The Raspberry Pi computer is an amazing little machine. It packs a ton of power for such a small package and such a low cost. I ordered mine about a month ago when production was still ramping up. Sadly I will have to wait a few more weeks for it to get here. Until then, I will just have to be content in knowing that it’s probably happily floating across a shipping lane in the middle of the ocean on its way to me. To pass the time though, I have been daydreaming about what I might build and looking at the exciting number of interesting projects around the Internet for inspiration. Here are a few of the projects I would like to tackle with it.
Make a Media Center
With its ability to display full 1080p HD video and produce digital audio, using the Pi as a low-cost media center is just a no-brainer. The built-in network adapter, 2 USB ports, and SD card port provide multiple storage options, making the Pi as flexible as most other set-top boxes like the Boxee Box and Roku HD.
The only real difference is the lack of a slick UI and apps right? Well thanks to the hard work of the Raspberry Pi community the ever popular XBMC media player brings you everything you might want. There’s really only one caveat; because this is Linux, we still have no access to Netflix. There are some very hacky workarounds but they might not be for the faint of heart. All in all though, the Raspberry Pi is very capable of being a respectable set-top media player.
Build a Multiple Console Emulator
With a 700MHz ARM processor, 256MB of RAM, and USB host capability, the Pi is just begging to become your next MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator) device. You could go as simple as just installing the MAME emulator, copying over a few roms (legally obtained of course), and plugging in a compatible USB gamepad and you’re off to gaming bliss. Or, you could really swing for the fences with a micro-arcade cabinet build like the one’s pictured above. Personally though, I intend to custom build a 2-player arcade stick with the Pi built-in. That way I can simply power on the “console” and go. It would be great for bringing by a party for some nostalgia gaming.
Raspberry Pwn: Turn the Pi into a Hacking Tool
Over the past few years I have been having a lot of fun tinkering with custom built Linux distributions such as BackTracks Linux which are built specifically as toolkits for penetration testing; that is, bypassing the security of devices as an exercise in improving that security. Another way of putting it would be ethical hacking. Penetration testers have a lot of tools at their disposal such as smartphones and laptops. These are so useful because they are portable, but now with the release of the Raspberry Pwn toolset from the folks at Pwnie Express they have a cheap, powerful, and easy to conceal tool that could be placed at a customer’s site for some automated hacking. I can’t wait to tinker with this in my networking lab at home!
Build a Near Space Balloon
The world has seen many a micro-controller device float up to the heavens carrying payloads of cameras, pressure sensors, etc. Sending up a near space balloon is almost a right of passage in the maker community. So why send yet another one up? And why the Raspberry Pi? Well, first of all, because it’s awesome. And second, the Pi can offer a lot more processing power than your average micro-controller package. The Pi could actually do things like stream video back down to a team on the ground while simultaneously collecting data from attached sensors, and much more. A while back I let a project like this fall by the wayside; I may just have to pick it back up once my Pi gets stateside.
Build a Robot
I’ve built a few kit-based robots in my time. They’ve all been great fun, but sadly most of them lack in some functionality or are simply not expandable. With a board like the Raspberry Pi, I would have the power to do many things at once and still have tons of processing power left. Not to mention having the power of a full Linux Kernel. Over the past year or so I’ve seen a few robots that used a Microsoft Kinect for a sensor array and a laptop or tablet for I/O and processing. With the Pi one could support all this and more at a fraction of the cost and size! This is perhaps what I am most excited for with the Pi; it has the potential to make amateur robots super cheap and much more powerful. As an example check out the awesome video below of a voice controlled robotic arm that is made possible by the Pi.
The Raspberry Pi offers tinkerers, hackers, and makers a lot of processing power for a very low price. But even better is the fact that it offers them this in such a small package. We’re already seeing some really amazing projects based on this device and we’ll only be seeing more impressive uses as the years go by. I doubt that tiny computers like this will ever fully replace micro-controller packages like the Arduino, but they certainly compliment them and greatly enhance the abilities of the maker/hacker communities.
Have a project in mind for your Pi or just have a project that you think we should know about? Be sure to leave us a comment below!