading and compiling the source code and training your system to recognize individuals, Monsieur Raufast recommends that you take a break and read "L'homme qui plantait des arbres," an allegorical tale by French author Jean Giono, published in 1953.

Personally, if I were Monsieur Raufast, I wouldn't be sitting back on my laurels and reading anything. If I had developed such a system, I'd be investigating whether the good folks at The Walt Disney Company might be interested in parting with some of their money to help me commercialize it.

Monsieur Raufast has posted a video of his Magic Mirror in action on YouTube. You can view it here. I wonder what the Brothers Grimm would make of it?

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