10 insanely innovative, incredibly cool Raspberry Pi projects

In honor of Pi Day, here are 10 of the most thrilling examples of makers getting creative with the $35 Raspberry Pi.

raspberry pi model b and pi 2 top down
Credit: Brad Chacos
A heaping helping of Pi

The Raspberry Pi’s very existence can be chalked up to creativity. Ebon Upton and the Raspberry Pi Foundation created the $35 mini-PC to inspire students to learn computer science and enable tinkerers to dream up wild projects without breaking the bank.

And they have! In honor of Pi Day—March 14, or 3/14—and the recent release of the Raspberry Pi 2, we’re basking in 10 of the most creative, surprising, and downright interesting Raspberry Pi creations crafted since the micro-PC’s launch. Even better, most of the creators share full details on how to replicate these crazy innovative projects in your own home. Let’s dig in!

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fisher price phone raspberry pi
Credit: Grant Gibson
Talking toy

Inspired by the talking Fisher-Price Chatter Telephone in Toy Story 3, UK-based Grant Gibson decided to use a Raspberry Pi to improve on the actual toy. He took a special Toy Story edition of the Chatter Telephone (equipped with sound clips from the movie) and added a Wi-Fi-enabled Raspberry Pi B+ to it. The result is a “Talking Chatter Smartphone” that can tell you the current weather, let you know what’s playing at local theaters, or listen to the radio. It even has geo-fencing notifications: When the owner leaves the office, the toy is alerted at home and lets everyone else know.

Check out the full story, along with some tools to help you build your own, on Grant Gibson’s blog.

raspberry pi microwave

Why bother owning a traditional microwave when you can swap out some innards and create your very own Pi-powered food nuker?

Developer Nathan Broadbent took his microwave apart, redesigned the touchpad, and added some new functions like voice control, a barcode scanner to access an online database of cooking times, a web-based interface for remote access, and auto-tweets for when the timer is done.

portaberry pi
Portaberry Pi

Turning the Raspberry Pi into a gaming machine is a classic use case for the mini computer—emulators for the legally gray win!—but Portaberry Pi is one of the nicer set-ups. It includes a Raspberry Pi Model B, a 4.5-inch TFT display, a 3D-printed case, and various components to construct a boxy handheld retro gaming device. Check out the finished project on YouTube with the device running Super Mario World for Super Nintendo.

Credit: David Hunt

Some Raspberry Pi projects are cool and useful, and others are just a neat idea. I’d argue that David Hunt’s Pi-powered mobile phone falls into the latter category. This isn’t something you’d want to stick in your pocket, but it’s amazing to think you can take a Raspberry Pi and combine it with a GSM module, battery, and TFT touch screen to create a homegrown cell phone.

pirate radio raspberry pi
Pi-rate Radio

A simple, but effective hack from Make shows how you can turn your Raspberry Pi into a mobile FM transmitter to share your tunes with those around you. The beauty of this project is its simplicity. All you need is the Raspberry Pi basics—SD card, a power source, and the Raspberry Pi—plus a piece of wire for an antenna, some basic tools, and about an hour of your time.

The site also warns you to be careful about choosing a broadcast band for your new transmitter. If you start pumping tunes on government bands or a band used by a licensed radio station, you could quickly end up in more trouble than the project is worth.

magic mirror raspberry pi
Magic mirror

Developer Michael Teeuw came up with a neat idea for a home project: Create a high-tech mirror that shows you the weather, time, and the day’s headlines while you’re getting ready for the day.

For his project Teeuw took a one-way mirror, attached a display and Raspberry Pi to the back, and put it all together in a custom-made case. It’s a killer concept, and his “magic mirror” inspired others to create their own versions. You can find full details on how he built the mirror on Teeuw’s blog, along with another post showing off other mirrors from around the world.

Cluster computing

If using one Raspberry Pi is great, then combining a whole bunch of them together must be even better—especially if you’re trying to create a capable, yet cheap and power-efficient computer cluster.

Jeff Geerling, who runs web and mobile development company Midwestern Mac, took five Raspberry Pi 2 devices to create a mini-datacenter running Drupal 8 (a content management platform for websites). Geerling calls his creation a “Dramble” (Drupal + bramble). There are lots of people experimenting with Raspberry Pi clusters. Even Britain’s spy agency, the Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) is playing around with Raspberry Pi clusters—in GCHQ’s case, a cluster of 66 Raspberry Pis—which it calls a Bramble.

raspberry pi 2 primary
In/out board

Here’s a handy tool for anyone who needs to keep track of a large number of roommates or family members. Take a Bluetooth USB dongle, a monitor, and a Raspberry Pi, and you’ve got yourself an automated way to see who’s at home or in the office at a glance.

This project requires that everyone have Bluetooth activated on their smartphones, so the Raspberry Pi can identify which devices are present. Any time someone is in range of home, the display shows that they’re present (or at least that their smartphone is). Check out Instructables for a step-by-step breakdown.

pi quadrocopter
Semi-autonomous quad-copter

This is a more expensive and mechanically intense project, but what’s more rewarding than building your own Raspberry Pi-powered miniature vehicle?

UK-based Pi enthusiast Andy Baker has a breakdown of how he built his own semi-autonomous quad-copter that comes programmed with its own flight plan. There are quite a few articles to read through, but this one is probably your best starting point. Also be sure to check out the new quad-copter project that he just started in February.

erica the rhino
Erica the Rhino

The last project we’ll look at isn’t really something you can do at home, but it is a downright cool use of the Raspberry Pi.

This art installation by the University of Southampton’s Electronics and Computer Science team is powered by five Raspberry Pi devices that allow the Rhino to move its ears, send out and read tweets, make Rhino sounds, and even interact with nearby viewers via smartphones. Erica has her own website where you can find out more about this interesting art experiment.