A Pi bot’s potential
We’re not talking about engineering an Arnie-shaped T-101: Pi Edition, but don’t let us stop you from doing so.
The Raspberry Pi was launched six years ago, and since then, it has grown into something amazing. We’ve seen four different major versions (Zero, 1, 2 and 3), and a couple of minor versions, most recently the powerful 3 B+ which launched in March.
Online Pi retailer ModMyPi.com was there at the beginning, and was good enough to lend us some treats for this feature. Founder Jacob Marsh offers his take on the Pi’s remarkable success. “I didn’t realise that the Raspberry Pi would grow to what it is now, I don’t think even the Pi Foundation did. ModMyPi was conceived in a university bedroom. Now we have a global e-shop with more than 2,000 product lines, a $5.5 million turnover, seven full-time staff, and a 300 square metre warehouse that we’re rapidly outgrowing. Long may it continue!”
What makes the Pi so special is the limitless scope for expansion. A tiny general-purpose computer that can be connected to sensors, motors or your central heating system, coupled with the collective imaginations of the open- source community, has led to all kinds of wonderful physical computing applications. And one of the most wonderful is robotics.
Nevermind our fanciful cover illustration. Any situation where a computer-controlled device performs a mechanical function is a ‘robot’ at heart. Robotic vehicles are particularly popular with Pi hobbyists just now. These might at first appear to be little more than the radiocontrolled cars, but they can do much more than scoot around the kitchen table or living room.
Having a tiny Linux machine inside enables all kind of tinkering. With a few easy-to-connect components, some open-source libraries and just a little bit of Python programming to connect everything together, you’re limited only by your imagination. Well, small caveat, you may have to solder a few wires. This is daunting at first, but there are plenty of guides on the internet. In particular, check out the Pi Foundation’s director of education Carrie Anne Philbin giving an excellent demonstration at: youtu.be/P5L4Gl6Q4Xo
A Pi robot can run the same Raspbian Linux we all know and love. It can connect to wireless networks, so you can SSH in and perform diagnostics while it’s on the move. You can even run apt upgrade while it’s driving around.
A Pi-powered robot might also take pictures, zoom around your house quoting Shakespeare or even take to the skies to admire the city below. With the aid of the OpenCV library and a little bit of image processing, we can give our robot computer vision, so that it can target and follow objects, or even recognise objects or people.
So dig into our guide, and don’t forget to check out www.modmypi.com for inspiration.
“A Pi-powered robot might take pictures, zoom around your house quoting Shakespeare or even take to the skies.”
The Dexter GoPiGo robot is a popular choice for education, and is almost certainly not bent on world domination.