Launched in 2012, the Raspberry Pi is a tiny, cheap computer designed to encourage children and adults to explore computing and learn to code. While it may have done that, it’s also attracted hordes of admirers who love to tinker and find innovative uses for this low-cost, low-power wonder.
Even Microsoft is getting in on the action, releasing a preview version of Windows 10 that will run on the diminutive computer.
Here are 10 brilliant things you can do with a Raspberry Pi…
SEE ALSO: Raspberry Pi 2 Review
1. See Earth from the edge of space – Pi in the Sky
You don’t have to limit your electronic ambitions to your bedroom nerve-centre. With the addition of a camera module, radio module and a GPS module the Pi has everything it needs to film an ascent towards the skies beneath a big weather balloon. The GPS and radio module should let you follow its progress and if it survives ‘re-entry’ you’ll hopefully be able to find it again upon landing.
2. Build a tiny media server – Kodi
A great first Raspberry Pi project is knocking together a home media server. The RPi is perfect for this sort of project as it consumes very little power and can be hidden behind your TV with no trouble. Kodi (formerly XBMC) is open source media centre software that runs on Linux, OS X, Windows, iOS, and Android. Load it up on your Raspberry Pi, and start playing media from across your network right there on your TV thanks to its built-in HDMI port. No bulky or noisy PC required.
3. Build yourself a new phone – Pi Phone
Lost your phone? Rather than buying an off-the-shelf model, you could put together your own using a Raspberry Pi, touchscreen, GSM module and battery. Okay, so it’s not exactly a smartphone, it cost its maker Dave Hunt a not-insignificant $158 to make and you might rip a hole in your trousers while pulling it out of your pocket, but it shows you just how versatile the Raspberry Pi platform is.
4. Make delicious beer – BrewPi
Avid home-brewers looking to take their beer production to the next level – both in terms of quality and quantity – can use the Raspberry Pi to get them there. Starting off as a Raspberry Pi project which simply maintained a fridge at the perfect fermentation temperature, the BrewPi project has now grown into something that can be used on a small industrial scale to control various aspects of the brewing process with the help of various sensors and connections.
The pictured setup belongs to Chris Allen from Nashville, and is based on the BrewPi system.
5. Play vegetable instruments – Beetbox
Instruments come in all shapes and sizes, but they don’t often look like vegetables. Using a Raspberry Pi and capacitive sensors hooked up a selection of beetroots, you can make an electronic instrument that replaces the pads on a drum machine with vegetables.
We’re not sure whether a rotten vegetable sounds different to a fresh vegetable. Only one way to find out...
6. Play old video games – RetroPie
If you’re looking to relive the gaming experiences of your youth, or dip into a catalogue of older games you never had the opportunity to play in the first place, this emulator project is for you.
With the RetroPie emulator installed, you to play games from platforms ranging from early consoles such as the Atari 2600, all the way up to the Nintendo 64. With a bit of research and possibly a bit of hacking, you can even use old game controllers.
It is our understanding that to legally play these games, you must own a physical copy. Ebay is full of cheap old games, though, so it shouldn't be too hard to get your hands on the games you want.
7. Build your own iBeacon – PiBeacon
Want to set up your own iBeacon? This simple project lets you do just that using only a USB Bluetooth module and the Raspberry Pi.
Okay, so it's a slightly expensive way of creating your own 'digital lighthouse', but it's a great way to try out the tech which pings out a little signal via Bluetooth Low Energy to passing phones. That signal can be set to trigger events such as turning on a light or flashing up a message, depending upon your setup.
8. Speed up time – Pi Timelapse Controller
If you’ve got a DSLR and are getting into the beautiful art of time lapse photography you’ll appreciate this project.
By combining the smarts of the Rasbperry Pi with a motor, gear drive, battery and touchscreen it will let you cheaply (compared to a professional setup) build a motion controller for your slider, allowing you to make precisely-timed, beautiful, smooth panning shots to add a touch of drama to your timelapses.
9. Cut out ads – Ad-blocking Wi-Fi access point
This little Raspberry Pi-based gizmo forms a Wi-Fi access point for your home that blocks ads on all devices hooked up to it.
Handily it will let you whitelist your favourite sites such as Trusted Reviews to make sure we benefit from your visits and keep bringing you all the latest tech news, opinions and reviews.
10. Build your own drone – 3DR Quadcopter
Admittedly, this one's a bit more involved than the others. Rather than simply going out and buying a quadcopter, you could put together your own with a Raspberry Pi at its heart. If done right, this one will follow a predefined flight path using its GPS module to plot a route. The main flight electronics is based on ArduPilot hardware, but adding the Raspberry Pi brings the possibility for more sophisticated operations such as navigation and operation over a 3G network.