The Raspberry Pi Model B+ is the latest model in the Raspberry Pi stable of computers. It is a credit card sized computer that can run a number of operating systems including Linux and Android, it was originally aimed at teaching children computing, programming and electronics but has been embraced by a whole community of people interested in its potential.
With the GPIO (general purpose input/output) pins on the board many different electrical devices can be controlled; from turning an LED (light emitting diode) on and off to driving motors and taking readings from distance measuring devices. This makes it very useful for controlling robotics such as UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) and Rovers.
By the inclusion of a battery pack it can be made completely portable, with the computer being controlled remotely via Wi-Fi using a wireless dongle and using either the SSH (Secure Shell) command prompt interface or the VNC (Virtual Network Computing) virtual desktop application, you can even use your mobile phone – http://www.raspberrypi.org/piui-control-your-pi-with-your-phone/.
The model B+ costs around £25.
Although the Raspberry Pi itself comes with no digital recording capabilities out of the box, for another £25 the camera module can be purchased and used to record video at 1080p30, 720p60 and VGA90 modes and images can be captured with its 5 megapixel camera.
The previous versions of the Raspberry Pi have already been used in robotics projects such as controlling Rovers and UAVs to controlling photographic recording stations. With extra GPIO pins and a more powerful computer this potential can be added to.
It can be used to make cheaper versions of technology which already perform a usefully function; such as this gigapixel camera rig which takes overlapping DSLR photographs with preset motorised rotation and elevation of the rig set by the software on the Raspberry Pi, with the rotation being also controlled by the Raspberry Pi using a stepper motor whose rotation can be set accurately. The images can later be stitched together in software. A commercial version of this system is the GigaPan EPIC Pro gigapixel camera rig which costs $995. The software for the project is free to download. Free software solutions for stiching panorama photos together also exist, such as http://hugin.sourceforge.net/ and Microsoft’s ICE (Image Composite Editor) http://research.microsoft.com/en-us/um/redmond/groups/ivm/ICE/
An example gigapixel image using the rig can be seen here.
An example of a GigaPan capture undertaken with an EPIC Pro by the author and a colleague on the site of Netley Abbey in Hampshire as part of a recording project can be seen here.
Maker movement companies such have Adafruit have embraced the Raspberry Pi designing by building and selling many addons, including motor controller boards and touch screens.
The Raspberry Pi can run many useful pieces of software but it is limited by it’s processing power, although multiple Pi’s could be used for different parts of a project.