5 Cool Uses for Raspberry Pi
5 Cool Uses for Raspberry PI
The Raspberry Pi has been a surprise hit, a combination tech toy and DIY building block with any number of unexpected uses. Ironically, much of the hype glosses over the original intended use: to create a low-cost, stripped-down way to teach kids about the nuts and bolts of computers. Although that’s still the coolest use of all, the Raspberry Pi now belongs to the world; and you can bet that the five ways below are just the tip of the creative iceberg.
The Raspberry Pi has been used to create a translator that “hears” a language and provides you with a written translation on a pair of 3-D glasses. As a sort of homebrew version of the Google Glasses project, the voice recognition software processes audio input, cross-references nearly 40 different languages for the input and output, and sends the translation to the Smart Glasses via the S-video output of the RPi. While by no means foolproof, the whole process occurs in as close to real time (and relative accuracy) as possible.
Streaming Media Server
Full HD video via HDMI, USB for storage, and Ethernet for networked streaming. All that remains is to draw these capabilities together using a media server application, which is exactly what Sam Nazarko is doing with his Raspbmc project, a dedicated Linux distro built around the tried-and-tested XBMC platform. With a little bit of tweaking, you can get remote control (and even AirPlay) via several different wireless methods, making the RPi a viable all-around HTPC option. However, TV tuner and real PVR/DVR functions may be out of reach for some time, due to the tricky aspects of MPEG licensing.
The Ouya may be hogging the recent mini-console spotlight, but the Raspberry Pi has everything it takes to serve as a retro gamer’s dream machine. At the very least, plugging in a USB controller and loading up MAME will give you access to thousands of arcade classics, and there are Linux versions of every system from the Atari 2600 all the way to PlayStation2 (although the RPi’s hardware may not quite be up to 21st Century games). Want more? The RPi’s power demands are so modest that you’d easily be able to make it into a handheld gaming system; if you’re up to the task of housing it in a case with a built-in gamepad, of course.
Android-Powered SmartTV with Touch-Screen Remote
That’s a tall order, right? Well, there have already been projects that use an RPi’s USB port for a Wi-Fi dongle to pick up your Android device’s hijinks, and then the HDMI output to send the visuals to the TV. With a bit of a delay between control gestures and onscreen response, it hasn’t been refined to the point of fluid multi-touch control, but it does mean that you can have 90% of the Google TV experience (apps, audio, video, et cetera) with the TV and smartphone that you already own.
VNC (virtual network computing)
Yes, that’s right, you can use the Raspberry Pi as a computer! Snark aside, using a little computer to control a big computer is the whole idea behind remote/thin client/web app, and the Raspberry Pi forges a compelling missing link between mobile/BYOD virtual computing and the overkill of using a full desktop PC to access another computer’s resources. Whether you’re working remotely or simply accessing a remote personal computer (among other things, for helping out a clueless family member), it makes plenty of sense to have such a literally “lightweight” terminal.
With less than a year of preparation, countless creative and industrious enthusiasts have only scratched the surface of the potential applications of the Raspberry Pi. Simply browse the ever-growing list at the offical RPi forum to see just how many ideas have been produced already. If that doesn’t make you want to play around with your very own Raspberry Pi, you may need to see your physician for a checkup; your tech levels may be on the low side.