Maybe you picked up a Raspberry Pi for the holidays, or you’ve been sitting on one of the super versatile, palm-sized computers for a while now. If you’ve been wondering how to get started with yours, or what you could build that’s worthwhile, here are ten great ideas.
Illustration by Sam Woolley. Photo by kkingsbury.
10. A Weather Station
Sure, sure, you could always just look out the window to see what the weather is like, but where’s the fun in that when you could have precise temperature, atmospheric pressure, wind speed and a forecast along with all of that? Look no further than your Raspberry Pi, and a few extra components.
Of course, if you want something a little more flexible, or a little more fun, consider building this colour-changing lamp that will reveal the weather forecast based on the colour and light pattern with your Pi, or this slightly simpler version that looks pretty good on a bookshelf if I do say so myself.
9. A Photo Booth
What’s more fun than taking lots of great photos with your friends when you’re all hanging out having a great time? Turn the Pi you’ve had sitting around for ages into a photo booth designed specifically to capture those awesome moments, and then share them with your friends.
You have choices too – the one above has a touchscreen and a little countdown timer, but if you don’t want to go through that much energy, try this simpler version (you don’t need the custom box, obviously) that auto-uploads the photos in animated GIF form to a Tumblr account you create for the event — or for your project.
8. A Home Surveillance System
The beauty of the Raspberry Pi is that it’s a pocket-sized computer. That means it can go virtually anywhere, like in the garage, near the front door, or anywhere else you need a pair of eyes and have a power outlet. This beginner project will turn your Pi into a home security system in no time.
When you’re ready to shoot for the moon, you could build a multiple-camera system with a Raspberry Pi, if you want eyes all over the house or yard. This project uses Windows IoT to do the same thing with your Pi if you’re looking for an alternative that might look a little more familiar.
7. A DIY Arcade Stick
By far one of the most popular Pi projects is an arcade machine, and we’ll get to that. We’re putting the cart before the horse a little bit and suggesting that you put your retro game console inside an arcade stick, so you can play your favourite old school games on the perfect controller for those games all at once.
The one above uses a classic arcade design, complete with beautiful acrylic, but if you want something a little easier for beginners — complete with a step-by-step instruction video that shows you how to make both the housing and the console itself, this one is perfect for you.
6. A Completely Portable, Digital eBook Library
If ebooks are your thing, and carrying around tons of them — or even sharing them with others — is your jam, this mobile digital library is ideal for keeping, sharing and trading books with your friends. Best of all, it’s completely powered by a Raspberry Pi. It’s portable and turns your Pi into a Wi-Fi hotspot that others can connect to, find something to read, and grab it to take with them. Isn’t sharing wonderful?
5. A Go-Anywhere, Wearable Camera
Maybe you want to chronicle your life, or do one of those “day in the life” experimental videos where someone can walk a mile in your shoes. Maybe you’re just planning an awesome hike or bike ride and want to take a video of the whole trip. Well, if you have a Pi, you have a perfect project to capture all the fun. This wearable camera is powered by a Pi and a battery, and is small enough to tuck on a shirt or around your neck on a lanyard.
If you want to take it an extra mile, you could build this internet-connected model that live streams to YouTube in real time, but you might want to keep this one somewhere your Pi has either signal or Wi-Fi.
4. A Whole-Network Ad Blocker, or a Call-Home VPN
If you’re a little more tech-inclined, consider this whole-network ad blocker that will protect all the devices and systems on your network from ads, malvertising, and other annoying hover-over and pop-over ads, even on your mobile devices. It’s a little work, but it’s worth it.
For even more security and privacy, consider turning your Pi into a VPN and proxy that you can use when you’re away from the house, too.
After all, a VPN is ideal for protecting your data from prying eyes when you’re on the go and connecting back to your home network gives you a way to keep that traffic and data secure wherever you go. Plus, it’s not a super difficult project to accomplish. Want a little more privacy? Add Tor to the mix.
3. A Streaming Internet Radio
Using a Raspberry Pi to stream Spotify, Pandora, Google Music, and other streaming internet radio and podcasts is another super popular project. And why not? It’s easy, and depending on how much energy you want to put into the project you can have a touch-screen capable jukebox that anyone who wants to control the playlist can use, or you can have something beautiful that sits on a shelf and looks like a vintage Hi-Fi.
Plus, there are tons of variations on the project, like this one that looks modern and sharp, and this one that works like a multi-room Sonos clone, but they all start with this basic tutorial that will launch whatever project you choose.
2. A DIY Amazon Echo
Editor’s note: Here’s a guide on getting an Amazon Echo shipped to Australia from the US.
Amazon practically wants you to turn your Raspberry Pis into Echo Dots. Seriously, they released the official instructions on how to do so (after people started doing it themselves, of course,) and then not too long ago they unlocked the only thing they held back in the first place — triggering it with a wake word.
Of course, you don’t need to go through all of that just to make one yourself. We have you covered in this complete, start to finish guide here — and once you do have one built, you can use it for everything you would normally use an Echo for, from trivia to web searches and more.
1. A Retro Gaming Console
We’ve teased at it, and covered in the past, but by far our preferred suggestion for beginners is to build your own Raspberry Pi-powered retro game console and play the hell out of your favourite old school titles.
Of course, the shape and style of your console is up to you, so you can get a fancy 3D printed case and make yours look like an old school Nintendo, turn yours into a two-player arcade table with a little IKEA hacking, build a whole cabinet, or pack yours into a game cartridge, or even a busted controller.
When you get started though, you won’t be able to stop, so check out our advanced guide to your Pi-powered console when you’re ready, and check out our rundowns of the best retro console software to play all of those games.