The Raspberry Pi is without question the world’s most popular Single Board Computer. Though the platform was devised initially as a means of teaching children how to code, it’s also found use among the international maker community, who’ve incorporated it into an astonishing diversity of Raspberry Pi projects.

What can the Raspberry Pi do?

The Raspberry Pi’s capabilities are, for the most part, limited only by the imaginations of the people who use them. We’re continually astounded by the things hobbyist makers come up with. Some of the applications include:

Robotics

Robotics doesn’t necessarily mean scary headless dogs and car-assembling limbs. Any complex action that’s carried out automatically qualifies. Thus, a central brain that monitors soil moisture and pumps water accordingly is a robot. The Raspberry Pi has the power necessary to drive basic robotics – and some pretty sophisticated stuff, too.

raspberry pi projects robot

IoT

The ‘Internet of Things’ philosophy encourages household items to be equipped with microcontrollers and connected to the internet. Done right, this allows for relevant data to be gathered and used in new ways. For example, a wrist-mounted heart-rate monitor might determine your mood, and alter the color of the lights in your bedroom accordingly.

Image Processing

The latest Raspberry Pi is powerful enough to process images in real-time, applying simple color filters and detecting certain sorts of activity. As such, it’s great for motion-actuated cameras, and simple post-processing on your holiday photos.

Sound Manipulation

Similarly, the Raspberry Pi can serve musical purposes. It’s got enough storage space to hold onto entire music collections, and thus it’s an excellent fit for inexpensive jukebox-style projects (like the one we’ll take a look at a little later). But it can also store and recall short samples, and, with the help of a little additional circuitry, apply a range of mangling effects.

How can the Raspberry Pi do these things?

Onto each Raspberry Pi board are soldered powerful components that allow it to achieve these ends. The latest RPi can boast the following features, to name a few:

Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi is a prerequisite for IoT applications. With its help, we can connect our projects to the internet without the need for trailing cables. The latest Raspberry Pi (The RPi 3 model B+) comes with 2.4GHz and 5GHz IEEE 802.11.b/g/n/ac wireless LAN, which empowers it to handle data wirelessly in a secure manner.

Processing Power

While the Raspberry Pi isn’t the most powerful SBC on the market, it has enough muscle behind it to perform most tasks capably. The model B+ sports a 1.4Ghz 64-bit quad core, along with 1GB of DDR2 memory, which is more than enough to deal with games, and analyze large chunks of data in a short space of time.

raspberry pi projects processing

Video Options

An HDMI output allows the Raspberry Pi to integrate easily with television screens and monitors. As such, it’s perfect for media applications. This feature also makes programming the Pi a great deal easier. Some projects might benefit from a small touchscreen interface with whose help you’ll be able to dispense with the keyboard and mouse. You’ll be able to attach it via the DSI DisplayPort connection. The same applies to the Raspberry Pi camera, which connects via the CSI camera port.

GPIO

GPIO pins (or General-Purpose In/Out pins) offer an extremely flexible means of interacting with circuitry outside of the Raspberry Pi’s board. There are 40 pins on the header. Some of them simply output a fixed voltage of 5v or 3.3v; some of them are set to ground; some of them can deal with serial transmission standards. With some clever programming and circuit design, these pins can control just about any piece of real-world hardware.

Raspberry Pi  Projects

Now that we’re familiar with the Raspberry Pi’s capabilities, let’s take a look at some of the ingenious ways that makers around the world have harnessed them!

Smartphone

Smartphones have revolutionized mobile technology. Without them, the internet would be a very different place – and so too, for that matter, would the world in general. But for some, the phone has gone in the wrong direction. It’s become too complex and finely-engineered, and almost impossible to modify. Is this trade-off worth it? Do we really need all those apps? And are we really comfortable carrying mobile listening devices with us wherever we go?

This Raspberry Pi project, the Zerophone, seeks to address these complaints and a few others. It’s an alternative smartphone that’s built from around $50 of easily-available parts. At its heart is a Raspberry Pi Zero, sandwiched between a battery pack and a PCB touch-panel. With it, you’ll be able to make calls in just the same way as you can on any other phone.

The Zerophone has a reassuringly chunky construction, reminiscent of those old Nokia phones. It’s just as rugged and reliable, particularly if you elect to design and build a case for yours. The best part, however, is that it’s open-source, and designed to be maintained by the person who built it. You won’t need to spend weeks mailing it back-and-forth when the screen cracks, and you’ll be able to write your own apps for it in Python. What better way could there be for an electronics enthusiast to place a call?

CellarWarden

Wine collectors might not be the first people you’d expect to benefit from Raspberry Pi. After all, people have been storing old bottles in dusty cellars in much the same way for hundreds of years without the aid of microprocessors, GPIO headers or WiFi.

Raspberry pi projects wine cellar

Proper wine storage relies on controlling two main environmental factors, namely ambient temperature and humidity. Each can make the difference between a delicious merlot and a cooked one. Happily, the Raspberry Pi can monitor these things over time, and feed back into a temperature control that’ll maintain the optimal conditions.

