You want to make a robot, and you want your robot to be clever. But you definitely don’t want to spend thousands of dollars, or 3 years to study how to do. We have good news for you : why not using a Raspberry Pi board for your robotics project ?
A Raspberry Pi board is a small computer (credit card size) that can easily connect to the Internet and interface with a lot of hardware components.
Many people use Raspberry Pi to make a server for home : VPN, weather station, small game server, cluster, etc. But Raspberry Pi is more and more used on robotics project. Why ?
We give you 7 reasons why you should use Raspberry Pi on a robotics project :
1. Raspberry Pi is small…
The Raspberry Pi board has the size of a credit card, which makes it perfect for embedding it on your robot. You don’t need to find extra space or add a 2kg payload, the Raspberry Pi will just fit !
2. … and cheap – less than 40$
Yes, you’ve heard that right : less 40$ for a complete computer. Raspberry Pi is really affordable. That way, buying a board will not make your robot cost too much. It will provide you great value and a lot of new possibilities, for a very good price.
3. Raspberry Pi is powerful
Despite its very small size, don’t underestimate what a Raspberry Pi can do ! It is as powerful as a smartphone (not the latest ones). The latest version on the market, Raspberry Pi 3, has a quad-core processor and 1GB RAM. You can run a real OS on Raspberry Pi, like Raspbian, Ubuntu or Windows IoT, so basically you can do the same things you would have done on your laptop.
For example, you can run softwares like Wolfram or Minecraft on a Raspberry Pi with Raspbian. Returning to robotics applications, you can get benefits from a lot of calculation tools. Don’t forget that robotics is a lot about maths. Whether you need to calculate speed for your motors, or inverse kinematics, you can’t skip the maths. Well… in fact you can, if you use a computer like a Raspberry Pi to do all the heavy calculations. Many softwares are doing a good job so you don’t need to program the calculations yourself.
4. Supported by a large community
Well, Raspberry Pi would not be as famous as it is without its huge community. Raspberry Pi projects are everywhere. You can always find cool projects online, tutorials, and help from the community through forums, blog posts, …
If you like open source projects, have a look at Robot Operating System (ROS) which you can run with Ubuntu installed on your Raspberry Pi board. Remember that : open source for robotics truly rocks !
A stable and growing community is an important factor of a product success. Don’t worry too much about Raspberry Pi still being there in the future, the community is so much involved, we may see Raspberry Pi boards continue to evolve for a while.
5. A lot of inputs/outputs
A Raspberry Pi board is not only a computer. With 40 GPIO pins, you can easily connect to a lot of actuators and sensors.
You can use many protocols to connect your board to other hardware devices, such as serial, spi or i2c. This is a very important point, as it makes Raspberry Pi boards compatible with most of the devices you can find for hobby projects.
6. Many connected devices
With a huge community and a lot of useful projects around Raspberry Pi, many companies have started selling products to enhance your Raspberry Pi experience. Among them :
Screen for Raspberry Pi. Those are cheap and so you don’t need to buy an expensive screen just to use your board
Camera : You can directly use a camera made for Raspberry. Cheap, stable, and great quality again !
There are many more products that you can find on the Internet. The two above can make your robot more intelligent by using image processing tools and display a nice user interface to the screen.
7. Very easy to use compared to industrial technology
Everyone can use a Raspberry Pi board. You just need to download the operating system, write it on your micro SD card, connect your Raspberry Pi to a screen, and voila ! You can start with zero programming knowledge.
Of course, if you want to use Raspberry Pi for your robot, you will need to know some basic programming, and how to connect to hardware devices. But don’t worry, as many tools are available to make your life easier with that, and you can still count on the great community online.
Well, after all these points, we hope we convinced you that Raspberry Pi boards are great and powerful tools for robotics applications.
The current version is Raspberry Pi 3, and there will be many more, each time with great improvements and efforts to make it accessible to everyone.
Keep in touch for more information about robotics projects and news ! Also check out how we use Raspberry Pi to build an accessible robot for makers.