It’s been a year since the super-powered Raspberry Pi 4 officially landed on store shelves. And whether you have a Pi 4 hidden in a drawer or stuffed in your Amazon Wish List, you’re in serious need of some project inspiration. Here are 18 killer projects for the Pi 4.
In July 2019, I wrote 16 Cool Projects for Your New Raspberry Pi. It’s a straightforward list of (mostly) entry-level Pi projects, like building a Plex server, a BitTorrent Box, or a custom smart speaker. Now that the Pi 4 is a year old, I want to focus on weird, more ambitious projects, like reviving vintage electronics or crafting social media bots. I wouldn’t call any of these projects “difficult,” but some of them require soldering skills or electronics experience.
Why Did You Choose These Projects?
We’re looking at the Pi 4 because it’s one of the most capable consumer-grade microcomputers available to date. It opens the door to projects that aren’t reliable (or doable) on the Pi Zero, the Pi 2, or even the respectable Pi 3 Model A+, yet it carries a price tag well under $100.
Thing is, there aren’t a lot of projects that are exclusive to the Pi 4. Many of the projects listed in this article will work on slower, less powerful microcomputers. You can get away with Steam Link on the Pi 3 A+, or build a retro radio from a Pi Zero. But the results are much more impressive when you use the powerful Pi 4.
I chose to include these non-exclusive projects because they benefit from the Pi 4’s four-core 1.5 GHz CPU, its gigabit Ethernet, its enhanced Wi-Fi chip, and its impressive RAM selection (2GB, 4GB, or 8GB—the 1GB model is discontinued). Some of the project guides that I link to utilize the Pi 3, but you can follow them line-by-line for the Pi 4 and find yourself with a faster, more reliable, and more enjoyable result.
Alright, that’s enough of that. Here are 18 more projects for your Raspberry Pi 4.
Work from Home with Raspberry Pi
Some people use the Pi 4 as an all-in-one workstation, with a webcam, mouse keyboard, and dual 4K monitors. But when I think of working from home with a Raspberry Pi, its usually the small projects that come to mind. Here are some killer Pi projects to make your home office more enjoyable and effective.
- Video Chat Machines: Is your laptop struggling to handle the work from home lifestyle? A cheap Pi Zoom machine can take the load off your computer, and a Pi 4 with NextEvent can notify you every time you get a chat request (so you can close Zoom or Google while you work).
- Build a Social Media Bot: Did you forget to update your Daily Dilbert Twitter account? Maybe it’s time to build a Twitter bot. Hell, you could even write an Instagram or Reddit bot while you’re at it.
- Smart Decorations and Appliances: Deck out your home office with a wall-mounted google calendar, a social media notification ticker, or a fancy SMS doorbell notifier.
- What Time Is It?: Forget your old analog clock. Leap into the future with a freaky PiClock or a retro-inspired Raspberry Pi Flip Clock.
Now that your workstation is fully Pi-ified, its time to fill your home with beautiful Pi cameras.
Build a Custom Camera for Photography, Science, or Security
The Raspberry Pi Foundation recently announced its new 12.3 megapixel Pi camera, which supports a wide variety of lenses for high-quality photography and videography. But the history of Pi camera is extensive—the thought of buying an inexpensive Camera Module V2 has probably crossed your mind more than once.
Here are some cool Pi 4 projects that involve cameras:
- Security Camera: Turn your Pi 4 into a a smart security camera or an affordable smart doorbell.
- Microscope or Telescope: A bit of elbow grease is all you need to build a Raspberry Pi microscope, a high-quality telescope, or an affordable astro-photography unit.
- Pi Webcam: Use your Pi 4 as a PC webcam, or turn the Pi into a streaming webcam for a 24/7 livestream.
- Get Funky: Use two Pi camera modules to build a 3D camera, or build a portable camera from a broken old handheld game console.
Now that you’re a professional Pi photographer, it’s time to get down with a custom Pi 4 music machine.