To do its work, CellarWarden relies on a pair of sensors that monitor both temperature and humidity, and which connect to the Raspberry Pi’s GPIO pins. Alternatively, you might use up to eight DS18B20 temperature sensors, which do their work using just a single wire, and can be placed at strategic locations around your cellar so you can get an idea of where the problem areas are. There’s also a function that’ll monitor the position of your cellar doors and alert you when they’ve been left open for too long.

CellarWarden isn’t just for wine, either; it’ll do its work just as happily in a meat cellar, a cigar cabinet, a kegerator or your kitchen’s fridge. With minimal wiring and just a few extra components to invest in, even novices will be able to get this Raspberry Pi project installed and running. Cheers!

PiMIDI

Those looking to make electronic music with their Raspberry Pi will probably be familiar with the Musical Instrument Digital Interface (or MIDI) standard. Developed in the 80s, it allows allow drum machines, synthesisers and samplers to communicate note and timing information to one another, even if they were each built by different manufacturers.

raspberry pi projects Ipimidi

Traditionally, it’s sent over 5-pin DIN connectors, which the Raspberry Pi lacks. This Pi-powered device seeks to address that shortcoming. It’s the work of an Instructables user called Jmuncher, and serves as a MIDI interface that’ll allow your Pi to trigger your MIDI-capable hardware, and vice-versa. It serves a niche of hardware-based musicians who’d like to accomplish feats in MIDI without the hassle and expense of a full-fledged computer, along with people who’d like to get their hardware talking to their computer without investing in a commercial interface. The PiMidi is exceptionally portable, and will fit nicely into just about any home studio or stage setup.

As you might expect, this project involves quite a lot of hardware work. The extensive parts list might intimidate newer builders; it includes a prototyping PCB, a selection of resistors, ribbon cables, diodes and Schmitt triggers. The instructions call for a little bit of soldering and an aluminium case, and you’ll need to fiddle around with the UART clock to get it to communicate at the 31250 baud rate that MIDI accepts. Beyond that, it’s a straightforward build, and perfect for musically-inclined markers looking to get their hands dirty.

Jukebox

If you’d prefer to listen to other people’s music rather than create your own, then why not use the Raspberry Pi to make your own jukebox? The Pi makes a capable media center– and it doesn’t take much additional hardware to make it fit for the task.

You’ll need a few buttons with which to interact with the jukebox, along with a screen. This version relies on an audio player known as Volumio. Unlike other takes on the jukebox concept, it keeps the storage local; a suitably generous USB drive should be enough to hold enough music to satisfy even the most demanding house party.

In a real-world situation, you’ll need to take the circuitry off-breadboard and keep everything suitably encased. But this bare-bones version will take around an hour of your time, and will cost around $40, and thus makes a great starting point. You’ll need to download the Prota OS onto a 16GB SD card to get it working.

The fun doesn’t stop there, though. Attach a Philips Hue bulb, and you’ll be able to create some disco ambience to go along with your favorite tunes. If you’d like to be able to change the contents of your USB stick remotely (and thereby alter the playlist) you’ll need to use NFS. This will allow users of the NFS app to access the drive, provided that they have the IP address and password to hand.

Smart Beer Fridge

Refrigeration is awesome. It’s revolutionized food, making it possible to enjoy ingredients from disparate corners of the earth in the same dish. But perhaps just as importantly, it’s allowed us to enjoy nicely-chilled beer whenever we feel like it.

A smart-fridge takes things a stage further by keeping track of temperatures over time, along with the amount of beer that’s in the fridge and whether the door is open or closed. This information is handy, as it’ll alert you to changes in your fridge’s performance, allowing you to get it defrosted before the airflow gets blocked and the motor starts making horrible grinding noises. You’ll need a Raspberry Pi, an old balance board from your Wii, and a few sensors: a modest investment that’ll pay off in the long-run.

You’ll find the instructions for this Raspberry Pi project over on GitHub. The choice of the Wii balance board as a scale isn’t just a cost-cutting measure: the peripheral can interface directly with the Pi via Bluetooth, and with minimal programming. It does come with a weight limit, however, being capable of supporting a maximum of 330lbs. It therefore matches best with a smaller chiller. Remember that you’ll need to factor in the weight of all the beer you’re going to be stuffing in there, too!

raspberry pi projects cta

Wireless Printer

Wires are a hassle. They take up space; they add to the cost of every purchase; and when they break, they can cause hours of stress. But if you’ve an older wired printer that you aren’t quite ready to part with, making the upgrade to a wireless alternative can seem a little wasteful. That’s where Raspberry Pi projects like this one come in.

raspberry pi projects wireleess printer

The RPi can act as a wireless print server, effectively turning your wired printer into a wireless one that you’ll be able to easily move to a separate room without having to thread cables through walls.

As far as hardware goes, this project is pretty straightforward. You’ll connect your Raspberry Pi to your printer using USB, and then attach a wireless USB dongle to another port. With no GPIO headers or breadboards to worry about, it’s fantastic for those who like to do things with software.

