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December 16, 2013updated 22 Sep 2016 2:35pm

Top 5 coolest Raspberry Pi projects

From R2D2 to a spacefaring bear, people around the world are pushing the limits of the mini-computer.

By Ben Sullivan

The Raspberry Pi foundation has recently announced that a million of the small, cheap computers aimed at transforming computer education have now been manufactured in the UK. But the Pi isn’t only a British success story, but an international one.

With millions sold worldwide, the most successful British computer since the ’80s is transofrming how people learn, create and code with their electronics. Thousands upon thousands of DIY projects have been posted online since the Pi’s inception in February 2012, and here, CBR gives you five of the coolest, most awesome Pi projects we’ve seen around the web.


Ph. D student Lingxiang Xiang customised this Hasbro R2D2 Star Wars toy for his girlfriend with a Raspberry Pi.

It moves, has voice recognition, motion detection, distance detection, Wi-Fi, a camera and face recognition software.

The little robot can obey commands like ‘come here’, ‘turn left’ and ‘record’, just like the real thing!

The Pi inside is running the Debian-based Raspbian OS.

A lot of technical know-how has gone into putting R2D2 together, but the whole system runs on the core of a Raspberry Pi with the Debian-based installed. Linxiang is planning on posting instructions on how to make your own clever R2 unit online soon.

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Facial recognition was implemented usingOpenCV. Voice commands in either English or Chinese were made possible byPocketSphinx.

It must have done wonders for Xiang’s relationship, as his girlfriend is now his fiance.

Watch a video of the Pi R2D2 at work here. If you’re feeling brave, instructions for another Pi-powered R2D2 are here.


Pi in the Sky

Dave Ackerman from the UK used his Raspberry Pi to take photos of Earth from the edge of space.

The Pi camera was housed in a little box attached to a high-altitude balloon, and the contraption got some very nice looking photographs.

The creator linked the Pi up to a GPS unit, a 3G dongle and a webcam to live stream the images back to Earth.



In another Pi in the sky moment, Ackerman used Raspberry Pi powered teddy bear made a 24-mile high leap from a balloon launched in Berkshire.

Inside the teddy bear was a Raspberry Pi that transmitted the bear’s position and took photos of the descent.

The robot animal was created by high-altitude ballooning enthusiast Dave Akerman, who has used the Pi as the control centre on other flights.

On the flight, the Pi inside the bear’s body logged altitude, shot footage and transmitted it back to the ground. It also constantly broadcast the craft’s location so the flight could be mapped and the pioneering toy retrieved.

Pi-powered arcade coffee table

Graham Gelding used a 24-inch monitor, a Raspberry Pi, an old set of computer speakers, an arcade stick, and recycled wood to make this awesome retro-style arcade coffee table.


The joystick and buttons are wired directly to the GPIO pins of the Raspberry Pi, and the Pi boots up into a selection of MAME games, but there’s also an option for opening up the window manager and browsing the web.



Raspberry Pi Supercomputer

This is impressive. A massive array of 64 Raspberry Pi computers joined in a structure made of Lego, constructed by students in Southampton University. The team published a how-to guide, and you can build your own at a cost of £2,500.

Professor Cox, a member of the team, said: "The team wants to see this low-cost system as a starting point to inspire and enable students to apply high-performance computing and data handling to tackle complex engineering and scientific challenges as part of our on-going outreach activities."

The unit runs off a single 13 Amp mains socket and uses MPI (Message Passing Interface) to communicate between nodes using Ethernet. The whole system has a total of 64 processors and 1Tb of memory (16Gb SD cards for each Raspberry Pi). Professor Cox uses the free plug-in ‘Python Tools for Visual Studio’ to develop code for the Raspberry Pi.



FireHero 3

This project proves that the Raspberry Pi is certainly capable of providing a jaw-dropping pyrotechnic rock show. FireHero 3 uses the Pi computer to act as the brain of an on-stage pyrotechnics system.

The electric guitar’s sound is converted into a MIDI signal using a Roland GI-20 converter. This information is fed into a system run by a Raspberry Pi and Arduino Mega.

The system then controls a Silicon Nitride ignition system capable of pumping out eight flumes of fire up to 100 foot long, all in time with whatever the guitarist in front of it playing. Watch the video here.

fire hero


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