The Sound of Music Streaming
Music and media projects are a staple of the Pi community. Now with the Pi 4’s added RAM, streaming audio on the Pi is better than ever. You can jump between tracks, albums, or streaming services without a hiccup, which is better than what you can say about some high-end streaming speakers.
Here are some of my favorite audio projects for the Pi 4.
- Whole-Home Audio: Don’t bother with expensive whole-home audio systems. Your Raspberry Pi is a perfect whole-home audio machine, and it’ll work with the decade-old speakers that you already own.
- For Listening Parties: No more passing the Aux cord. Throw Raveberry on your Raspberry Pi and vote on the next track that you listen to. Raveberry works with most streaming services and supports audio visualization for flashing LEDs.
- An NFC Audio Player: The physicality of vinyl records, CDs, and cassette tapes feels magical. If you want that same physicality for digital music, then it’s time to build an NFC music player with custom album “sleeves” and art.
- Broadcast Your Own Radio Signal: Want to use an old radio that doesn’t have modern audio inputs? Broadcast an FM radio station from your Raspberry Pi. You can stream the audio directly from Spotify or Apple Music, and you don’t have to hear any of those pesky radio ads.
Speaking of old radios, you can repurpose just about any piece of vintage electronics with a cheap Pi 4 SoC.
Revive Your Vintage Electronics
There’s nothing better than breathing life into an obsolete piece of electronic junk. A Pi 4 is all you need to resuscitate vintage electronics, and the end result can add a touch of style and fun to your home.
Here are a few inspiring vintage electronics projects for the Pi 4. These projects require basic soldering skills, although beginners with a bit of determination will come out fine:
- Build an Internet Radio: You can turn anything with a speaker into a streaming radio. A rotary telephone is a novel example, although you probably want to stick with actual radios. Either way, I suggest using the Internet Time Machine to make your retro project feel like a period piece.
- Retro Smart Speakers: Turn your Pi 4 into a Google Assistant or Alexa smart speaker and stick it inside a vintage shell. This is a pretty popular project that works with old radios and phones, but my favorite example is MisterM’s retro Google Assistant Intercom.
- I’m Gonna Start My Own ISP: Forget fast connection speeds! Smash together some old networking hardware and a Pi 4 to build your own dial-up ISP! Now you can go through the vicious process of dial-up every time you surf the web.
The options for vintage Pi 4 projects are limitless. If you’re interested in bringing back old electronics with your Pi 4, I suggest looking through eBay for inspiration.
More Gaming Projects
I covered some common Pi 4 gaming projects in 16 Cool Projects for Your New Raspberry Pi 4. But looking back, I missed three important topics. They’re so cool that I want to cover them right now.
These gaming projects don’t require a lot of skill or coding know-how, so they’re perfect for novice Pi freaks:
- AAA Games On the Pi: It turns out that the Pi 4 works pretty well with Steam Link. If your desktop computer has enough juice, then you can use Steam Link to stream games to a Pi 4 anywhere in your home. A Pi 4 Stadia machine may also fulfill your gaming needs, although Stadia doesn’t run perfectly on the Pi 4 yet.
- Enhance Your Nintendo Switch: Take your Raspberry Pi, plug it into your Switch, and eliminate online lag. This is such a silly project, but it can seriously enhance your experience playing Smash Bros or Fortnite online.
- Portable Gaming: The Pi 4 is perfect for powering PiBoy handheld consoles, but hardcore nerds can take things further with a Pi 4 suitcase arcade cabinet.
These gaming projects might work on the Pi 3, but you should expect better performance from the newer Pi 4. Game streaming requires a decent amount of RAM (which the Pi 4 has plenty of), and arcade games run exceptionally well on the Pi 4’s updated CPU and graphics processors.
Looking for more? It’s time to skip your way over to the official Raspberry Pi Blog, which is regularly updated with new Pi projects and inspiration. If you want to go a bit deeper, I also suggest looking at The MagPi magazine, which was an invaluable resource while writing this article.