The Raspberry Pi is without question the world’s most popular Single Board Computer.
The platform was initially designed as a means of teaching children how to code. The Raspberry Pi foundation even has an entire section for teachers and educators on their website.
In this post we'll take a look at some of the cool Raspberry Pi projects out there, but first we'll take a look at some of the Rpi capabilities.
Unlike the Arduino, Rpi is an actual computer. Meaning it has much more capabilities. We actually covered the main differences between the Arduino the Raspberry Pi in our Post - Arduino vs. Raspberry Pi. Some people confuse between the two since they are both very popular, but it's important to know the difference between them and choose the right board for your project.
Going back to Raspberry Pi, here are 4 popular applications this SBC (single-board computer) is being used for:
Simply putting it, robotics means preforming complex actions automatically. If we go by this definition, a central brain that monitors soil moisture and pumps water accordingly is also a robot.
The Raspberry Pi has the power necessary to drive basic robotics – and some pretty sophisticated stuff, too.
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.
The latest model of 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.
Similarly, the Raspberry Pi can be used for musical purposes.
It’s got enough storage space to hold music collections, making it a perfect fit for inexpensive jukebox-style projects (like the one we’ll take a look at a little later).
Additionally, it can store and recall short samples, and with the help of a little additional circuitry, apply a range of sound manipulations and effects.
You can read more about Raspberry Pi and its features and capabilities on our post - Getting Started with Raspberry Pi.
The Raspberry Pi board holds powerful components that allow it to achieve the capabilities we just discussed..
Let's take a look at some of the specs of the latest Raspberry Pi model (The RPi 3 model B+):
Side-note: On circuito.io we currently have the Raspberry Pi 3 Model B.
Wifi connectivity is a must for IoT applications, and it's basically a standard feature in most boards today.
With its help, we can connect our projects to the internet without any cables.
Rpi3 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.
While the Raspberry Pi isn’t the most powerful SBC on the market, it has enough muscle behind it to perform most tasks capably.
Rpi3 Model B+ comes with 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.
An HDMI output allows the Raspberry Pi to integrate easily with TV screens and monitors. As such, it’s perfect for media applications.
You can also use the HDMI output option to incorporate small touchscreen interfaces and drop the need for a 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 pins (or General-Purpose In/Out pins) offer an extremely flexible means of interacting with circuitry outside of the Raspberry Pi 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 skilled programming and circuit design, these pins can control just about any piece of real-world hardware.
Now that we’re familiar with Raspberry Pi’s capabilities, let’s take a look what makers around the world have harnessed them!
Smartphones have revolutionized mobile technology. Without them, the internet (and the world in general) would be a very different place.
However, some people reckon that 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 (which sadly, we don't have yet on circuito.io) 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 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?
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.
Proper wine storage relies on controlling two main environmental factors, 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!
The MIDI (Musical Instrument Digital Interface) standard was developed in the 80s.
It allows drum machines, synthesizers and samplers to communicate note and timing information to one another, even if they were each built by different manufacturers.
Traditionally, it’s sent over 5-pin DIN connectors, which the Raspberry Pi lacks. The PiMIDI that was developed by Jmuncher overcomes this issue and serves as a MIDI interface that’ll allow your Pi to trigger MIDI-capable hardware, and vice-versa.
The PiMIDI can be a good solution for hardware-based musicians without the hassle and expenses 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.
This project involves quite a lot of hardware work. There's a pretty long list of parts that includes:
- a prototyping PCB
- a selection of resistors
- ribbon cables
- 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.
If you're just getting started with Raspberry Pi, this is among the best projects to try yourself. It’s a straightforward build, and perfect for musical-makers looking to get their hands dirty.
For the full tutorial, click here.
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, paired with Kodi media center or some similar software, makes a capable media center – and it doesn’t take much additional hardware to make it fit into a jukebox.
You’ll need a few buttons in order 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.
You can make a breadboard version which will take around an hour of your time, and cost about $40, making it a great starting point. You’ll need to download the Prota OS onto a 16GB SD card to get it working. If you like the outcome, you can take it to the next level, and make an off-breadboard version.
