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5 Raspberry Pi Projects for Beginners

Some Ideas for Where to Start with the Popular Raspberry Pi

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Raspberry Pi has recently seen a surge in popularity, moving into the mainstream as a legitimate teaching platform, and capturing the attention of an even wider audience of computer enthusiasts. Those curious about the platform may wonder what can be done with this technology. With the community of Raspberry Pi hobbyists growing, people are realizing that this single board computer is surprisingly powerful. If you're on the fence about Raspberry Pi, and maybe unsure whether you want to spend the $40 on the platform, take a look at these popular project ideas for this versatile machine, perhaps you'll feel a creative spark.

1. Custom Cases

Computer enthusiasts often love custom cases, and the small single board of the Raspberry Pi has inspired a large number of custom enclosure projects. By default, the Raspberry Pi is sold as a bare board, without a case. A number of mass produced Pi enclosures can be found online, for example, popular electronics reseller Adafruit makes a sturdy, reasonably priced, clear screw-less case. But many Pi enthusiasts have used the case as an opportunity to showcase their creative talents, creating enclosures ranging from rainbow plastics to Lego to custom woodwork. Though not strictly speaking a technical project, a custom case can provide a great small, introductory fabrication project.

2. Wearable Computing

The ultra-small form factor of the Raspberry Pi makes it perfect for a wearable computing project. Though it sounds like something of a science fiction flight of fancy, wearable computing is becoming more mainstream. Accessible small form factor computers like Raspberry Pi can make wearable applications of technology more prevalent, unlocking many potential uses that were previously not imagined. Google recently received a lot of attention with its foray into augmented reality with its Google Glass project. A number of Raspberry Pi projects have demonstrated that a similar technology can be created using a Raspberry Pi in conjunction with widely available LCD glasses. This provides an affordable, accessible pathway into working with augmented reality.

3. Digital Displays

The same form factor that makes Raspberry Pi well suited for wearable uses makes it an effective way to power a variety of smart displays. Many third party manufacturers have noticed this, and are now producing displays that are well suited for the Raspberry Pi. These displays have been used in a wide variety of projects, from RSS news tickers, to touch screen kiosks. The versatility of the display options for the Pi make it a good way to experiment with mobile computing hardware. While mobile software development has long been accessible to experimenters thanks to accessible tools and platforms, mobile hardware experimentation is now becoming open for experimentation too, thanks to projects like Raspberry Pi and Arduino.

4. Media Streaming

One of the more surprising applications of the seemingly undersized, underpowered Raspberry Pi is as a streaming media player. The Pi proves quite capable of streaming video up to 1080p through the native HDMI output, and also works very well as an internet radio device. XBMC, a wildly popular open source media player that started life on the Xbox has been adapted specifically for Raspberry Pi. There are now a number of stable, well supported versions that make turning the Pi into a media player relatively hassle-free. For roughly $40 you can create a media streaming device that can rival consumer offerings that cost much more.

5. Gaming

Almost any computing project tends to inspire the hobbyist community to create compatible gaming applications, and the Raspberry Pi is no exception. Though originally designed for educational purposes, the Raspberry Pi has been shown to be effective at running classic games like Quake 3 using a custom Debian installation. However this 3D title seems to be the most graphics intensive experience available on the Raspberry Pi's underpowered GPU. More appropriately, The Raspberry Pi has been use to revive gamer's nostalgia, and the Pi adaptation of the popular arcade emulator MAME turns the Raspberry Pi into a relatively affordable classic arcade machine.

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