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Feb
21

10 awesome Raspberry Pi upgrades – Part 2

Posted by Oliver Hill

Even more upgrades for your Raspberry Pi. Check them out!

Adafruit 10.1” Display & Audio – £110/$154.95

Finding the right display for your project can often be a bit of a pain. We have covered the HDMIPi in a previous issue (146; bit.ly/1Gb9LNs), which is a fantastic 9-inch HD screen for your Raspberry Pi, and it really was wildly successful on Kickstarter (kck.st/1CuIjwd).

If you want to take things one step further, Adafruit have a 10.1-inch offering that just can’t be missed. It features a beautiful 1280 x 800 (so slightly higher than 720p) resolution IPS display with a very wide viewing angle. It has mounting tabs to enable you to easily flush-mount it within your project and it can accept a number of different input methods – HDMI, VGA and composite. Perhaps best of all, this display kit also enables you to directly connect 2-, 4- or 8-Ohm speakers without the need for a separate amplifier or externally powered speaker, which is very useful.

It is not the cheapest display around at $155 on the Adafruit site, but if you need a high quality display in your project with native audio capability then you should seriously consider it. We are already daydreaming of a dedicated multiplayer arcade emulator with built-in stereo audio, and we’re sure you can come up with some cool applications too!

PaPiRus ePaper/eInk HAT – £30-65/$47-102

As computers of all sizes and powers are now being embedded into pretty much everything, electronic parts have become even more commoditised and, happily, this is filtering down to display technology as well. We now have a wealth of offerings from your standard monochrome LCDs to TFT, OLED and AMOLED offerings.

One of the most exciting and disruptive display technologies of recent times is ePaper/eInk. You probably know it best as the screens that go into e-readers like the Kindle and Kobo (fun fact: the Pebble watch is commonly referred to as an ePaper watch, but it actually uses what is known as a Memory LCD and a very clever marketing team). You may have wondered in the past why your iPad barely lasts five hours on a charge but your Kindle lasts for over a week, and the answer is all to do with the display. ePaper only uses power to update what is on the screen, which means that for a large number of applications where you don’t need to change screen contents particularly often, it saves a lot of battery power. It would be pretty useless for playing videos, but for e-readers, monochrome graphical info displays, digital price tags, bus and train station signage and many more applications, it is by far the best choice.

PaPiRus brings the low power ePaper display technology you know and love to the Raspberry Pi in a HAT-compatible format with screen sizes ranging from 1.44 to 2.7 inches. The ePaper film used in these screens is actually identical to that in the popular e-readers mentioned above. You can get your hands on one for around £35 and they come with a useful Python and command line framework. They are worth trying out if you have any display-driven projects!

10 awesome Raspberry Pi upgrades - Part 2

Pimoroni Skywriter HAT – £16/$20.95

For a lot of projects you undertake with the Raspberry Pi, you will want some kind of user interaction. When using the desktop GUI this is normally done with a keyboard and mouse, but these are not always the most intuitive input methods when you aren’t using a full desktop environment and when you don’t need to type anything.

The pirates over at Pimoroni have created a new HAT module called the Skywriter that enables you to add near-field 3D gesture and touch sensing to your projects for a great price. There is a Python API provided that provides full 3D position data and gesture information (swipes, taps and so on). Play with this for a short while and you will realise that it is a really nice input method with a lot of potential – Pimoroni even have a video of a home-made Ras Pi-based theremin (vine.co/v/OrUWTdd0Hlg).

There is even a larger non-HAT version of the Skywriter that is more than twice the size and boasts a sensing distance of around 15 cm, which means that you can mount it inside your projects behind a sheet of acrylic or other non-conductive material and it will still work. This is especially good if you want to convince people that your projects are
simply pure magic.

10 awesome Raspberry Pi upgrades - Part 2

Energenie Pi-mote Control Starter Kit – £19.99/$31

Home automation is all the rage at the moment – perhaps it is because people are inherently lazy or maybe it’s just because this tech is extremely fun to play with! Either way it doesn’t really matter, as it can make our lives easier and quicker and can automate tasks that would often be boring and monotonous, like fiddling with heating controls and turning off the lights before you go to bed.

One thing that we are always told is to turn off devices at the plug rather than leaving them on standby, as they use a lot of electricity when not properly turned off. This is sound advice but is not always a practical solution as the socket is not easily accessible. This is where the Energenie Pi-mote control starter kit comes in. It contains two remote-controlled plug sockets which can be turned on and off with an RF remote. What does this have to do with the Raspberry Pi? Well you also get an add-on board to enable you to control the sockets via software on the Raspberry Pi, which unleashes whole new possibilities – you could set your lamps to turn on and off automatically at specified times when you are away to avoid burglars, or create a basic web app to control your plug sockets remotely using your smartphone.

They only come in UK and EU plug types, so if you use a different plug then you may need to look for something else (and maybe send Energenie a request to make more versions).

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