The Raspberry Pi Zero is unquestionably the most versatile piece of tech ever devised. Enterprising hobbyists have used it to make robots, games consoles, art installations – Raspberry Pis have even gone into space!
We’ve rounded up all the best things you can do with a Raspberry Pi to give budding makers some ideas. Most of these are designed with the larger old-school models in mind, but many of them can be adapted (or even improved) to feature the Raspberry Pi Zero.
Below we take a look at some of our favourite Raspberry Pi projects to date:
Build your own AI assistant
Google has partnered with official Raspberry Pi magazine The MagPi to release a brand new add-on board, enabling makers to add voice control and artificial intelligence to their Raspberry Pi projects.
The board allows hobbyists to make easy use of Google’s Cloud Speech API for voice recognition, as well as the Google Assistant SDK that provides the AI brain for the company’s smartest devices.
Issue 57 of the MagPi comes complete with a free AI kit, including the new Voice HAT add-on module, a speaker, microphone, cables, button and even an enclosure to put it in – everything you’ll need to make a homebrew version of Google Home.
Networking printers with Raspberry Pi
Having a networked printer that can be accessed wirelessly can do wonders for productivity when deployed in a small office. However, outfitting your workplace with network printers can be costly, especially if you’ve already got perfectly good, non-network printers already in place.
This project allow you to have the best of both worlds, using a Raspberry Pi to turn your regular old printer into a connected ‘smart’ printer. It’ll involve a bit of software know-how – you’ll need to set up CUPS and SAMBA, for example – but there’s no coding or soldering required.
This is an excellent project for anyone looking to give their old printing hardware a new lease of life. A full step-by-step guide is available on PiMyLifeUp.
The best-looking retro arcade machine ever?
Pi-powered retro gaming machines are hardly anything new, but this one has to take the cake as one of the most impressive examples we’ve seen. Complete with a smooth wooden housing and sleek acrylic inlays, this is decidedly more attractive than the 3D-printed examples one usually sees online.
This is definitely not one that most people can do at home, however. Engineer and maker David Johnson crafted this elegant little number using advanced tools like a CNC mill, with circuit boards he made himself.
Johnson documented the whole process on YouTube, and while most people are unlikely to be able to follow along at home, it’s undeniably impressive to watch.
MintyPi 2.0: a GameBoy Advance in an Altoids tin
In the grand tradition of cramming a Raspberry Pi into things to make retro gaming machines, enterprising maker Warner Skoch has managed to create a portable games device out of a Raspberry Pi Zero and an Altoids tin.
It’s actually the second iteration of the project, utilising a slightly bigger screen than the original, as well as including 3D-printed bezels to keep all the electronics tucked away and hinge to hold the lid open while playing.
Skoch says he’ll release a full step-by-step tutorial in the coming weeks, but if you just can’t wait that long and you’ve got some experience with projects like this, he’s outlined the parts he used in this forum thread.
Virtual Desktop for Raspberry Pi
Thanks to RealVNC’s partnership with the Raspberry Pi Foundation, the latest versions of the Raspbian distro all include pre-installed versions of VNC Server and VNC Viewer.
This can be used to create a virtual desktop, which is excellent for providing a graphical desktop interface to Pis that wouldn’t otherwise have one, such as headless devices running IoT or robotics projects.
To activate this, first ensure that VNC Server is set up and enabled on the target Raspberry Pi – you can find out how to do that here. Then, use either your Raspberry Pi’s terminal or an SSH connection to run the ‘vncserver’ command.
Note down the IP address and display number that VNC Server shows, and input that information into VNC Viewer. After that, you should be free to remotely operate the Pi as if it had a full graphical desktop.
Raspberry Pi is the heart of hundreds of useful projects, but as this gadget shows, it can also help you satisfy your idle curiosity, too.
Stratux is a project devised to tell you information about the various aircraft in the sky around you, and it’s wonderfully simply to build.
By receiving and translating the ADS-B broadcasts from airplanes in the sky nearby, Stratux gives you information such as the planes’ altitudes, speeds, locations and callsigns.
It runs on the Raspberry Pi 3 Motherboard, and the decoding software can be downloaded onto a Micro SD card that you simply slot into the chip.
This page has a few alternative lists of parts, ranging in cost from a budget $US95, to a common $US145 package, up to a $US260 list that’s quick to build.
The Raspberry Pi Zero is so small that it could fit into just about anything, as this hack demonstrates. Programmer and maker Terence Eden was lucky enough to get his hands on one of the devices, and with a bit of tinkering, was able to put it inside an original Xbox controller.
Using the RetroPie emulation software, he was able to make a retro games console that’s entirely contained in the controller. The controller itself loops back into the Pi, so all you need to play your favourite old-school games is an HDMI display and a power source. There’s even enough space to fit in a portable power pack for those that want to take it out and about.
Terence’s blog post with a full how-to is available here.
A quarter-finalist in the 2014 Hackaday Prize, this project by James Pavur is designed to automate the process of making a nice loose-leaf cuppa.
Tell the Raspberry Pi for how long and at what temperature you want your tea brewed, and the Pi will activate the connected kettle, measure the temperature, and lower the tea in with a servo motor.
Once the tea leaves have been in for the desired time, it’ll lift them out again, ready to be made into a lovely cup of tea.
Raspberry Tor Router
Anonymising network Tor is beloved of privacy advocates everywhere, as well as Dark Web users with more nefarious purposes in mind.
This project turns the Raspberry Pi into a router to send all your network traffic through Tor, rather than just browser sessions. Best of all, you can even slap a battery pack into it to take it wherever you go!