There are 2 additional features on this project that you can add as well:
- a Phillips Hue bulb, for some disco lights that go along with the music,
- NFS for remotely changing the contents of the USB storage. This will also allow other NFS users to access the drive, provided that they have the IP address and password to hand.
For the full tutorial, click here. If you're thinking of taking things to the next level, you might store your music collection on an external NAS or Desktop PC and have the Pi access it via your home network.
Refrigeration is awesome. It’s revolutionized food, making it possible to enjoy ingredients from all 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 a step 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, so you can get it defrosted before the airflow gets blocked and the motor starts making those horrible grinding noises.
For this project you'll need:
- a Raspberry Pi
- an old balance board from your Wii
- and a few sensors
You’ll find the instructions for this Raspberry Pi project over on GitHub.
Using the Wii balance board is a pretty clever choice for this project. Not only does it cut the cost, it can also interface directly with the Pi via Bluetooth, and with minimal programming, making it a good solution for this project
It does come with a weight limit, however, being capable of supporting a maximum of 330lbs. It therefore matches best with a smaller fridge.
Remember that you’ll need to factor in the weight of all the beer you’re going to be stuffing in there, too!
Wires are a pretty annoying: they take up space, cost money and break often. But if you have an older wired printer that you aren’t quite ready to get rid of, you probably won't want to get a new wireless one.. That’s where Raspberry Pi projects like this one come in.
The RPi can act as a wireless print server, 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 adapter, 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 desktop, via your home network.
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 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 doesn't really matter to them.
You’ll find instructions to setting up Alexa Voice Service on Raspberry Pi over on Amazon’s Github page.
Once you’ve installed the 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, making the process fast and painless.
The required hardware is listed, alongside convenient links to the relevant pages of the Amazon store.
Another popular Raspberry Pi zero project is the Smart Mirror. It looks a lot like regular mirrors, except it can display dates, times, and just about any other piece of information you’d like. At retail, mirrors like this can cost up to a $1000 but really, it’s just a 2-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's probably 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 special 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 can pick up something cheap second hand – all it’s going to do is display white text on a black background. Most of the coding has already been done so the hardest part is going to be building the casing for your mirror. Of course, if you want to improve on the coding, you always make your own improvements; a camera-module with facial recognition would be an interesting twist on the magic-mirror formula.
To sum it up, Smart mirrors are pretty 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?
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 in the joy of picking up a piece and moving it from one place to another (with a dramatic expression if possible).
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 to determine the location of each piece, and indicates each move using a grid of LEDs that poke through the corner of each square. 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 its 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.
You can find the full instructions here.
The last project 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's a Raspberry Pi retro gaming centre which encases everything you need to play the classics in a housing modeled after the Nintendo Switch.
This hugely ambitious project incorporates a Raspberry Pi, a touchscreen and a Teensy to create a portable and powerful gaming solution that's as close as you'll get to a homemade nintendo switch (though it doesn't actually run nintendo switch games).
Happily, Tim has provided us with an extensive guide to setting up this awesome means of gaming on the Raspberry Pi.
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 labor 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.
However, as we all know, the fun of projects like this one comes from the journey rather than the destination; if putting everything together makes you really happy, then this is one of the more appealing project ideas!
Many things can be made with the help of a Raspberry Pi. We’ve looked at only 10 different projects, and barely scratched the surface.
If you have an idea for something you’d like to achieve with RPi, do some research, look into similar projects and get to work. Many Raspberry Pi and Arduino projects are extensively documented online, which makes things much easier. You'll find a few of them on the Raspberry Pi Foundation website.
Even if you can’t find exactly what you’re looking for, with a bit of practice, you’ll be able to make the changes you want pretty easily. Many times you'll find that following tutorials someone else made is a great way of building an understanding of what makes a Raspberry Pi tick – and it’ll give you the grounding you need to bring your own ideas to life. After all, it’s how most of us got started!