Home Automation, Super Computers and Gaming Consoles: The Raspberry Pi Does It All

Author: Darhan Saami

Raspberry Pi Foundation has taken the world by storm ever since the release of their first-ever credit-card-sized computer back in 2012. In the past decade, the world has witnessed their computers’ immense capabilities and has adopted them in their personal and professional projects. However, the limits of these computers are still being discovered. It was only meant to be a cheap device used for teaching programming languages; yet it has been transformed into a multi-purpose product that can be programmed into doing almost anything.

There are many examples of how these computers can be integrated into complicated systems and circuits for things such as home automation, weather tracking, and other complicated tasks. In recent years there have been groundbreaking ideas that push the limits of these computers beyond small-scale tasks like weather recording. Some of those ideas and projects are reviewed in great detail in this post so that these computers’ limits can be gauged. We hate to give you a spoiler, but the tremendous power of the following projects shows that the creator’s imagination can only limit these computers.

Oracle’s Supercomputer

The project link is here.

Oracle is an American company based around computer technology. It has grown into a multinational company in recent years, giving them a lot of resources to toy around with several projects. They decided to dirty their hands with the single-board Raspberry Pi computers and came out with something completely outrageous back in 2019. Oracle built an entire supercomputer from joining a couple of Raspberry Pi models. “A couple of computers” might just be an understatement over here since the project uses more than a thousand Raspberry Pi 3 B+ models!

Traditionally, the Raspberry Pi computers were designed to be a cost-efficient way to increase knowledge about programming languages like Python. It was even made to target the developed world so that schools in that region could benefit from it. Within the last couple of years, it has been made into a cost-effective way to deal with personal projects like home automation. However, Oracle went about their treatment of the Raspberry Pi in a completely different way by creating something very expensive and equally complex. The project involves linking up a thousand and sixty Raspberry Pi model 3’s (B+) with each other in order to create a complex circuit resembling that of a smartphone or a supercomputer (by its size). It was placed in an old phone booth and made into a portable device. The size is an issue. However, that is not what we are looking at when we explain the sheer brilliance of this project.

The initial project was supposed to have around a thousand and twenty-four computers interlinked; however, the company has placed a few extra in the booth as spares to tackle any technical emergency. Each computer adds to the entire device’s processing power, making it one of the most powerful projects created with the Raspberry Pi computers! Each computer provides a 1.4 GHz 64-bit quad-core processor that ends up providing four thousand four hundred and twenty cores available for processing any bit of data! All of these computers combined would cost the company upwards of thirty-five thousand dollars ($35000). However, there were more components involved in the project that further raised the cost. The company claims that they used 22 network switches, long racks (to place the computers on), custom-built Raspberry Pi holders (to place the single-board computers inside), lots of USB power supplies, and also a lot of wires and network cables. Creating a supercomputer is not easy, but the result is an amazing super-powered machine with ultra-fast processing speeds. The fascinating thing is that anyone can do this with some information about the Raspberry Pi computers! The only limitation is the immense cost of this project. Most Raspberry Pi projects rend to be cost-effective rather than expensive. 

The project has been brought to another level by the software that it runs. The above details explained the hardware; however, the software also adds to the “tremendousness” of this project. The final computer ran an “Oracle Autonomous Linux.” The OS was announced just before this project was revealed to the world in 2019, and so it was quite compatible with many applications and tools required for processing data. Oracle’s Supermicro 1U Xeon server helps in booting up this system on the computer. This means that the final project boasted some serious “hardware” as well as “software” components that pushed the limits of what people imagined a Raspberry Pi computer was capable of.

The goal for the Oracle team was to market their newly announced “autonomous” system, and what better way to do it than to have a supercomputer run it. As explained before, the cost and the size were not factors to be discouraged by since they just wanted to make something cool. Dividing processing tasks between a number of computers over a network may not be that practical. However, the goal was to cluster as much raw power together to show how efficiently it runs the newly launched system from Oracle. The main takeaway from this project is to learn from the thought stream of the Oracle team. Their unique way of thinking pushed the boundaries regarding the possibilities with Raspberry Pi computers. This thought process may eventually inspire a new groundbreaking idea that is yours!

The Pi Switch 

The project link is here.

This project was voted the number one project in a compilation by The Pi creators for their seventy-fifth magazine issue. The list was called “The 75 Greatest Raspberry Pi Projects.” The Pi switch topped this list as it accumulated the most votes from fans all over the world. This project is the very definition of the word “groundbreaking” as it inspires programmers and gamers to look at their consoles in a new way. Exploring the thought process behind this project will hopefully make you learn a few things about the limitlessness of the Raspberry Pi computers.

Christopher Foote, the creator of this project, looked to create a console resembling the Nintendo Switch just a few months after its release. What started out as a replication project turned out to quite a feat for this DIY guru. The project was meant to be a low-cost console that allows two players to simultaneously play like they would on a normal Nintendo Switch. It required a touchscreen, some joy-con controllers, and a battery. The hardware list is short, which means the software required a lot of work to be able to perform at the level of a dedicated console that costs more than two to three hundred dollars. Indeed, the software did worry, Christopher. However, he added to the “Linux Joystick mapper’s” code and managed to get the joy-con’s analog working with his touchscreen. Once the joy-cons worked, it was time to assemble all the hardware in a custom 3d printed case. The trick to this was to make the 3d design such that it allows the joy-cons to slide onto the entire case like the switch. Designers can learn from this trick and create all sorts of consoles that they can think of.

The Raspberry Pi behind the screen controls everything. This one uses RetroPie (a gaming OS for retro games) and can also run Kodi to perform different tasks. Christopher says that he will figure out “Steam” streaming, allowing the console to run more than just games! His page has all the cool steps that he performed to the case to make it work with all the hardware components. It is bound to have future updates about the Steam streaming issue as well.

The built-in Linux OS can also support a lot of games. It is up to the user to create something that is workable and efficient. In Christopher’s case, it seems that he has Nintendo beat for price and design! Even though we cannot give the full credit to Christopher since it copies the switch’s design, but this groundbreaking project can teach us that the Pi is made for gaming as well. It can power many consoles in the future if gamers want it to!

Conclusion 

The Raspberry Pi computers are virtually limitless depending on the type of code and hardware components each project is using. It is a multifaceted product capable of catering to anything that requires digital processing. From making automated housing systems to fully functioning consoles in under a hundred dollars, the Pi can do it all. Not to mention it, but the Pi can also become a supercomputer, as explained in the Oracle Cluster project!

The next big project might just come from your brains, so use this article as a tool to rewire your thinking process to think bigger. Each project that you have made can be improved upon and made better if your computational problem-solving skills are better than average!

You can get everything you need to get started on your own Raspberry Pi project with this kit here.

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