From the lab

Whispering Birdhouse

A wooden birdhouse that can be used to send short voice messages to your colleagues in different offices. Created to help us easier communicate and connect with remote colleagues.

Tech used

  • Raspberry Pi Zero
  • Python
  • S3-databas

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Background and problem

As our team is spread out over four offices in two countries, we decided to create a new way for us to communicate between offices.

This past year we have been working mainly with software and were therefore eager to spend time with some good old soldering and hardware requirements. We came up with an idea that would allow us to work with our hands and really scratch our heads around why things don’t always run the way you hope for.

With the ambition of making something weird and having fun doing it, we landed in a wooden birdhouse whisper box to communicate between our offices.

Idea and solution

The final product is a wooden birdhouse that can be used to send short voice messages to your colleagues in different offices. The birdhouse is made out of wood and has both a microphone and a loudspeaker attached to it, as well as four LED lights in a row and a button that can be pressed to record a message. If the LED light is on, you know there is a new message to listen to. With the press of a button you can easily record your own message and send it across to the wooden birdhouses in the other offices.

Implementation and results

We decided pretty quickly to use Raspberry Pi Zero, as our computing platform, because of the limitations that would give us. As a language, we chose Python with some embedded bash scripts. We also decided that the units should be self-contained, so no backend; the Pi´s talk directly with each other checking for new audio messages that we store in an S3 database.

To show that there are messages, we simply used some LED lamps. To listen and record messages we used buttons with variations of long and short presses. Short for listening and long for recording. Some bonus elements were woodworking and scanning the web for buttons. Did you know there is a button shortage in Sweden? This was a lesson learned from the project.

Insights and reflections

This was a great opportunity to try out things that we normally don’t work with on a day to day basis. The main challenge was all the hardware requirements. We used a Raspberry Pi Zero, which is a very limited platform. Luckily everyone has been very cooperative and worked as a team to figure out how to make the different technologies work.