by January 29, 2013 0 comments

What is a Raspberry Pi?

As tasty as it sounds, Raspberry Pi might not digest well, as it is a tiny credit-card sized computer with a SoC (System on chip) running an ARM11 processor running at 700 MHz and a Videcore 4 GPU. On the motherboard, there are also crucial ports such as Ethernet, HDMI, USB 2.0, Audio and an SD card slot. There are two variants in Raspberry Pi, one is Model A(256MB RAM, one USB port, no Ethernet) and Model B (512MB RAM, two USB ports and Ethernet). Model A is priced at US$25, and Model B is priced at US$35. While the device may sound simplistic, it has the computing power equivalent to a Pentium II 300MHz, with a GPU capable of rendering graphics equivalent to what is found on the original Xbox. Raspberry Pi officially supports Linux-based Debian systems, and also offers its own “Raspbian Wheezy”, which is an optimized version of Debian to be used with the hardware. These operating systems will all be booted off the SD card you insert, and it is recommended to use at least a 2GB SD card. Unfortunately, Windows can’t be booted off this system as it is x86x64 based architecture dependent.

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While Raspberry Pi was intended by its creators to be used by kids around the world to learn programming, it is able to perform many intensive tasks such as HD multimedia playback and word-processing.

5 Crazy innovations with Raspberry Pi

1) Vegetable drum kit

Imagine having a row of Beets, and drumming on them to create a symphony of percussion music. This is exactly what Scott Garner has done, by building a drum kit of vegetables using a Raspberry Pi computer to detect touches and output drum sounds. By embedding touch sensors in the beets and running a Python script on the Raspberry Pi, the computer triggers drum samples which are routed to an amplifier and salvaged speaker. According to Garner, “I’m particularly interested in creating complex technical interactions in which the technology is invisible-both in the sense that the interaction is extremely simple and in the literal sense that no electronic components can be seen.”. This raises many ideas for creative and advanced musical instruments, where using a Raspberry Pi will be ideal because of its unnoticeable size and power. Read more here:

2) Raspberries in the Sky

OpenRelief, a project aimed at making a autonomous flying drone that can report information from damage-stricken areas, is making use of Raspberry Pi as the brain of its low-cost robotic plane. The project was inspired by a volunteer’s experience providing aid relief after the horrific tsunami and earthquake in Japan in 2011, where it was almost impossible to get information on road conditions. Using a low-cost drone, relief teams on the ground can easily analyse road conditions and even spot people in the aftermath. An Arduino board controls the flight of the drone, but Raspberry Pi is used as the “intelligence” in the drone.

3) Control a robot using voice commands

A blog poster by the name of “algorhythmic” uses RasPi to run his open-source speech recognition system, which is used to control a robotic arm. The poster raises the point that using RasPi for speech recognition is much cheaper and flexible compared to commercial offerings such as “Siri”. All that a person needs to set up the speech recognition system is a Raspberry Pi running Debian, a USB microphone and an acoustic model. The advantage with using RasPi is the size of the device, and the amazing processing power that it can offer. RasPi can be a boon for robotics enthusiasts who would want to make amateur robots on a budget using voice commands. Move over Siri, Raspberry Pi is here to stay! Full instructions on how to set up the system can be found here:

4) Old-school arcade machine

Running a MAME(Multiple arcade machine emulator) in PCs nowadays is commonplace, but using Raspberry Pi to build an fully functional arcade machine is beyond cool. Installing the emulator on RasPi and attaching it to an old-school CRT monitor, Darren J recreated the quintessential experience of an arcade game. Using an iPac 2 as the joystick controller, which was recognized by the RasPi as a USB keyboard, and a simple DIY amplifier from eBay to provide output for the Mono sounds of the games, he compiled the MAME emulator on the Rasbian distribution running and an old game of “Track & Field” was up and running! By using the RasPi, he saved a lot on the cost of building the machine and “no hard drives to worry about, and much lighter than a fragile PC”. More about this here :

5) Home-made beverage vending machine

Tired of all those friends coming over and taking your drinks without asking you? With “The Caribou”, the party host can easily track the count of drinks being drawn and who has taken the drinks. Built by two enterprising college students, this machine uses Arduino along with Raspberry Pi to control the flow of drinks and keep track. The engineers made a Python script running on the RasPi which is triggered whenever a user swipes a magnetic card. It records the value of the card to a database and increases the count of the specific user. Read more here:

How to bite into Raspberry Pi in India?

Through the official Raspberry Pi website, we found that a store called “Kits ‘n’ Spares” is distributing Raspberry Pi in India. Their website offers the Raspberry Pi Model B (with 512 MB RAM) at Rs. 2751, excluding tax and shipping costs. However, when we contacted the store, they told us that the lead time for it is about 3-4 weeks, and we would have to pay up front and book it online so that they can request for a supply. When we searched the website under “element14”, we also found they offer a 4GB SD card which is already pre-programmed with a Debian 6 operating system.

The Indian government can look into doing a mass distribution of this cheap device to rural areas to encourage children to pick up programming and computing from an early age.

Have you used Raspberry PI for anything special? We would love to hear from you regarding innovations you have made with Raspberry PI! Mail us at

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