This guide covers the job in detail. It’s focused on USB-equipped printers, but with the help of a suitable adaptor, you’ll be able to get your parallel one working in just the same way. Once you’re done, you’ll be able to wirelessly connect to your Raspberry Pi from your primary desktop, just as though it were a wireless printer you’d bought at your local store.

Amazon Echo

At the forefront of the current wave of IoT-enabled smart-devices is the Amazon Echo. You speak to it, it listens and responds, just like the computer in Star Trek. Of course, the maker community was eager to replicate the technology and managed to do so fairly convincingly with the help of the Raspberry Pi.

Amazon, surprisingly, couldn’t be happier with this turn of events. They want their customers to be able to buy their stuff with a voice command, and whether it’s with an official device or a DIY alternative isn’t much of a concern to them.

raspberry pi projects amazon echo

You’ll find instructions to setting up Alexa Voice Service on Raspberry Pi over on Amazon’s Github page. Once you’ve installed service, you’ll be able to access and test it using a Java application. Amazon has included an install script that’ll save you the trouble of manually downloading and installing libraries and dependencies. As such, the process of building your own voice assistant is fast and painless.

The required hardware is listed, alongside convenient links to the relevant pages of the Amazon store.

Magic Mirror

One of the most popular Raspberry Pi trends in recent years has been the Smart Mirror. These devices look a lot like regular mirrors, except they’re able to display dates, times, and just about any other piece of information you’d like. At retail, mirrors of this sort can cost up to a thousand dollars – but really, it’s just a two-way mirror with an LCD screen on the other side.

While we’re not sure that Michael Teeuw was the first to document the construction of a DIY smart-mirror, he almost certainly was responsible for kick-starting the craze. His instructions are easy-to-follow, and once you’re done you’ll be able to modify the design to suit your needs. You’ll find similar guides all over the internet.

To create the mirror, you’ll need special observation glass of the sort found in police interrogation rooms. You can buy this from specialist online stores. You’ll also need a suitable monitor – one that’s thin enough to slide behind the glass, and which comes with side-mounted connectors rather than rear-mounted ones. You pick up something cheap second hand – all it’s going to be doing is displaying white text on a black background, after all. The bulk of the coding has been done for you; and thus the hardest part is building the casing for your mirror.

Smart mirrors are achingly cool; they make any bathroom look instantly like a level from Deus Ex. What better use could there be for a $5 Raspberry Pi Zero?

Wooden Chess Computer

Have you ever wanted to play chess against a computer, but without having to spend time staring at a screen? After all, part of the fun of chess is the tactile joy of picking up a piece and moving it from one place to another. You just don’t get that with screens and mouse-clicks!

The answer comes in the form of this Raspberry-Pi-powered wooden chess-board. The board uses magnets rather than pressure sensors to determine the location of each piece, and indicates each move using a grid of LEDs that poke through the corner of each square. Of course, this means you’ll need to execute the AI’s moves on behalf of your Raspberry Pi. There are several difficulty settings to choose from, so there will always be a new challenge to move up to.

This project is more than five years old now, but it’s still an excellent way to get the Raspberry Pi to interact with the real world. Since the first release, the design has been updated and simplified so that everything runs through a single Raspberry Pi and a few cheap components. With that said, it’s still not for total beginners – you’ll need some understanding of Python before getting started.

The instructions are exhaustive, and can be found here.

The Nintimdo RP

This last entry on our list is probably the most ambitious. We thought we’d include it to give you all an idea of just what’s possible! It’s a project which takes advantage of one of the biggest selling points of the Raspberry Pi: its ability to emulate classic games.

This version of the ‘RetroPie’ is the work of Tim Lindquist, an electrical engineering student over at Iowa State University. It encases everything you need to play classic games in a housing modelled after the Nintendo Switch.

This hugely ambitious project incorporates a Raspberry Pi, a touchscreen and a Teensy to create a portable gaming solution that’s capable of running a range of classic games. Happily, Tim has provided us with extensive instructions.

Like most projects of this sort, it’s not for the budget-conscious. Factor in a bill of materials that weighs in at just over $315.40, along with the hundreds of hours of labour you’re going to need to put aside (not to mention the fact that you’ll need a 3D printer to construct the case) and you might as well buy a Switch. But of course, the fun of projects like this one comes from the journey rather than the destination; if you can glean satisfaction from putting everything together, then the chances are that it’ll appeal to you!

Conclusion

Many things can be made with the help of a Raspberry Pi. We’ve looked at only ten different projects for everyone’s favorite single-board computer, and we’ve barely scratched the surface. If you have an idea for something you’d like to achieve with RPi, then the chances are that someone out there will have already have attempted it – or something similar. What’s more, they will have documented their attempts online!

raspberry pi projects cta

Even if you can’t find exactly what you’re looking for, you’ll find the platform flexible enough to bend to your needs. Following the footsteps left by others is a fantastic way of building an understanding of what makes a Raspberry Pi tick – and it’ll give you the grounding you need to pursue your own objectives. It’s how most of us got started!