Admittedly, there are certainly more powerful options than the Raspberry Pi out there to drive a robotics project forward, but unless you are willing to spend thousands of dollars on a single robot, or you work in a professional setting that allows for such budgeting, a Raspberry Pi could be the perfect fit for more reasons than one.
They Are Cheap
When it comes to cost-effectiveness, it is hard to find better value for money than what the Raspberry Pi offers. Consider the fact that the latest and the most powerful Raspberry Pi, which is the Model B+, can be bought for less than £35, and you’ll realise this is quite a bargain once you consider everything the device is capable of. It will leave you with more money to spend on the other more expensive parts of your robot, like the actuators for example. There is no denying the fact that there are computing units for robots that are a lot more powerful than even the latest Raspberry Pi, but they are quite a bit more expensive and bulkier, which brings us to our next point.
The Smaller Size Factor
The Raspberry Pi is loved and used all over the world for its portability among other things, and when you are trying to build a robot that will move around, that small size could come in really handy. Of course, you can fit it with a bigger and more powerful computer, but there are two problems with that route, which can be summed up as follows:
- It will increase your robot’s payload and interfere with its speed, manoeuvrability and balance
- Unless you can justify the extra computing power for the purpose, do you really need to spend more money on the computer?
The Long List of Accessories
The Raspberry Pi might not be the biggest and most advanced computer in the market, but it is certainly one of the most popular products in recent tech, with a huge community base. There are students, enthusiasts and hobbyists who have building projects around the Pi for years now and as a result of that, you can have access to a bewildering number of accessories unique to only the Raspberry Pi.
There’s a handful of websites which showcase all of the best accessories on the market right now. One of the best is The Pi Hut which is the premier online store for finding anything and everything related to the Raspberry Pi, including the tiny computers themselves. If you need a display for your robot’s embedded Raspberry Pi, they have it, and for those that want to add a few eyes to their robot for surveillance purposes, The Pi Hut has all kinds of camera lenses for that too.
Given the size of the community and the extensive collection of accessories in The Pi Hut, it would be safe to say that as long as you use the Raspberry Pi in your robotics project, you will probably never lack any accessory that you may need to enhance the functions of your machine.
The Connectivity Options Are Perfect for Robotics
The extensive number of GPIO pins (the latest B+ model has a single 40 pin header) on the Pi models makes them so useful and convenient while building robots. In most cases, you can connect as many actuators and sensors as you see fit for your project and still have spare pins left. Want to connect a serial PiZero addon, or an Adafruit i2c temperature and humidity sensor to your Pi? You will find a wide selection of compatible options on The Pi Hut to suit your needs and a whole lot more.
The Raspberry Pi is Easy to Work With
In the world of robotics, when something has size, price, efficiency, compatibility and wide community support on its side, you know that it is a good device to work with, but there is actually even more that makes the Raspberry Pi 3 a very easy computer to use in a robotics project for even beginners. Compared to industrial grade software, running the open source ROS on top of Ubuntu is a lot friendlier for those that are just starting out, or have minimal coding knowledge.
However, if you want to advance in robotics, you should really start learning programming languages commonly used in robotics such as Python, MATLAB, Octave and of course, C/C++.
As discussed previously, the Raspberry Pi has a huge following and community base, which also means that a lot of other people are building robots using the Pi. Therefore, if and when you need some help in your own project, you can most likely find it online from one of the community members or maybe even just by reading a few of the forums dedicated to the topic. A quick Google search on the topic is bound to yield a number of results and some of them will almost surely have the answer that you are looking for.