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One day it’s a server, the next day it’s a core component in a budget space program. Tomorrow – who knows what?
The Raspberry Pi has become something of a phenomenon, enabling low cost media centres, portable web servers and much more.
We’ve previously looked at some excellent uses for this British minicomputer, but the fact is that it is just so versatile that there is always something amazing to talk about. Who would have thought that the Raspberry Pi could be used for so much more than its original purpose of educating, providing a platform for children to learn how to program?
Indeed, who could have imagined its important role in brewing beer, controlling a robot or as a core component to a Project Glass style system? If you are sitting on the fence about the Pi, confused by (irrelevant) comparisons with the Arduino, you’ll be fascinated to learn that the two can run in tandem…
The following Raspberry PI projects can all be completed in a single weekend.
Remarkable as it may seem, it is possible to connect the Raspberry Pi to an Arduino. The main purpose of this is to use the Pi as a web-based controller for the Arduino.
A couple of methods are available for connecting the device. The first is via USB, but this takes up one of the Pi’s valuable USB ports and requires Arduino programming on the Pi. A second, better option is the Pi’s UART port, which can be connected to the Arduino’s Serial port (breakout boards are also an option).
The purpose of all of this, as described above, is to use the Raspberry Pi as a receiver for web-based commands that will control the Arduino. Such a system can prove extremely useful both to hobbyists and enthusiasts and even in the industry.
Full details on the project can be found at www.fritz-hut.com/arduinopi-web-based-controller-for-arduino/.
A Raspberry Pi RoboCar
One way in which a combined Pi and Arduino can be employed is as a controller for a robot.
The Dark Pi Rises project sees the two computers combined via USB with a USB battery power pack, USB hub, enabling instructions to be sent to the Arduino to control the LEDs and motors of the robot itself – in this case, a remote-controlled car.
Naturally, the car will continue to be remote controlled, in this case with a PS3 controller, but the really cool element is that it also has a PS3 eye webcam connected, with the IR filter removed, enabling you to drive the car at night and view what it sees!
Find out more on the project’s website (aonsquared.co.uk/the_dark_pi_rises), or checkout the YouTube video for a look at the results.
The Raspberry Pi Space Program
The compact size of the Raspberry Pi and its wide featureset makes it the perfect piece of kit to base a low-altitude space program upon.
Dave Akerman, a High Altitude Ballooning (HAB) enthusiast, has used the Pi – in conjunction with a webcam, GPS, and batteries – to take photos of near-space with the data sent back to earth, using a balloon.
What is so amazing about this (yes, it gets better) is that the $25 for the Raspberry Pi and the low price of the other equipment means that any school can run its own space program! There’s no need to worry about the Pi, either – as long as it comes back to earth on land, it should be retrievable, thanks to the GPS.
Find out more about Dave’s PIE1 project on his blog www.daveakerman.com/?p=592.
The RetroPie Project
Along with media centres, one of the most popular uses for the Raspberry Pi has been as a retro gaming device.
At the time of writing, the minicomputer is capable of running MS-DOS, ScummVM, Commodore and Atari ST software thanks to a wide selection of emulators that are available.
Perhaps the best emulation solution is ChameleonPi, a remix of the common Raspberry Pi OS Raspbian that has had the GUI removed in favour of a launcher menu. Once loaded up, you can then use the chosen emulator to run ROMs from your SD card. Combine this with controllers (USB is common, but genuine NES gamepads aren’t unusual) and you have yourself an instant retro gaming system. You might even show it off to friends by building it into a carry case!
Details can be found at blog.petrockblock.com/retropie.
Google Glass has proved to be a popular talking point on tech websites, but if you’re sick of waiting for it to be released, you don’t have to wait any longer.
By pairing up a Raspberry Pi with some Vuzix 1200 Star glasses, you can gain a similar effect, enhanced by Bluetooth microphone and headset – not to mention a wireless Internet connection in order to download and display all of the information you need.
See how this system can be used to enjoy real-time conversation with someone who speaks a different language using Microsoft’s translation API at www.willpowell.co.uk/blog/2012/07/22/project-glass-real-time-translation-inspired/
Manage Your Microbrewery with Raspberry Pi
The projects above will all go down very nice if at the end you have a nice pint of beer to sink.
I was astonished to learn that the Raspberry Pi can be used to help manage the brewing process in concert with an Adafruit Pi Plate, placing the minicomputer in charge of temperature control. By being able to accurately monitor the temperature remotely (thanks to the data that can be output to the Pi and accessed across a network) homebrew beer enthusiasts can work towards perfecting their tipple.
The element14 website has full details on how this was achieved.
Conclusion: Everyone Should Have a Raspberry Pi
I continue to be amazed at the diverse uses for the Raspberry Pi, and I know that its creators are similarly astounded.
There is, of course, every reason to ignore space programs and robot cars in favour of retro gaming and beer, but then, if you did that, you would be missing out on what might be the nearest opportunity you could have for viewing Earth from above.
All of these Raspberry PI projects are affordable and achievable, so get started and let us know how you get on! If you need help getting started, kick things off with our free downloadable Raspberry Pi user guide.