By now you may have heard of a nifty little device called Raspberry Pi (not to be confused with raspberry pie or the math-flavored pi). It’s a single-board computer about the size of a credit card that runs on a Linux kernel-based operating system. It can do much of what a PC does, including word processing, gaming, and video playback. Raspberry Pi was developed by the Raspberry Pi Foundation, a charitable organization in the UK established in 2009 to promote computer science in schools.
One of the most impressive aspects of Raspberry Pi is its compatibility with other components. Model A has one USB port, and the recently released Model B has two (as well as an Ethernet port and 512 MB RAM, twice as much memory as Model A), which can be used to connect a mouse and keyboard. There are HDMI and composite hookups, so it can be connected to most televisions, and while there’s no VGA support built in, adapters are available. The HDMI connection supports sound, there’s a standard 3.5mm jack for audio, and a microphone can be used in the USB port.
Now, Japan’s Kiluck Corporation (which also makes strange prosthetic wagging tails) has made by far the coolest Raspberry Pi-compatible component thus far — RAPIRO the robot, who is capable of doing all kinds of tasks, including making you a cup of coffee.
As seems to be in vogue these days, Kiluck launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund this project. With 38 days to go, Kiluck has exceeded its goal twice over, so it looks like we’ll be seeing RAPIRO on the market. Good thing, too — I could use another cup of coffee.
RAPIRO looks a bit like a midget storm trooper. It’s got 12 servo motors, full-color LED eyes, it can be assembled with only a screwdriver, and it can be mounted to Raspberry Pi via a port in its head. It can walk, grip objects, and turn. Kiluck will publish data that allows a 3D printer to customize RAPIRO.
Once connected to Raspberry Pi, you can use wifi or Bluetooth to control RAPIRO with a smartphone or game controller. If wifi is enabled, you can access all the same stuff you would on a computer, including social media, weather, and news. Connecting it to the Raspberry Pi Camera Module allows RAPIRO to capture video of your home, your cat, or whatever weird thing you want to film. RAPIRO can also be voice-controlled if you use a USB microphone adapter. According to Kiluck, it “looks small, acts large, and its limitless possibilities all depend on how you program it.”
RAPIRO isn’t the first robot designed to work with Raspberry Pi. The BrickPi system allows users to create and control a Lego robot. While these robots are impressive, I’m still waiting for the one that will spend the day slaving away on blog posts.