Office Hack #39 — Shannon’s Budgie Cam Hack

Envoy is all about making things easier and more fun in the office. In that spirit, we are proud to bring you our Envoy Office Hacks podcast series. Every week, we deliver the coolest, most ingenious, and just plain fun fixes people have invented to improve efficiency and productivity in their workplace.

Being on the road can be lonely. If you have pets at home that you’re close to, road trips can really take a toll. For these reasons and more, independent web developer Shannon Turner built the ideal office hack for pet owners.

This is Nate.

Nate doesn’t know it but he’s one of the most photographed parakeets around. You see, his owner Shannon, misses Nate something awful when she’s away for work. Normally, Shannon works from her home and can enjoy Nate’s company all day long, but once or twice a month she must travel for work.

Shannon, being a prolific full-stack developer herself, hacked together an on-demand live photo generator that is prompted into action by text message. Whenever Shannon is missing her favourite 7-inch feathered friend, she can text a command to a Twilio number, which in turn, sends a request to a Raspberry Pi equipped with a camera — and voila! A photo is snapped and sent back to Shannon via MMS, all in an instant.

Yeah, yeah, there are out-of-the-box mechanisms that can do similar things to what she built, but the point was Shannon wanted to hack this together herself.

“I wanted something that was deliberately over-engineered, something that was totally overkill for this project, but, I also wanted to build it myself. Anyone can go and get a Nest or get a home security camera and rig it up, but I wanted to do this. This is what I do in my spare time for fun.”

Occasionally, Shannon will get an MMS of an empty cage. But she doesn’t panic. She knows Nate likes to move around and ends up out of the camera lens view.

Next up: Shannon is considering multiple mounted cameras. A virtual parakeet paparazzi!

How to hack it

Want to hack together your own elaborate MMS photo-on-demand app? Here’s what you’ll need:

Approximate total $36.

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