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Ten fun Raspberry Pi projects: JAXenter’’s pick of the crop

Lucy Carey

As sales of the tiny computer top two million, we take a look at some of our favourite Pi powered projects to date.


Pocket size, versatile, and cheap as chips, the Raspberry Pi has enjoyed blockbuster success since its launch in February 2012. Originally designed to help promote computer science in schools, the ease at which this British designed, single-board computer can be ported into other projects has meant that a much wider demographic has taken the Raspberry Pi into their hearts. It was revealed last week that sales had crossed two million in the last week of October – roughly three months ahead of the Raspberry Pi’s projected target.

Having recently struck up a deal for Java to run natively in every unit, the Raspberry Pi continues to go from strength to strength. To mark this latest sales milestone, JAXenter has compiled a rundown of ten of our favourite creative uses for the very little computer that could.

1) The DukePad

At this year’s JavaOne technical keynote, Oracle devs Jasper Potts and Richard Bair presented a demo that got heads turning: a JavaFX-powered touchscreen tablet called the DukePad. This open source hardware design uses off-the-shelf parts and is entirely powered by OSS. Alongside the detailed build instructions, the team write that they hope it will provide “a way for kids to learn how computers work and to fire their imaginations for those things that are not yet built, but desperately need a builder to dream them up and make them happen!”

2) The Raspberry Pi datacentre

Lemon and chicken, the Fresh Prince and Jazzy Jeff…some things were just supposed to go together. Both built to foster creativity, Lego and Raspberry Pi make natural partners. Whilst the multitude of Lego/ Pi projects seem to be based on making computer casings, by far the most spectacular thing we’ve seen has to be Hazelcast’s scale-model data center. Created to demonstrate a fully functioning data center environment, this creation combines 48 Pi units with a tower of Lego, and allows the Hazelcast team to replicate the effect of their open source software. Apparently, the next step is to recruit Lego Hazelcast employee people to walk around inside the data center and support the cluster.

3) Translation glasses

Google Glass may be slowly making the transition from uber-nerdy bit of kit to chic accessory, but personally, we’re quite excited about Will Powell’s attempt at making real-time translation glasses. These smart specs work by combining Vuzix video eyewear with a few Raspberry Pis and an iPhone and iPad to allow for one person speaking one language to effectively communicate with someone speaking a different language, with translations provided by Microsoft’s Bing. Whilst we can’t vouch for the veracity of the aforementioned service, it certainly is a promising effort.

4) Make your own arcade machine

Homemade gaming table tutorials have been doing the rounds for a while – probably due to the fact that a good deal of today’s tech innovators were the ones hanging around the game machines back in the day. There’s a tonne of solutions out there that allow you to use the Pi to make your very own bespoke arcade fun – and, once you’ve invested in the initial hardware, you’ll never have to worry about running out of change again.

5) A Pandora Streamer

With a bit of elementary GPIO, Python, BASH and basic Circuits, and of course,  the Pi, you too can make your own nifty standalone Pandora Streamer for browser-free music goodness.

6) Medical monitoring

Medical technology continues to grow at a rate of knots, and  Raspberry Pi has been harnessed as part of this evolution. Libelium, a Spanish wireless hardware manufacturer, has created a Raspberry Pi/Arduino shield that gives easy access to collecting biometric data like blood pressure, respiration rates, and galvanic skin response (in a nutshell, how well skin conducts electricity). This information can be used to monitor in real time the state of a patient or to get sensitive data in order to be subsequently analysed for medical diagnosis. Though it’s yet to be licensed, in theory, this could offer an easy and cheap method of remote medical monitoring – and no more worrying about cold doctor hands.

7) Fire hero

If you’re a frustrated pyromaniac, you’ll love this little hack by Chris Marion, which utilises propane fire poofers, Guitar Hero, and of course, a Raspberry Pi to make Fire Hero! As the player strums away, flames shoot up into the air with each corresponding key stroke. The system is controlled by a Raspberry Pi and an Arduino, with a server running on the Pi and allowing a remote computer to control the system. The Pi sends commands over serial to the Arduino, which switches solid state relays that actuate the valves. 19 year old Marion says he dreamt up all this up during class – and, whilst a little less wholesome than the Foundation perhaps envisioned, proof that kids really are getting excited about computing with the help of the Pi.

8) Saving rhinos

Conservationists have embraced the practicality, and diminutive proportions of the Pi to monitor endangered rhinos in Kenya. The computers are being used to operate cameras to help form a cyber ‘safety net’ watching remote areas of the Tsavo National Park, helping rangers spot both poachers and roaming rhinos. According to Jonathan Pallant, senior engineer at Cambridge Consultants, the Pi was chosen because it uses so little power and will be able to get the most out of the onboard batteries.

9) On-demand pet feeder

Using the same basic principles as a standard automated pet food dispenser, by incorporating Raspberry Pi, this hack takes servicing your furry friends a step further. The Raspberry Pi receives an email over Wifi, and hooks into the main PCB of the feeder over its GPIO pins to trigger a feeding. It even incorporates a basic webcam to send you proof that your pets are sated and not trashing your house. Now, even while you’re on vacation, you can still treat your Twitter followers to endless cat pictures. Won’t they be pleased?

10) Rasp-beery Pi

Now that everyone and their grandmother are setting up their own craft brewing dens, how do you stand out from the crowd? How about by automating your fermentation process  with a Raspberry Pi? Open source Raspberry Pi and Arduino based project BrewPi is probably the easiest stepping stone to achieving geekily perfect beer, allowing you to hold your beer temperature far more steady than usual thermostat-controlled devices. Cheers to that – and let’s raise a glass for the Pi – we can’t wait to see what its growing fan base uses it for next.
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