20 cool things you can do with a Raspberry Pi

Get creative. No, more creative than that. Keep going.

Raspberry Pi
The world of delicious Raspberry Pi

The teaching aid/creativity toy/teeny little computer that is the Raspberry Pi has become more popular than its creators at the Raspberry Pi Foundation ever dreamed it would. Here are 20 of the more notable uses to which the versatile device has been put.

RELATED: The Raspberry Pi is absolutely gorgeous

Raspberry Pi
Credit: Kickstarter
Otto

Remember how pictures work in Harry Potter? That’s kind of the idea with the Otto, a Kickstarter for a Pi-powered camera that takes animated gifs instead of still images. You use a crank to take pictures, as well, for additional lo-fi tweeness.

Raspberry Pi
Credit: Adafruit.com
Pi glasses

Move over, Google Glass. Adafruit has a design that uses a pair of $100 video glasses to send images to a Raspberry Pi via composite video. Doesn’t quite have the feature set of Google Glass, but hey, at $100 for the headware, who’s complaining?

Raspberry Pi
Credit: Glenn Harris 2012
RasPi supercomputer

Individually, a Raspberry Pi board isn’t very powerful, by modern computing standards. Wire 64 of them together, however, and that is no longer the case – as a professor from the U.K. University of Southampton has demonstrated.

Raspberry Pi
Credit: YouTube.com
Yes, a Raspberry Pi phone

DIYer David Hunt put together a working smartphone using a Raspberry Pi board. It probably needs a little presentation work, but it’s pretty impressive.

Raspberry Pi
Credit: YouTube.com
Build-your-own handheld gaming thingy

Someone on Thingiverse built this chunky little handheld that uses a Raspberry Pi to emulate a bunch of old Super Nintendo games. Not totally sure that’s legal, but it’s mighty cool.

Raspberry Pi
Credit: Ioannis Kedros
Weather station

 Ioannis Kedros, an enthusiastic tinkerer who blogs at EmbeddedDay.com, turned a Raspberry Pi and a Styrofoam box into a teeny little weather station. No word on whether he’s going to add a bad haircut and some silly jokes to the device’s repertoire.

Raspberry Pi
Penguin monitor

The Raspberry Pi is already used to track animals and defend against poachers in Africa, so why not use it to track penguins, as well? Researchers blogging at PenguinLifelines now have a year-round way of watching the marine birds in Antarctica.

Raspberry Pi
Braille teacher

Project Mudra is the brainchild of engineers Sanskriti Dawle and Aman Srivastav, who are designing an affordable “dicta-teacher,” meant to teach disadvantaged blind children how to read Braille. (H/T Trak.in)

Raspberry Pi
Credit: YouTube.com
Christmas light controller

On the lighter side of things (sorry), here’s a Pi project that makes your Christmas lights flicker on and off to the beat of music. Side note to the inventor – that’s not the Peanuts theme song, it’s called “Linus and Lucy.” Here’s the original version.

Raspberry Pi
Tablet computer

If you can make a Raspberry Pi into a phone, why not a tablet? That’s what Andre Hitchman apparently said to himself before designing this surprisingly functional-looking tablet computer.

Raspberry Pi
Near-satellite

You could also use a Raspberry Pi to power spacegoing equipment of some sort, much as the North Carolina Near Space Research group is doing with very-high-altitude balloons. Some of the pictures taken from the edge of space are, as you might expect, pretty impressive.

Raspberry Pi
Credit: BrewPi.com
Beer brewing machine

OK, so it’s not a COMPLETE beer brewing machine – it’s a sophisticated temperature controller, so it can’t pitch your yeast or sparge your wort, no matter how nicely you ask – but the BrewPi system does take some of the tension out of one of the toughest parts of the brewing process.

Raspberry Pi
Credit: YouTube.com
Matrix-ifier

If you liked those bullet-time sequences from the Matrix – and who didn’t, really? – you’ll love this camera rig, created by Andrew Robinson that links up 48 Raspberry Pis, allowing you to create the same effect.

Raspberry Pi
Credit: LibertyGames.co.uk
Pool table

This pool table, created by Liberty Games, has a special, Raspberry Pi-powered module in it that allows it to accept payment in Bitcoin. Because of course it does.

Raspberry Pi
Zillions and zillions of robots

The number of small robots that people have made with the Raspberry Pi is very large, and it would be easy to fill any number of slideshows with examples. For now, rest assured that there are lots and lots of Raspberry Pi-powered robots out there.

Raspberry Pi
Credit: Blackstripes.nl
Artistic drawing tool

Blackstripes automatic drawing machine takes digital photographs and turns them into handsome line drawings. It’s cool, all right, and probably handy if you want to convince people that you have some kind of skill in visual arts. No, really, I drew that myself.

Raspberry Pi
Credit: MetaLab
Substitute Mario machine?

And you thought the original had low-fi graphics – here’s Super Mario Brothers hooked up to a 24x24 LED matrix, powered by (naturally) a Raspberry Pi. The jumps will be difficult to gauge, I’d say.

Raspberry Pi
Credit: YouTube.com
Facial recognition lockbox

Let’s face it – none of us remember our passwords all the time. Thankfully, Tony DiCola has us covered, with this system that allows you to open a lock with nothing but your smiling phiz. (H/T: Lifehacker)

Raspberry Pi
Bartender

An Oxford PhD student, Johan Paulsson, uses a Raspberry Pi to track supplies, sales, and even play the music at a local student pub, though he apparently doesn’t let it serve actual drinks or throw out kids with fake IDs.

Raspberry Pi
Credit: ValkyrieSavage.com
A constant gardener

Just in case you thought the Internet of Things didn’t include some of the messier and more organic parts of human existence, Valkyrie Savage is here to disabuse you of that notion, with this Pi-powered system that automatically irrigates a garden.

Email Jon Gold at jgold@nww.com and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.